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Information on Salary Range for Chefs with a Culinary Arts Degree

Career News July 13, 2014

Chef’s’ salaries vary widely based on many factors, including the position they hold, what industry they work in, the market their employer targets, and the location where they practice their trade. However, few factors have as big an impact on earning potential as obtaining a culinary arts degree. We’re going to take a look at what a culinary arts degree is, and how having one can increase your salary as a chef.

What is a Culinary Arts Degree?

There are, essentially, two ways to become a chef. You can either study at a culinary arts school, or you can learn “on the job” where you train under another chef or cook. A culinary arts degree shows future employers that you have studied, in a formal manner, how to be a chef. Oftentimes, culinary arts degrees include more than just cooking instruction. Students at a culinary arts institution will be taught about management and business as well as how to cook.

What are the Benefits of Having a Culinary Arts Degree?

When you train on the job to be a chef, you may learn how to cook at an advanced level, but there are many things that you will be missing out on when compared with those who went to culinary school. Not having a culinary arts degree can also hurt your prospects in the market place. Few restaurants will promote someone to executive or head chef without formal culinary training.

When considering a career as a chef, one must understand that learning to cook “on the job” is not the same as learning how to cook in a structured, formal culinary arts program. Without formal training, you may be cheating yourself out of learning important culinary techniques and classic dishes as well as the opportunity to work with a wider variety of ingredients. In addition to cooking, a formal culinary arts program will teach you how to manage the kitchen staff and deal with other business aspects of running a restaurant.

Salary Outlook for Chef’s with a Culinary Arts Degree

So, what can we expect in a culinary arts chef’s salary range? Unfortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not explicitly distinguish among those chefs with and without a culinary arts degree. But, understanding that most employers reserve the title of chef to those with a culinary arts degree and tend to assign the title of cook to those without, we can use the BLS category of “Chef’s and Head Cooks” as a reasonable look at culinary chef salary ranges.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median annual wage for chefs to be $42,490. Since the majority of chef’s will fall between the 10th and the 90th percentile, we can see that the culinary chef salary range, as of 2012 (the most recent year with available data) falls between $24,160 and $74,240 per year. Compare this to the salary range of cooks without a culinary arts degree, $16,424 to $32,336 per year, and you can quickly see how obtaining a culinary arts degree can be one of the best things you can do to increase your earnings potential as a chef.

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