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What is the Pay Scale for Those with a Culinary Arts Degree?

Career News July 21, 2014

There is no doubt that cooking shows have become quite popular, and it seems like people who have not even earned a culinary arts degree make loads of cash from cooking. Many chefs, including those with culinary arts degrees, will not automatically earn big salaries.

As a matter of fact, a culinary arts degree is among the CNN Money’s “College Degrees That Don’t Pay.”. Starting salaries were estimated at a mere $35,900 per year. As with virtually any type of job, earnings are typically based on experience. Experienced and highly seasoned chefs attain titles that boost their earning power.

Culinary Pay Scale

According to the reports from the United States’ Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2012, the median annual salary for chefs and head cooks was $42,480. Since high wages can skew the average at times, median earnings is a better reflection of a chef’s earning power. About half of all chefs make $42,480 (or over) per year.

According to the Houston Chronicle, having a culinary arts degree is not enough in this field; having a great amount of experience and skills is important. Each culinary artist is on a different pay scale.


Chef-owners are typically the highest paid members of virtually any restaurant. Chef-owners earned over $79,000 per year as of 2010. This survey was conducted by a nationwide distributed magazine for culinary artists called “Star Chefs.”

Executive Chef

Executive chefs are in charge of overseeing the daily operation of a kitchen(s) and its employees. Executive chefs are the second highest paid position in the field of culinary arts. Most times, they help decide the menu. According to Star Chefs, Executive Chefs earn an average of about $75,000 per year, as of 2010.

Chef de Cuisine

Although this term is often time used interchangeably with the term “Executive Chef,” the responsibilities of a Chef de Cuisine include organizing, coordinating, and supervising the preparation of food, and also training members of the food production team. In large kitchens, a Chef de Cuisine may be the head of a department in the kitchen. According to Star Chefs’ reports, as of 2010, this culinary expert earned $55,120.

Sous Chef

Sous chefs are second in common and are just under the Chef de Cuisine. Sous chefs report directly to the executive chef, if there is no Chef de Cuisine on staff; according to Star Chefs, sous chefs earned a little over $41,000 per year.

Pastry Chef

The responsibilities of a pastry chef include creating different types of pastries and desserts in an eating establishment like a restaurant. According to Star Chefs’ report, these culinary experts earn a median of around $47,000 per year.

Factors that Influence Culinary Pay Scale

Aside from the role that a chef plays in a kitchen, other factors affect their pay scale. The location of the kitchen also affects pay. Stand-alone restaurants are known to pay the least to chefs with culinary arts degrees. Private clubs (i.e. country clubs) are known to pay the highest salaries to chefs.

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