What Training Is Necessary for a Career As a Cook?

On-the-job training, certificate programs, and bachelor's and associate's degree programs can all prepare you for work as a cook. Keep reading to learn more about training options. Schools offering Art of Cooking degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Training programs leading to a career as a cook can be found at colleges and universities, or through apprenticeship programs with organizations such as culinary institutes, industry associations, and trade unions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), some entry-level jobs working as a cook may be possible without the completion of high school.

Important Facts about this Occupation

Median Salary$22,490 ( for restaurant cooks)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)4% growth
Professional Certification Offered by the American Culinary Federation
Work Environment Must be able to stand for long periods of time and work well in high-stress conditions; cooks work in kitchens filled with potential hazards such as knives, slippery floors and hot stoves leading to a relatively high rate of injury
Similar Occupations Bakers, chefs and head cooks, food and beverage servers, food service managers, caterers

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

On-The-Job Training

One good way to get a jumpstart on your career as a cook is to work in a restaurant or a cafeteria while in high school or college. Working as a short-order cook, you can learn on the job. Most beginning workers start small with food handling and preparation and are gradually given more responsibilities.

Cooking apprenticeships are another way to receive on-the-job training. Many apprenticeships require applicants to be at least 17 years old and have a high school diploma or GED; passing a substance abuse screening may also be necessary. Completion of such an apprenticeship can last 2-3 years, depending on your level of experience. Additionally, the length of an apprenticeship may vary depending on the type of position you want to hold. Less training is required to work as a line cook, compared to the training and experience needed for executive chefs.

Certificate Programs

A one- or two-year certificate program leading to a career as a cook or chef includes courses like safety, sanitation, food preparation, customer service, nutrition, and menu planning. Many certificate programs include hands-on training in a restaurant or other location, working as a cook or chef.

Degree Programs

Two- or four-year culinary programs cover different types of training and even restaurant management. Students can choose a specific culinary focus, like pastries. Completion of such a formal training program will likely lead to an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • Wiregrass Georgia Technical College

    Campus Locations:

    • Georgia: Valdosta
  • West Virginia Northern Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • West Virginia: Wheeling
  • West Georgia Technical College

    Campus Locations:

    • Georgia: Waco
  • Waukesha County Technical College

    Campus Locations:

    • Wisconsin: Pewaukee
  • Washburn Institute of Technology

    Campus Locations:

    • Kansas: Topeka
  • Vincennes University

    Campus Locations:

    • Indiana: Vincennes
  • Spartanburg Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • South Carolina: Spartanburg
  • Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center

    Campus Locations:

    • Virginia: Fishersville
  • Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

    Campus Locations:

    • New Mexico: Albuquerque