National Avg. Salary

$19,710 More Salary Data →

Job Growth Rate

10.9% More Growth Data →

Recommended Degree

High School Diploma Programs & Degrees →

Attributes

  • Dependable Daily Workload
  • Don't Take Work Home
  • Flexible Hours
  • Work With Your Hands

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The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in prep cook roles:

  • Stock all needed food items by cutting, measuring, and preparing items that are needed to expedite cooking during busy shifts
  • Cook certain foods that can be rewarmed later when ordered, and ensure foods are packaged and stored correctly
  • Receive orders from distributors, label items with dates, and stock food into the appropriate storage areas

A Day in the Life

Prep cooks help alleviate long wait times in restaurants, cafeterias, and other dining establishments by preparing as much food and ingredients as possible prior to busy shifts. They ensure all ingredients are stocked for the shift; cut and dice fruits, vegetables, and salad ingredients; and cook certain foods that can be easily rewarmed during the shift without loss of flavor or texture. They generally work early in the morning or in the afternoon before dining rush times like breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Prep cooks can work in a variety of establishments. Typically, they are hired by sit-down restaurants that have a lot of traffic, but they may also work for cafeterias in schools, prisons, or nursing homes. They help to ensure dining service runs smoothly by stocking important ingredients so that line cooks and chefs have everything they need at hand when lots of orders for food start coming in. Additionally, they may work with food distributors to receive and stock needed food items and label items with dates.

Prep cooks have an important role in food service because they allow diners to receive their food more quickly. This alleviates some of the burden on the cooks, waitresses, and other staff members, and it helps bring the restaurant more business because tables can be served more quickly. Often, the prep cook works directly with the chef when training for the role and learns how to prepare important dishes and ingredients, so the job of prep cook can be a stepping stone for future job growth.

Typical Work Schedule

The typical work schedule for a prep cook can vary widely depending on the employing establishment. For example, prep cooks at donut shops may be required to arrive at work very early in the morning to finish their prep before the morning rush. Prep cooks that work in sit-down restaurants may work mornings and afternoons to prepare food for dinner shifts, and some may be required to stay on during dinner shifts to assist cooks during high ordering times.

Career Progression

  • Early Career: Dishwasher, Prep Cook
  • Mid-Career: Line Cook, Sous Chef
  • Late Career: Chef, Head Chef, Executive Chef

Typical Employers

Prep cooks work for sit-down restaurants, schools, prisons, nursing homes, homeless shelters, and other dining establishments.

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Job Description

No formal higher education is required to become a prep cook. Most individuals receive their training on the job, and a work history as a cook in any fast food establishment is usually sufficient to qualify individuals to secure roles as prep cooks. Conversely, without previous food service experience, it’s possible to get a job as a dishwasher or table busser in a restaurant with no experience and work your way up to a role as a prep cook.

Though no formal education is required, some prep cooks opt to enroll in a training program in a community, technical, or vocational college to become certified as a prep cook before seeking employment. With college training, prep cooks may be able to find jobs with no experience, and without having to start in dishwasher or busser roles. A college certificate is advisable for prep cooks who hope to enter culinary schools and study to become chefs because some of the credits may transfer.

With experience as prep cooks, many individuals can move into higher-paying positions like line cooks or sous chefs. To work as a chef, head chef, or executive chef, however, a degree from a culinary school is generally expected. However, some cooks work in restaurants for many years and then go on to open their own restaurants later in life, becoming chefs of their restaurants with no formal education.

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Prep Cook Salary Data

We've provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Annual Salary

Low Range

$17,630

Average

$19,710

High Range

$24,420

National Hourly Wage

Low Range

$8/hr

Average

$9/hr

High Range

$12/hr

How do Prep Cook salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Prep Cook's can make an average annual salary of $19,710, or $9 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $17,630 or $8 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #813 Nationally for All Careers

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How To Become

No formal higher education is required to become a prep cook. Most individuals receive their training on the job, and a work history as a cook in any fast food establishment is usually sufficient to qualify individuals to secure roles as prep cooks. Conversely, without previous food service experience, it’s possible to get a job as a dishwasher or table busser in a restaurant with no experience and work your way up to a role as a prep cook.

Though no formal education is required, some prep cooks opt to enroll in a training program in a community, technical, or vocational college to become certified as a prep cook before seeking employment. With college training, prep cooks may be able to find jobs with no experience, and without having to start in dishwasher or busser roles. A college certificate is advisable for prep cooks who hope to enter culinary schools and study to become chefs because some of the credits may transfer.

With experience as prep cooks, many individuals can move into higher-paying positions like line cooks or sous chefs. To work as a chef, head chef, or executive chef, however, a degree from a culinary school is generally expected. However, some cooks work in restaurants for many years and then go on to open their own restaurants later in life, becoming chefs of their restaurants with no formal education.


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Quick Summary

  • Recommended Min. Degree

    High School Diploma

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Prep Cook. a High School Diploma is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Prep Cook

  • 0.3%   Doctorate
  • 0.8%   Masters
  • 5%   Bachelors
  • 5.8%   Associates
  • 23%   College
  • 43.9%   High School
  • 21.2%   Less than High School

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Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs

3,159,700

2024 Est. Jobs

3,503,200

Job Growth Rate

10.9%

Est. New Jobs

343,500

How does Prep Cook job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 343,500 jobs for a total of 3,503,200 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 10.9% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #166 Nationally for All Careers

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What Companies Employ The Most Prep Cooks

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Elementary and secondary schools; local 133,900 10,700 11%
Special food services 124,700 5,900 6%
Full-service restaurants 124,000 -400 0%

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