6 Highest Paying Food Service Jobs

Check out salary, degrees required, cost of degree, and years of training required for the highest paying food service and culinary arts jobs.

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By Chris Geno

Finding the highest paying food service jobs can be important if you work in the service industry since six of the ten lowest paying jobs in the United States are all a part of this industry.

Read this list of the six highest paying food service jobs to see if you can turn the tables on the typical food service career.

1. Food Service Managers

One of the best ways to get into the highest paying food service jobs is to work your way up to a managerial position. Food service managers plan and direct the activities of employees in a company or business that sells food and beverages. These managers are typically focused on “front of house” workers and not cooks and kitchen workers.

Average salary for food service managers is $53,000 per year. A bachelor’s degree is required for most managerial positions, and food service experience is also very good to have. To get that degree at a public institution would cost you about $32,000 in tuition, while a private institution would charge over $100,000 according to College Board data.

2. Chefs and Head Cooks

Chefs direct and sometimes participate in running a kitchen: cooking meats, vegetables, soups, desserts, and sometimes also plan menus.

Annual salary is about $47,000 on average. To stay competitive, many chefs graduate from a culinary arts school instead of getting a normal bachelor’s degree. Ultimately, education isn’t as important as experience and skill in finding a cooking job.

Depending on the school, a degree from a culinary arts program has a very similar range of costs to that of a normal bachelor’s degree.

3. First-Line Supervisors of Food Preparation and Service Workers

While a job as shift leader is only one position above a server, it still is one of the highest paying food service jobs, making an average yearly wage of about $32,000.

First-line supervisors directly supervise service employees and communicate between the workers and management. No education outside of a high school diploma or GED is typically required, with experience in the industry being more important.

4. Other Cooks, non-Fast Food

Cooks do the same job as Chefs and Head Cooks, but typically are either focused on a specific task, such as making soups, sauces or preparing ingredients, or simply report to a head cook.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics most other cooks make about $24,000 per year on average, while some cooks who work in private households have a mean annual wage of up to $31,000.

5. Bartender

Bartenders make both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks for customers, and must know how to make a wide variety of drinks and cocktails. Some bartenders also create new drinks. Average yearly salary is about $22,000.

Bartenders need no formal education, and most employers who hire bartenders look for experience above all else. Bartending school can help with learning how to make drinks and typically costs a few hundred dollars, but finding a job and working your way up to bartending is often just as good.

6. Waiters, Waitresses, Servers

Ending our list of the highest paying food service jobs is the traditional waiter. Waiters and waitresses bring food to customers and generally wait on customers to ensure they enjoy themselves wherever they are being served.

A bachelor’s degree is helpful, but a high school graduate with good experience will find that sufficient to find a job. Average salary is about $21,000 per year.


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Top Culinary Arts and Food Service Careers
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4 Things You Need to Know About the Culinary School Application

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