There is more than meets the eye when it comes to being a cafeteria cook. For example, did you know that they make an average of $14.61 an hour? That's $30,395 a year! Between 2018 and 2028, the career is expected to grow 11% and produce 282,000 job opportunities across the U.S.

What Does a Cafeteria Cook Do

There are certain skills that many cafeteria cooks have in order to accomplish their responsibilities. By taking a look through resumes, we were able to narrow down the most common skills for a person in this position. We discovered that a lot of resumes listed dexterity, sense of taste and smell and physical stamina.

Learn more about what a Cafeteria Cook does

How To Become a Cafeteria Cook

If you're interested in becoming a cafeteria cook, one of the first things to consider is how much education you need. We've determined that 9.3% of cafeteria cooks have a bachelor's degree. In terms of higher education levels, we found that 1.7% of cafeteria cooks have master's degrees. Even though some cafeteria cooks have a college degree, it's possible to become one with only a high school degree or GED.

Cafeteria Cook Career Paths

Average Salary for a Cafeteria Cook

Cafeteria Cooks in America make an average salary of $30,395 per year or $15 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $36,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $25,000 per year.
Average Cafeteria Cook Salary
$30,395 Yearly
$14.61 hourly

What Am I Worth?


Roles and Types of Cafeteria Cook

There are several types of cafeteria cook, including:



So, get this - as a cook, you'll spend a lot of your time cooking. Crazy, we know. But that's not all you'll be doing. In addition to the food actually being cooked properly, most people like it to be seasoned. Between the preparation and seasoning, this is where you get to be creative.

When you think of a cook, you probably think of a restaurant setting but in actuality, cooks are needed in a lot of different places, this includes schools, hospitals, and even private households. One thing that is consistent is the inconsistent schedule.

Sometimes you'll work a night shift, other times you'll work super early in the morning. You may even have to work on a holiday. And don't be surprised with a weekend shift. The good news is that formal education isn't really necessary. Sometimes culinary creativity comes naturally.

  • Average Salary: $31,803
  • Degree: High School Diploma

Line Cook


As a sort of in-charge person, line cooks definitely have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. While you might think the head chef does most of the heavy lifting, think again. The majority of the food is prepared by the line cook.

Now, the head chef, or even the sous chef, give line cooks the direction they need to make the food. Typically, as a line cook, you'll have a particular place in the kitchen that you'll look after. Like, maybe you'll get assigned to the grill, and then you'll be in charge of everything at the grill. Or you might be assigned to the veggie prep area.

Wherever you are assigned, you should be prepared to work some crazy hours. Since you're preparing the food, you'll need at least an hour, if not two, to get everything ready. Once your line is prepped, then you're ready to take on your shift. With that extra 1-2 hours, you'll probably be working around 8-10 hours a shift.
  • Average Salary: $32,894
  • Degree: High School Diploma

Prep Cook


Under the direction of a head chef, you'll know exactly what to prepare for as a prep cook. It is essentially your job to make sure the food and kitchen area is prepped for the creation of delicious meals.

Typically, this is a part-time job. But you might be able to find a full-time position somewhere. In your position, you'll be working in a restaurant, hotel, or another establishment that serves food.

As a prep cook, you won't need much education to get by. In fact, the position doesn't require any formal education, but you will need to go through some training, once you're hired. And when we say training, we mean several weeks of on-the-job training. By the end of it, you'll be a sharp prep cook, ready to slice and dice.
  • Average Salary: $32,292
  • Degree: High School Diploma

States With The Most Cafeteria Cook Jobs

Mouse over a state to see the number of active cafeteria cook jobs in each state. The darker areas on the map show where cafeteria cooks earn the highest salaries across all 50 states.

Average Salary: Job Openings:

Number Of Cafeteria Cook Jobs By State

RankStateNumber of JobsAverage Salary
8North Carolina1,360$30,333
9New York1,285$33,704
19New Jersey768$28,763
26South Carolina645$27,777
35New Mexico311$26,796
39West Virginia235$30,062
41New Hampshire136$32,063
45North Dakota107$38,937
46Rhode Island103$32,225
48South Dakota95$29,628

Cafeteria Cook Education

Cafeteria Cook Majors

18.5 %

Cafeteria Cook Degrees

High School Diploma

50.0 %


23.7 %


9.3 %

Top Skills For a Cafeteria Cook

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 21.0% of cafeteria cooks listed culinary on their resume, but soft skills such as dexterity and sense of taste and smell are important as well.

Choose From 10+ Customizable Cafeteria Cook Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Cafeteria Cook templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Cafeteria Cook resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

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Cafeteria Cook Demographics

Cafeteria Cook Gender Distribution


After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among cafeteria cooks, 61.0% of them are women, while 39.0% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among cafeteria cooks is White, which makes up 60.0% of all cafeteria cooks.

  • The most common foreign language among cafeteria cooks is French at 50.0%.

Online Courses For Cafeteria Cook That You May Like

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3. Cook Real Food: How to Make Simple Plant-Based Meals


Learn how to cook whole plant foods to make quick, easy, and healthy vegan meals for practical everyday eating...

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Best States For a Cafeteria Cook

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a cafeteria cook. The best states for people in this position are Utah, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Mississippi. Cafeteria cooks make the most in Utah with an average salary of $41,197. Whereas in North Dakota and Nebraska, they would average $38,937 and $38,402, respectively. While cafeteria cooks would only make an average of $38,104 in Mississippi, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Mississippi

Total Cafeteria Cook Jobs: 410
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:

2. Utah

Total Cafeteria Cook Jobs: 431
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:

3. Idaho

Total Cafeteria Cook Jobs: 236
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Full List Of Best States For Cafeteria Cooks

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Top Cafeteria Cook Employers

Most Common Employers For Cafeteria Cook

RankCompanyAverage SalaryHourly RateJob Openings
1West Liberty Foods$33,756$16.232
2Los Angeles Unified School District$32,442$15.602
3Hyatt Hotels$32,397$15.585
4Merced City School District$31,268$15.032$30,911$14.862
6Damar Services$30,860$14.849
7Marriott International$30,816$14.822
9Carmel Catholic High School$30,367$14.602
10White Plains Hospital$30,362$14.602