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Become a Short Order Cook: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Short order cooks work in coffee shops, grills, or restaurants that offer basic menus and speedy service. Watch this video to learn the steps to becoming a short order cook. View article »

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  • 0:01 Short Order Cooks
  • 0:32 Earn a High School Diploma
  • 0:59 Obtain Specialized Training
  • 1:29 Choose a Workplace
  • 2:09 Pursue Further Opportunities

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Video Transcript

Short Order Cooks

Education Level High school diploma or equivalent; vocational, certificate, associate, and bachelor's degree programs available
Education Field Culinary arts
Licensure and Certification Voluntary; Certified Culinarian or Certified Pastry Chef
Salary $21,940 (2015 average for short order cooks)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

A short order cook prepares and serves a wide range of food at restaurants, grills, coffee shops and other similar establishments. This profession requires skills and interest in culinary arts, management and customer service, with opportunities for career advancement in various areas of the restaurant and service industry. Many short order cooks learn their skills on the job, but those with formal training in food service may have more opportunities for advancement.

Earn a High School Diploma

The first step to becoming a short order cook involves earning a high school diploma. While not strictly mandatory, a high school diploma or GED certificate can be useful for an aspiring short order cook, especially when seeking career advancement. Many high schools offer vocational training programs in food service, teaching students the basic skills they will need to find employment after graduation or to use during further training.

Obtain Specialized Training

The next step to becoming a short order cook can involve obtaining specialized training. A diploma or certificate program in food service may give a short order cook more career advancement opportunities. These programs generally last six months to a year and can teach students sanitation and safety practices, as well as the basics of cooking, baking, salad making and garnishes. They may also cover menu planning, cost control and communication.

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Choose a Workplace

The next step to becoming a short order cook is to choose a place to work. Short order cooks may work in small restaurants or coffee shops, hotel grills or corporate cafeterias. The duties of the job depend on the venue. For example, short order cooks in a small restaurant may be responsible for cleaning equipment and food preparation areas, writing order tickets and accepting payments from customers. In a larger operation, the short order cook may stay at the grill or stove for the entire shift. The average salary of a short order cook, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $21,940 per year as of May 2015.

Pursue Further Opportunities

The last step to becoming a short order cook involves looking for further opportunities for advancement. While many short order cooks work their way up the kitchen ladder, others opt to return to school for higher degrees. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in the culinary arts teach advanced skills, and students with experience may get course credit for their knowledge. These degree programs can also include management courses, which may be useful to cooks who want to run their own establishments.

In addition, an apprenticeship can offer training for a short order cook who wants to become a chef. The American Culinary Federation Education Foundation offers several types of apprenticeships under qualified chefs. Those who complete the degree programs or apprenticeships can test for Certified Culinarian or Certified Pastry Chef credentials.

Becoming a short order cook involves four potential or basic steps: earning a high school diploma or GED, obtaining specialized training, choosing a workplace, and pursuing further career and education opportunities.

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