Sous Chef Education Requirements

Sous chefs require no formal education, but need work experience. Learn about the training options, job duties and optional certifications to see if this is the right career for you.

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Sous chefs can work if they possess a high school diploma or GED, formal culinary training through a degree program, or with on-the-job experience or an apprenticeship. Voluntary certification is available, and may be beneficial when seeking employment in this field.

Essential Information

Sous chefs are culinary professionals who work under the supervision of executive chefs. They have authority over other kitchen staff, and when the executive chef is not present they take command of the entire kitchen. People wishing to become chefs can train through post-secondary education or work experience. There are also voluntary certifications available.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent
Projected Job Growth 9% between 2014 and 2024 (for chefs and head cooks)*
Mean Salary (2015) $45,920 per year (for chefs and head cooks)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for Sous Chefs

Sous chefs are generally required to complete formal culinary training after high school. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in culinary arts are available at culinary institutes, community colleges and technical schools. These 2-year and 4-year programs often include courses in sanitation and safety, food preparation, food purchasing and baking. In addition to lectures in the classroom, students learn through practical training in the kitchen.

Additional Training Options

While most sous chefs have some formal education, practical work experience is the most important requirement for entry into this career. Aspiring sous chefs can start their careers as food preparation workers or entry-level cooks in restaurants and work their way up with experience. Professional organizations, such as the American Culinary Federation (ACF), also sponsor apprenticeship programs for aspiring sous chefs. These programs typically last 2-3 years and allow students to learn through both classroom instruction and hands-on training in the kitchen.

Alternatively, aspiring sous chefs may receive formal training at some restaurants and larger hotels. The military also has culinary training programs, offering both basic and advanced food training courses, which each last several weeks.

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Certification Information for Sous Chefs

Certification may be beneficial for sous chefs seeking to stand out to prospective employers. The ACF offers certification for sous chefs who have at least five years of culinary experience and 50-150 continuing education units or an associate's degree and three years of experience (www.acfchefs.org). Those who have completed apprenticeships and 4,000 hours of on-the-job training are also eligible. Candidates must pass both a written and practical exam to earn the Certified Sous Chef designation.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Salary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows chefs and head cooks earned a mean salary of $45,920 in 2015. The BLS estimates employment opportunities within this field will increase by 9%, with a gain of 11,300 jobs, between 2014 and 2024. Some of this slow growth was attributed to food service businesses saving money by delegating tasks that were performed by chefs to less-experienced cooks who command lower salaries.

Sous chefs are supervised by executive chefs, and usually hold a high school diploma or GED. Formal culinary degree programs further prepare sous chefs through courses in food preparation and practical training, and many learn through on-the-job experience, apprenticeships, or training programs at large hotels and restaurants. Voluntary certification is available in this field, and job opportunities for chefs and head cooks, including sous chefs, are expected to increase by 9% from 2014 through 2024.

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