Hospital cooks meet the challenge of preparing a large number of meals daily for patients, visitors and employees with diverse needs. Their duties include cooking special meals for patients according to the orders of dietitians and physicians. In addition to cooking, hospital cooks plan meals, order supplies, manage production and control costs.
At the time of publication, the average hospital cook earned $12.87 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This equaled $26,770 a year as a full-time hospital cook. However, nearly one-third of institutional cooks in all industries work only part time. The government survey included more than 31,000 hospital cooks nationwide.
Care Facility Wages
Cooks in similar jobs for other healthcare institutions earned less on average than hospital cooks, according to the 2010 government survey. The approximately 47,000 cooks working in nursing care facilities averaged $11.39 per hour, or $23,700 per year. The more than 30,000 cooks working in community care for the elderly averaged $11.58 per hour or $24,090 per year.
Other Institutional Cooks
The average institutional or cafeteria cook in all industries earned $11.62 per hour, or $24,180 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The largest employer of cooks was elementary and secondary schools, where nearly 133,000 cooks averaged $10.93 per hour, or $22,730 for full-time work. Cooks in schools, however, usually work only during the academic year. The highest-paid cooks were the 50 working for financial investment enterprises, where the average wage came to $20.08 per hour, or $41,770 per year. The next highest-paid group worked for the federal executive branch, where 2,610 cooks averaged $19.58 per hour, or $40,740 per year.
The number of jobs for hospital and other institutional cooks will increase by 10 percent from 2008 to 2018, about as fast as the average for all jobs. Prospects for cooks will be good because of employers' need to replace the many cooks who leave for other jobs or for full-time work.
Qualifications and Training
Although many jobs as cooks do not require any special education, employers often prefer applicants who have a high school diploma as a minimum. Many employers, including the U.S. Armed Forces, offer on-the-job training for cooks. Vocational and trade schools also offer instruction in cooking and food preparation. Some educational programs last less than a year, while others take more than two years. Subjects studied include food handling, nutrition, sanitation, slicing methods and cooking techniques.