How to Become a Chef in Montana

Culinary artists can be pastry chefs, executive chefs, cooks and more. Many begin their careers as cooks and spend their time preparing ingredients, cooking and cleaning their workspace. They can eventually progress through the ranks to chefs, who typically take on a more supervisory role and plan menus. [En Español]

Requirements for Becoming a Chef in Montana

There are no statewide requirements to become a chef in Montana. In many instances, having a high school diploma or GED, previous cooking experience and American Culinary Federation (ACF) certification can help aspiring chefs and cooks secure more competitive jobs.

Montana Schools for Chefs

Formal culinary training is available at several schools in Montana. The following are two popular options for students to consider:

  • Big Sky Culinary Institute at the University of Montana. Students at the Big Sky Culinary Institute can receive professional certificates in culinary arts, as well as associates’ degrees in hospitality and food service management. The Institute includes a student-run restaurant where students can practice their skills.
  • Fortin Culinary Center. The Billings Food Bank operates the Fortin Culinary Center, which provides 10-week courses in food preparation, safety and professional skills. Each course includes an additional two weeks of job shadowing at a food establishment and job placement assistance.

Certifications for Becoming a Chef in Montana

People interested in becoming chefs as their careers develop should consider becoming ACF certified. While this certification is not required, it can give culinary artists an advantage when applying to new jobs. The ACF offers nine levels of certification, from Certified Fundamentals Cook to Certified Master Chef, and successful completion of each level will depend in part on one’s culinary education and work experience.

Food handlers may be required to attend a ServSafe course or similar training, depending on their employer’s needs and local regulations, if any.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

Chefs and head cooks will likely see job growth of 9.6 percent on a national level in the decade from 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cooks can expect growth of 4.2 percent during the same time period. Jobs for Montana chefs and head cooks, meanwhile, are projected to increase by 10.4 percent, and jobs for cooks will likely rise by 5.7 percent.

Montana’s chefs and head cooks have an average salary of $45,600 per year. Cooks typically average an annual salary of $23,797.

Working as a Chef in Montana

Chefs and cooks can work at any location that serves food, depending on their experience. These opportunities include schools, hospitals and other institutions, restaurants, fast food businesses and hotels, among others. The most plentiful job opportunities and highest salaries will likely be found in metropolitan areas, such as Billings, Montana. Popular ski resorts may also provide ample options.

Working as a chef requires attention to detail and the ability to multitask while under pressure. Those new to the field can expect to work in fast-paced and collaborative environments that allow them to do creative work each day.

Popular Colleges

College Programs

Missoula, MT Area

The University of Montana

Missoula, Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812
(406) 243-0211
Food Service Management – Associate Program, Culinary Arts – Certificate Program

The University of Montana offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. All programs are imparted at their campus in the city of Missoula. Of the 13,044 students, about 17% are postgraduates. The university is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Fees for tuition for in-state students are likely to be in the order of $6,238 and for students from outside the state likely to be about $23,764 yearly. Learning materials may cost about $1,400, although this will vary with the program.

Western Montana nonmetropolitan area Area

Flathead Valley Community College

777 Grandview Dr, Kalispell, Montana 59901
(406) 756-3822
Culinary – Associate Program

Flathead Valley Community College’s Associate program in Culinary is based at their campus in Kalispell in Flathead County. The majority of of the school’s 2,169 students are on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Fees for tuition for in-district students are likely to be about $4,112 and are $5,486 and $11,254 for in-state and out-of-state students respectively. Learning materials may cost about $1,000, although this will vary with the program.

* Tuition fees and accredition status are correct at the time of writing, according to the National Center for Education Statistics ( Confirm with college before applying.

Neighbor States

Residents of Montana may also wish to review their options in Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota.