Become a Pastry Baker: Education and Career Roadmap
Learn how to become a pastry baker. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in the pastry arts.
Do I Want to Be a Pastry Baker?
Pastry bakers work in restaurants, bakeries, manufacturing facilities and grocery stores and are responsible for mixing and baking ingredients to create pastries and other types of desserts. Specific duties often depend on the type of dessert a baker is making, but general duties include measuring and weighing ingredients, kneading dough and icing cakes. This occupation may be physically demanding, with standing for long periods, moving heavy objects, and working around hot ovens and tools. Precautions must be taken to protect from injuries and hazards.
While a college degree isn't required to work as a pastry baker, aspiring workers generally must complete either a formal training program or an apprenticeship. Experience under the supervision of a professional baker is generally necessary, and certification is available through the Retail Bakers of America. The table below includes some of the common requirements to become a baker.
|Degree Level||Apprenticeship, training program or associate's degree*|
|Degree Field||Culinary arts, baking and pastry arts**|
|Certification||Though not required, can become a certified journey baker, certified baker and certified master baker; some states require a Food Handler Card*|
|Experience||Working as an assistant may be necessary to become a baker*|
|Key Skills||Organization and communication skills*, understanding of sanitation and safety requirements**|
|Technical Skills||Knowledge of weights and measurements*, the ability to handle cooking utensils and equipment**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Monster.com Job Postings (June 2012).
Step 1: Earn a Degree or Complete an Apprenticeship
A pastry arts associate's degree can teach students the various techniques to bake pies, cakes, tarts and other pastries. In addition to academic courses, students will generally have the opportunity to work in a kitchen and learn about preparation procedures, baking methods and presentation techniques. Courses may cover topics involving culinary techniques, production baking, nutrition, wedding cakes, chocolate desserts, artisan breads and food safety. Students may also learn how to make centerpieces and plated desserts.
If enrolling in a pastry arts program isn't ideal, a prospective baker could always consider participating in an apprenticeship. While apprentices are usually required to take courses, they may receive more hands-on experience in professional kitchens than individuals who enroll in degree programs. Apprenticeships don't require students to complete any general education courses; however, the option to transfer credits to a bachelor's degree program is not available. Lasting 1-3 years, apprenticeships could require individuals to complete anywhere from 1,000-6,000 hours of training.
- Obtain experience while in school. To begin developing real work experience, you may want to find a job on campus making baked goods or in the cafeteria. Not only will you gain valuable experience, but you may be able to earn some additional income.
Step 2: Obtain a Food Handler Card
Some states legally require that any individual who prepares or handles food, such as a pastry baker, obtain a food handler card. The National Restaurant Association offers the ServSafe designation, which is one of many available certifications that can qualify an individual for the food handler card. To obtain certification, an applicant is generally required to take a course and pass an examination.
Step 3: Get Experience
Before working as a professional baker, individuals may need to first find an assistant position. While the duties largely will be the same, work will be performed under the supervision of a professional baker. This is an opportunity for aspiring pastry bakers to develop their skills and improve their baking abilities.
Step 4: Earn Certification
The Retail Bakers of America offers several certifications, and although earning a designation isn't required, obtaining one does demonstrate a baker's skill level. All levels of certification require that individuals pass an exam, and the type of designation pastry bakers are eligible for depends on their education and experience. For example, a certified journey baker designation requires no formal training and only one year of work experience, while a certified baker must have four years of experience. In addition to eight years of experience, a certified master baker must complete a sanitation course and 30 hours of developmental training.
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