Dessert and Pastry Chef: Educational Requirements

Dessert and pastry chefs require some formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and certification options to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Dessert and pastry chefs are culinary professionals who specialize in cakes, cookies, chocolates, confections and other treats. They often work in bakeries, restaurants, hotels and cafes, crafting and decorating high volumes of goods for individual customers and catered events. Professional training is necessary for this career, and it can be gained on-the-job, through an apprenticeship, or via a formal certificate or degree program in baking and pastry arts. Voluntary certification is available from organizations like the American Culinary Federation.

Required Education High school diploma at minimum; certificate, associate's degree and apprenticeship programs are common
Other Requirements On-the-job training for those with only a high school diploma
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 5% for all chefs and head cooks
Median Salary (2013)*$42,490 for all chefs and head cooks

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Dessert and Pastry Chef Education Requirements

There are no strict education requirements for a career in dessert and pastry culinary arts. Some chefs gain instruction through employer-sponsored, on-the-job training; however, most chefs complete some form of postsecondary training. Dessert and pastry chefs may pursue formal training through certificate or degree programs available at culinary institutes, community colleges, technical schools and 4-year universities. Chefs may also enter the profession through apprenticeship programs.

Formal Training Program

Culinary arts training programs, such as Associate of Applied Science in Baking and Pastry Arts programs, equip students with the technical and practical skills necessary for careers in the pastry arts. These 2-year degree programs are usually comprised of classroom and in-kitchen instruction, and often require students to complete externships in commercial kitchens. Courses may include:

  • Baking fundamentals
  • Nutrition
  • Cake design
  • Chocolate arts
  • Confectionaries
  • Specialty cakes
  • Plated desserts
  • Sanitation and safety
  • Culinary management


Many chefs are trained in dessert and pastry arts through apprenticeship programs. Such programs are available through culinary associations like the American Culinary Federation (ACF), which offers apprenticeships to ACF student-members who are registered with the U.S. Department of Labor ( These programs last 2-3 years and provide paid, on-the-job instruction under the supervision of certified chefs. Apprentices are also required to complete 12 formal courses in culinary subjects, such as food safety, nutrition and management. Completion of apprenticeship programs may result in professional credentials or associate's degrees.


While not mandatory, many dessert and pastry chefs demonstrate culinary skills by earning professional certification. The ACF offers four levels of certification for baking and pastry professionals, from beginning to master pastry chefs. Each certification requires varying amounts of education and experience.

The lowest level of certification, which results in the Certified Pastry Culinarian (CPC) designation, is available to chefs with high school diplomas or the equivalent and two years of entry-level, pastry arts experience. Alternatively, chefs with certificates and one year of experience or associate's degrees and no experience are also eligible. Also required are 90 hours of coursework in food safety and sanitation, nutrition and culinary management. Candidates must then pass written and practical exams to earn certification, which must renewed every five years through the completion of 80 continuing education hours.

Career Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pastry chefs are listed under chefs and head cooks. These workers were projected to see an increase of 5% in job opportunities from 2012-2022. The median annual wages for chefs and head cooks were $42,490 in May 2013.

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