Should I Become a Baker?
Bakers are food workers who create breads and other baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, pies and pastries. You'll be responsible for preparing and measuring ingredients, properly cooking or baking foods, and decorating sweet baked goods. As a baker, you may work in factories, restaurants, retail stores and small bakeries. You're likely to work with ovens, mixers and dough cutters that could cause injury. Bakers sometimes work part time, and your schedule could range from early morning to late evening. Weekend or holiday work might also be required.
In this field, work experience typically is more important than a standard general education. Thus, bakers usually are not required to have a college degree. Training is often done in a work setting. However, if you want to pursue a formal education, programs may be available at technical or culinary schools.
|Degree Level||Not required, but certificate and associate degrees available|
|Certification||Voluntary through Retail Bakers of America|
|Experience||Extensive training/apprentice work may be necessary for entry-level positions; 4-8 years experience necessary for certification|
|Key Skills||Math skills; detail-oriented, familiarity with equipment; physical stamina; standing for long periods of time; lifting heavy objects|
|Salary||$24,170 (2015 median for bakers)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Extensive training and apprentice work may be necessary for entry level positions and a relevant certificate or an associate's degrees program is often available. Additionally, the Retail Bakers of America offers four levels of voluntary certification and 4-8 years experience necessary for certification. Bakers should be good with math, be detail-oriented, have familiarity with equipment, and possess physical stamina, since they'll be standing for long periods of time and lifting heavy objects. According to 2015 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, bakers earn a median salary of $24,170.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
Steps to Become a Baker
Step 1: Work as an Apprentice
Before becoming a professional, aspiring bakers must acquire experience. One option is to participate in an apprenticeship program to learn the skills, such as the best practices for measuring, preparing, and food safety, under professional supervision at restaurants, hotels or bakeries while also participating in more formal classes. While a college degree is generally not necessary, apprenticeship programs available through technical or community college programs often result in an associate degree or certificate.
Bakers often utilize industrial machines, including blenders and mixers, so it's a good idea to learn how to use such equipment while working with experienced bakers or by taking courses that cover the basics of commercial equipment operation.
Additionally, the way food is prepared is very important. If ingredients have gone bad, or if they're not handled properly, consumers can get sick. While working at an apprenticeship, potential bakers should take note of proper food handling methods. Students can also take a sanitation course, which could be useful when seeking certification.
Step 2: Learn to Operate a Business
Some bakers choose to open their own businesses. Some colleges and universities offer associate degree programs in small business or entrepreneurship that can teach students to operate their own businesses. Another option for prospective bakery owners is to take courses in small business management through a continuing education program. In these courses, students typically learn about marketing strategies, business plans and product costs. Aspiring business owners also need to know how to manage inventory and keep track of finances.
Step 3: Earn Certification
Certification is not required by most employers, but it can help bakers stand out from the competition. The Retail Bakers of America (RBA) offers certification options for different levels of bakers, including Certified Journey Baker (CJB), Certified Baker (CB) and Certified Master Baker (CMB). The CJB, Certified Journey Baker, is for those just starting out, the CB, Certified Baker, is for those who have some work experience, and the CMB, Certified Master Baker is intended for highly experienced bakers. Individuals seeking CB or higher credentials need to have completed a sanitation course. A Certified Decorator (CD) designation is also available for those who primarily work with sweet baked goods. The RBA notes that job prospects and income could be greater for certified bakers.
After four years of work experience, bakers are qualified to take the exam to become a CB, and after eight years of full-time work and professional development training, they can apply to become a CMB, Certified Master Baker. Bakers should keep on top of certification and move up to the next level after fulfilling minimum requirements in order to showcase their advanced skills.
Step 4: Acquire Additional Experience
The primary way to move up and advance as a baker is to gain work experience. Many bakers start off as baker's assistants and progress as they learn the techniques and skills necessary to manage a bakery or create high quality products.
Aspiring bakers need experience, often acquired through an apprenticeship, which might result in a certificate or an associate's degree.