Although it is possible to begin a career as a baker, pastry chef or cook with a high school diploma and on-the-job experience, some employers prefer applicants with postsecondary training in culinary arts. Certificate, diploma, and degree programs are available for those interested in a career in this field.
For people who love the smell of bread baking, a sweet treat after dinner or simply the satisfaction of working with their hands, training in baking and pastry arts might be a good fit. Formal education programs leading to degrees or certificates in this field are available, though on-the-job training is also a common career-entry route. Those who have gained skills in baking and pastry arts might find employment as cooks, pastry chefs or bakers.
|Career Titles||Pastry Chefs or Bakers||Cooks|
|Education Requirements||High school diploma and on-the-job training at minimum; formal education programs and apprenticeships available||On-the-job training at minimum; formal education programs available|
|Projected Job Growth (2014 - 2024)*||7% for bakers||9% for chefs and head cooks|
|Median Annual Salary ( May, 2015)*||$24,170 for bakers||$41,500 for chefs and head cooks|
Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Career options for those who receive baking and pastry arts training or education include assistant pastry chefs and bakers. With experience, individuals might go on to become full pastry chefs or head cooks.
Pastry Chef or Baker
Professionals in the baking and pastry arts field prepare and bake bread, muffins, pies, cakes and other foods based on a recipe. They may also specialize in a specific type of baked good, such as wedding cakes or artisan breads.
Cooks generally have broader duties than pastry chefs or bakers, and they tend to prepare other foods in addition to breads and desserts, such as entrees, salads or soups. Those who enjoy baking but prefer a diverse range of duties may want to consider a cook position.
Career and Salary Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of bakers was projected to grow by 7% between 2014-2024. Companies that manufacture baked goods are frequently using machines to do the work that bakers would do, so growth in that area is expected to be slower than average. The BLS reported that the median annual wage for bakers was $24,170 in 2015. Job openings for chefs and head cooks should grow by 9% over the same time period, per the BLS, and the median salary for chefs and head cooks was $41,500 in 2015.
Some companies have minimal requirements and provide on-the-job training, while others prefer graduates of diploma, certificate or degree programs. Students complete courses and obtain hands-on training to learn about kitchen tools and baking techniques. They may also complete internships and externships at local restaurants. Courses teach participants how to make hot and cold desserts, pies and tarts, hearth breads and rolls, specialty cakes and sugar artistry. Programs also focus on food safety and sanitation.
Many baking and pastry arts chefs choose to obtain certification to demonstrate their knowledge, skill and proficiency in the profession. Graduates can obtain certifications through the American Culinary Federation and the Retail Bakers of America. Certification levels are typically based on level of training and amount of experience working in the industry. Sample titles from the former include Certified Pastry Culinarian and Certified Working Pastry Chef. Sample titles from the latter are Certified Journey Baker or Certified Master Baker.
From 2014-2024 the expected job growth for bakers, chefs and head cooks is expected to be as fast as or faster than average when compared to all occupations. Applicants who have on-the-job training or complete a certificate, a diploma, an associate's or a bachelor's degree in culinary arts may be preferred by employers and have more opportunities for advancement.