Should I Become a Confectioner?
Confectionery is a term associated with foods that have large amounts of sugar in them. While this food category primarily consists of candy and chocolate, other foods such as cakes are also included within this group. Confectioners could work in a professional kitchen of a bakery, restaurant, grocery store, or manufacturer. They create and follow recipes, prepare and cook the ingredients, and decorate the sweets for sale to the public. As with bakers, the rate of kitchen injuries may be high with confectioners because of repeated use of hot ovens and being in close proximity to hot liquids on a continuing basis. In addition, many hours might be spent standing to complete their work. However, there is the opportunity to become self-employed running your own confectionery business.
|Degree Level||High school diploma is standard; some employers may require an undergraduate degree|
|Degree Fields||Culinary arts, baking, or pastry arts|
|Experience||Pastry chefs typically need 3 years of experience|
|Certification||Employers typically require food safety certification|
|Key Skills||Critical thinking, reading comprehension, verbal and written communication skills, skill with kitchen tools and appliances, cooking skills, basic math skills|
|Median Salary (May 2015)*||$26,950 per year (median salary for all food batch makers)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine, job postings by employers
Step 1: Learn Cooking Basics
The first step toward becoming a confectioner is to learn how to cook. Most confectioners have a basic understanding of cooking, measuring ingredients, and following directions. While some confectioners may design their own sugary creations, prospective confectioners may consider starting as batch makers in a food manufacturing setting. In this role, individuals learn how to follow a recipe and gain food production, safety, and mechanical knowledge.
Step 2: Consider Formal Education
Those working in pastry arts or confectionery may not need postsecondary education for entry-level roles, but completing a program can provide a comprehensive culinary arts education. Associate's degree programs in baking and pastry arts teach students about baking, decorating, and presentation, but also introduce them to purchasing, business fundamentals, sanitation, and food safety. Many courses allow students to prepare baked goods and pastries using a commercial kitchen. Programs may address wedding cakes, chocolates, marzipan fruits, sugar confections, and plated desserts. Most certificate programs in baking and pastry arts offer the same basic content as associate's degree programs, but without the general education classes.
Workshops are offered by educational or corporate entities and may require a prospective confectioner to pay a fee and be enrolled in the host school if it's offered through a college. The length varies from 1-3 days. Depending on the resource, students can learn methods of creating various chocolates, cakes, and candies and the chemical make-up of candies.
Prospective confectioners may also want to complete an internship to gain hands-on experience. Many baking and pastry arts degree programs require an internship. These field opportunities place students in real food establishments to practice what they've learned in the classroom. Students may also seek out their own confectionery, pastry, or chocolate internships through pastry shops, organizations, schools, or internship websites. An internship in confections often involves working under a professional's supervision in a paid or unpaid work scenario. Another option is a food science internship focusing on research and development of snacks and foods.
Step 3: Obtain Food Safety Certification
Like all food handling workers, confectioners must practice proper hygiene and overall safety when handling candies, chocolates, and pastries. Food safety certification is often a requirement of any food service position. According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), many states use the NRA's food handler programs and courses to meet state health services requirements. In some instances, state restaurant associations have their own food handler programs.
Step 4: Gain Work Experience
Some cooking occupations, including confectioners, require on-the-job experience as a part of employment. While workshops or degree programs may help students attain these skills, many employers prefer to hire applicants with some related experience. Students looking to advance to executive roles, such as pastry chefs, typically need at least three years of experience.
Prospective confectioners may begin as an assistant in a specialty confectionary shop or within the hospitality and tourism industry. Duties may include interacting with customers, stocking supplies, or prepping food. Workers learn how to sanitize their workspace, follow recipes, and sell products.
Step 5: Consider Specializing
While most confectioners study general cooking and confectionery techniques, those wishing to advance their career as a professional confectioner often specialize in a specific area of confectionery art, such as chocolatier or candy making. Specialized professional confectioners generally work for a corporate organization or start their own business operation. Advanced positions require extensive culinary, sugar, and chocolate experience and leadership skills.
Confectioners do not need postsecondary education but may find an associate's degree or certificate helps them find employment. Work experience and specializing may also be beneficial.