A pastry chef is a chef specializing in baked goods like pastries, deserts and specialty breads. Hotels, pastry boutiques and restaurant kitchens are a few of the many locations that might employ you as a pastry chef. Associate's and bachelor's programs prepare students for entry level positions and advancement in this field, and professional certifications are also available. Coursework touches on topics such as cake decoration, specialty breadmaking, menu planning and working with chocolate.
Applicants to these programs will need a high school diploma or GED. They can expect an associate's program to take 2 years of study and a bachelor's degree to take 4 years of study.
Associate's Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts
There are many options for an associate degree that may lead to a career as a pastry chef. This degree can provide an excellent stepping stone to more advanced positions in the pastry and baking field.
Associate's degree programs in this field include entry level courses in business and management. This will prepare you for the practical and financial aspects of the industry. Other subjects that are likely to appear in an Associate in Baking and Pastry Arts program are as follows:
- Introduction to pastry
- Introduction to baking
- Sanitation and food safety
- Cake decorating
- Working with chocolate
Bachelor's Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts
There are many ways for you to attain a bachelor's degree that will qualify you to work in the field of baking and pastry arts. In addition to bachelor's degree programs specifically in baking and pastry arts, there are also bachelor's degree programs in fields such as culinary arts or hospitality and restaurant management that offer concentrations or specialties in baking and pastry arts.
An important distinction between an associate degree and a bachelor's degree in baking and pastry arts is the inclusion of an internship. Bachelor's degree programs are able to offer you a more in-depth study of the subject matter. Most programs require an internship because hands-on experience in the field of baking and pastry arts is an excellent way for you to become familiar with your craft and the industry.
Bachelor's degree programs also include many introductory level courses, similar to an associate degree. However, the length of the bachelor's degree program affords you the opportunity to delve past the introductory level and learn more advanced topics such as:
- Specialty deserts and breads
- Decorative arts
- Menu planning and recipe development
- Budget building
- Finance and accounting principles
With an associate degree in baking and pastry arts, you'll be prepared for an entry-level position in a bakery, restaurant, hotel or convention center. One common position is sous chef. This position is the direct assistant to the executive chef.
Career Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, predicted employment of chefs and head cooks will have a 11% growth between the years 2018 and 2028 (www.bls.gov). The field is competitive, especially for positions in expensive restaurants that tend to pay higher wages. The BLS reported that the annual median salary of chefs and head cooks in 2018 was $48,460.
The American Culinary Federation (ACF) offers certifications to suit a variety of career paths (www.acfchefs.org). A certification, though not required for many positions, may help make you more marketable in the industry. Certifications are based on meeting training, experience, written exam and practical exam thresholds. The ACF offers four different certifications specific to the field of baking and pastry:
- Certified Pastry Culinarian (CPC)
- Certified Working Pastry Chef (CWPC)
- Certified Executive Pastry Chef (CEPC)
- Certified Master Pastry Chef (CMPC)
Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in baking and pastry arts are available for individuals interested in this area of the culinary arts. Graduates can improve job prospects by getting certified in one of four areas in the field through the American Culinary Federation.