Should I Become a Pastry Baker?
Pastry bakers work in restaurants, bakeries, manufacturing facilities, and grocery stores. They're responsible for mixing and baking ingredients to create pastries and other types of desserts. Specific duties often depend on the type of dessert a baker is making, but general duties include measuring and weighing ingredients, kneading dough, and icing cakes. This occupation may be physically demanding, with standing for long periods, moving heavy objects, and working around hot ovens and tools. Precautions must be taken to protect from injuries and hazards.
|Education Required||Apprenticeship, training program, and/or associate's degree|
|Field of Study||Culinary arts, baking, and pastry arts|
|Certification||Though not required, one can become a certified journey baker, certified baker, and certified master baker; some states require a food handler card|
|Experience||Work as an assistant may be necessary to become a baker|
|Key Skills||Organizational and communication skills, understanding of sanitation and safety requirements, knowledge of weights and measurements, the ability to handle cooking utensils and equipment|
|Salary (2015)||$24,170 median annual salary|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2015), Monster.com Job Postings (June 2012).
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Steps to Becoming a Pastry Baker
Step 1: Earn a Degree or Complete an Apprenticeship
A pastry arts associate's degree can teach students the various techniques used to bake pies, cakes, tarts, and other pastries. In addition to academic courses, students will generally have the opportunity to work in kitchens and learn about preparation procedures, baking methods, and presentation techniques. Courses may cover topics involving culinary techniques, production baking, nutrition, wedding cakes, chocolate desserts, artisan breads, and food safety. Students may also learn how to make centerpieces and plated desserts.
If enrolling in a pastry arts program isn't ideal, a prospective baker could always consider participating in an apprenticeship. While apprentices are usually required to take courses, they may receive more hands-on experience in professional kitchens than individuals who enroll in degree programs. Apprenticeships don't require students to complete any general education courses; however, the option to transfer credits to a bachelor's degree program is not available. Lasting 1-3 years, apprenticeships could require individuals to complete anywhere from 1,000-6,000 hours of training.
- Obtain experience while in school. To begin developing real work experience, you may want to find a job on campus making baked goods. Not only will you gain valuable experience, but you may be able to earn some additional income.
Step 2: Obtain a Food Handler Card
Some states legally require any individual who prepares or handles food, such as a pastry baker, to obtain a food handler card. The National Restaurant Association offers the ServSafe designation, which is one of many available certifications that can qualify an individual for a food handler card. To obtain certification, an applicant is generally required to take a course and pass an examination.
Step 3: Get Experience
Before working as a professional baker, individuals may need to first find an assistant position. While the duties largely will be the same, work will be performed under the supervision of a professional baker. This is an opportunity for aspiring pastry bakers to develop their skills and improve their baking abilities.
Step 4: Earn Certification
The Retail Bakers of America offers several certifications, and although earning a designation isn't required, obtaining one does demonstrate a baker's skill level. All levels of certification require that individuals pass an exam, and the type of designation pastry bakers are eligible for depends on their education and experience. For example, a certified journey baker designation requires no formal training and only one year of work experience, while a certified baker must have four years of experience. In addition to eight years of experience, a certified master baker must complete a sanitation course and 30 hours of developmental training.
Hopefully, pastry bakers should first earn a degree or train as an apprentice; then they should obtain necessary permits before getting experience as an assistant and obtaining optional certification to advance.