Associate degree programs in baking and pastry arts are offered at technical and community colleges, as well as culinary schools, and they're the most common degree for aspiring pastry chefs. Students often take part in a combination of classroom study and hands-on training in a test kitchen. Many programs offer students the opportunity to develop their skills and gain practical kitchen experience in a campus-based cafe, bakery, or cafeteria. Graduates may pursue professional certification.
Applicants need a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some programs require the submission of scores from a standardized test, such as the COMPASS exam.
Pastry Chef Associate Degree
Baking and pastry arts associate degree programs prepare students for careers as pastry chefs through training in both food preparation and food service management skills. Most programs take roughly two years to complete. Common courses include the following:
- Introduction to pastry arts
- Wedding and special occasion cake decorating and pastry presentation techniques
- Fundamentals of quantity baking
- Food purchasing, cost control and safety and sanitation
- Menu planning and nutrition
- Legal issues in food service
Career Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pastry chefs are expected to see a 9% increase in employment between 2014 and 2024. The median annual salary for chefs and head cooks was $41,500 as of May 2015.
Continuing Education Information
Pastry chefs can earn certification through the American Culinary Federation (ACF). Certification is offered at four levels, including Certified Pastry Culinarian (CPC), Certified Working Pastry Chef (CWPC), Certified Executive Pastry Chef (CEPC) and Certified Master Pastry Chef (CMPC). Certification requires a combination of education and work experience that varies by level. Students interested in further education can pursue a bachelor's degree in baking and pastry arts or in culinary arts.
Students interested in becoming pastry chefs will most likely complete an associate degree program in baking and pastry arts to perfect the necessary baking skills. Graduates can go on to pursue a bachelor's degree, professional certification, and a career in food service.