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Pastry Chef Career Information and Education Requirements

Pastry chefs require some formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties, requirements and salary expectations to see if this is the right career for you.

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Someone who loves to bake, especially crafting and embellishing fine desserts, would be a great fit for a job as a pastry chef. An associate's degree, or bachelor's degree, can open the door of opportunities for an aspiring pastry chef, allowing for further career advancement. This occupation is most competitive, but no burden for a hard-working, dedicated individual with a zest for making pastries.

Essential Information

Pastry chefs produce baked goods such as desserts and breads. They're often in charge of the pastry departments of professional kitchens and have many bakers working for them. An associate's degree in pastry arts will be sufficient preparation for someone who has a bachelor's degree in another field, but individuals without a degree may need the business and management courses offered by a bachelor's degree program. In these programs, they gain hands-on experience in preparing and serving all types of baked goods while learning about sanitation procedures, management and food history.

Required Education Associate's or bachelor's degree in pastry arts
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 9% for all chefs and head cooks* (faster than average)
Median Salary (2015) $39,842**

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **PayScale.com

Pastry Chef Career Information

According to PayScale.com, the median annual wage for pastry chefs was $39,842 in September 2014. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) does not have separate information for pastry chefs; it includes pastry chefs with other kinds of chefs and head cooks when it compiles employment information. About 9% employment growth for chefs and head cooks is predicted by the BLS for the 2014-2024 period. The BLS reports that the field is very competitive, with hiring advantages held by those with more experience. The BLS also published that the annual median wage for all chefs and head cooks was $41,500 in May 2015.

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Education Requirements

An associate's degree in pastry arts is recommended for individuals who already hold an undergraduate degree in another discipline and want to change careers. However, a bachelor's degree is the recommended entry-level degree for aspiring pastry chefs who have no college credits. A bachelor's degree program also opens up kitchen managerial opportunities with restaurants, bakeries and hotels; both of these degree programs are offered by culinary schools. Associate's degrees are offered by some community colleges as well.

Associate's Degree

An associate's degree in pastry arts can be completed in two years and introduces students to the art of baking. All classes feature a hands-on component and lectures on the science of baking. Students learn how to bake desserts, breads, confections and pastries. Many culinary schools have an on-site café staffed by students who learn how to bake in a real world context. In addition to learning about the baking process, instruction is provided on menu development, food safety, nutrition and cost control. An internship may be required in order to complete the degree.

Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree program in baking and pastry arts covers much of the same ground as an associate's degree but covers professional baking more thoroughly. Students learn how to bake breads, cakes and confections, and receive instruction on the history of baking and some of the different regional pastry traditions.

Some of the courses may include gastronomy, contemporary cakes, pastry design, and café operations. Management and business classes cover subjects such as restaurant law, food purchasing, and control and marketing. Instruction may be punctuated by visits to farms and markets to taste and sample various foods, and to understand contemporary farming methods.

If baking is your passion, and you love delectable pastries, being a pastry chef is one career you would surely enjoy. Besides having experience, it's strongly recommended you earn a bachelor's or associate's degree from a college or culinary school, as it will enrich your knowledge and provide you with access to better positions such as a head pastry chef.

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