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How to Become a Baker

If you love to bake and want to use your skills to forge a new career, consider how baking degree programs can help you attain your goals. Becoming a baker is easier than ever with the training options available today. You can attend online baking degree programs, campus programs, or combine the two learning styles. Read on to learn more about being a professional baker, from different types of baking jobs to job outlook and salary ranges for bakers.

Baking Pastry Arts

Baker job description

You've tasted the final product of a baker's work any time you've bitten in to a delicious donut, freshly-made bread, or piece of birthday cake. Essentially, bakers prepare breads, pastries, and baked goods of all kinds for sale.

Mixing and measuring ingredients, following detailed recipes, and operating ovens and baking machinery are all job skills that bakers use on a daily basis. Beyond the basic tasks, some specialty jobs for bakers include:

  • Bread Baker: Baking bread is an art of its own, as bread bakers know. Although most breads share the same basic ingredients, there are added ingredients and special techniques used to produce an almost endless variety of breads. The delicate baking process for making bread requires bread bakers to have great attention to detail and time management skills.
  • Pastry Chef: These chefs specialize in making pastries, cakes, and other desserts. Pastry chefs are also responsible for decorating cakes, filling pastries, and making the various icings and fillings for these pastries. Many pastry chefs attend culinary school to learn the advanced skills this profession requires.
  • Bakery Chef: Bakery chefs are usually experienced bakers who oversee the daily operations of bakery kitchens. Managing employees, ordering supplies, and ensuring that recipes are being followed correctly are all the job of the bakery chef. Most bakery chefs attend culinary school for formal training and have years of experience in their field before taking on this management role.

Bakers may work in a number of environments, from wholesale or retail bakeries to hotels, restaurants, or gourmet food shops. Regardless of the setting, most bakers work under deadlines, which can cause stress. A baker's hours can also be outside the norm, including early mornings, late nights, holidays, or weekends. For some, a love of baking makes up for these odd hours, and other bakers thrive in a hectic kitchen environment.

Baking school classes and courses

To make it as a baker, you'll need a special set of skills acquired through professional training, either as an apprentice or trainee at a bakery or through baking courses at culinary or vocational school. Baking degree programs can teach you essential skills such as:

  • Baking bread and pastries
  • Making icing and fillings
  • Following recipes, mixing ingredients, and mastering baking temperatures
  • Operating and maintaining baking equipment
  • Nutrition courses
  • Health and sanitation guidelines

There are baking degree programs of varying lengths and specialties. If you choose to pursue a specialized path (for example, if you have your sights set on becoming a pastry chef or owning your own bakery), you can take baking courses in a number of areas including:

  • Business management
  • Financial planning
  • Production techniques
  • Wholesale baking
  • Menu planning
  • Teaching baking and culinary arts

There are plenty of chefs who have made it by starting at the bottom and working their way up without formal training. On the other hand, culinary school can be a great place to start your career with confidence. A degree from a baking program can show employers that you mean business, and the internships you may complete while in school can lead to permanent positions.

Baker salary and job growth

In 2014, there were approximately 173,730 bakers in the U.S. Unlike other food processing jobs, where employment is restricted to geographic areas with food plants or processing centers, bakers are found in towns and cities throughout the nation.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job opportunities for food processing professions overall should be 7 percent from 2014-2024, which is right on par with the average growth of all jobs in that decade. This may be particularly good news for specialty bakers like pastry chefs, especially those who hold a degree or certification from a baking school. Some bakers even speculate that a struggling economy has increased the desire for "comfort food" like baked goods. Compared to larger indulgences, a tasty treat is still an affordable splurge for most people.

Baker salaries depend on a number of factors, such as years of experience in the field, formal training, specific job title, and geographic location. The BLS reported that bakers made an average of $25,550 nationwide in May of 2014. The top-paying states for bakers in the U.S. were:

  • District of Columbia: $34,390
  • Hawaii: $32,620
  • Alaska: $32,550
  • Nevada: $30,240
  • North Dakota: $29,020

Some employers may prefer to hire bakers who have completed a baking degree program or taken baking courses. It is possible that formal training may offer an advantage when applying for more upscale positions at hotels or restaurants. These positions may also offer a more competitive salary.

Sources:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bakers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/bakers.htm
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