Culinary Careers: Spotlight on Bakers
By Patricia Cecil-Reed
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.
What Does a Baker Do?
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.
How Will Formal Education Help You Become a Baker?
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.
What Is the Job Outlook for Bakers?
In 2008, there were approximately 151,600 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 good in the 2008-2018 decade. Jobs for bakers in particular should be more in demand because of the growing popularity of specialty baked goods. This may be particularly good news for specialty bakers like pastry chefs.
A 2009 Modern Baking survey of retail bakers found most of the bakers surveyed reported an increase in retail customers from 2007 to 2009. Moreover, 50 percent of the survey participants felt confident that sales would increase through the end of the year and be better than their 2007 figures.
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.
Average Baker Salary
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 average salary range for a baker is between $19,905 and $29,554 annually, according to PayScale.com. Salary ranges for specialty bakers include:
- Pastry chef: $24,775 to $41,962 annually
- Cake decorator: $18,849 to $27,398 annually
- Bakery manager: $26,591 to $42,691 annually
Your baking education can also play a role in your salary, with the following comparisons found between a baker's level of training and their hourly wages:
- High school diploma: $8.58 to $14.10
- Pastry and baking certificate: $8.84 to $12.12
- Associate's degree, culinary arts: $9.31 to $14.70
- Associate of applied science (AAS): $9.76 to $10.82
- Associate of science (AS), pastry and culinary arts: $9.08 to $11.00
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.
If you have a passion for baking, why not turn your favorite pastime into a new career? Baking degree programs can provide you with the education and training you need to succeed as a baker, whether you choose to be a general baker, a pastry chef, a bakery manager, or a bakery owner. Don't hesitate to follow your passion -- enroll in baking courses today.
About the Author
Patricia Cecil-Reed is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a B.A. in Literature from Sarah Lawrence College.