Information on Baking and Pastry Arts Schools
A glance inside a pastry shop might reveal flaky croissants, beautiful cakes decorated with swirling designs, elegant éclairs, and some deceptively simple artisanal loaves of bread. Behind each of these delicious creations lies the skill and care of a cook trained in baking and pastry arts.
Many love to bake and are good at it. Becoming a professional baker, however, takes physical stamina, the ability to work in a hot, fast-paced environment under pressure, and strong communication skills. A degree in baking and pastry arts can build on this foundation.
Inside Baking and Pastry Schools: the Curriculum
Baking and pastry schools offer a range of skills and classes, with course topics varying by the selected program. At the core of their programs, most baking and pastry arts schools typically include baking courses in:
- Quick breads and yeast breads
- Cakes, cookies, pies, and tarts
- Dessert sauces and custards
- Sugarwork, chocolate, and marzipan
In these baking and pastry courses, students become familiar with important ingredients and mixing techniques. In addition, classes cover equipment usage, baker's math, menu planning, production techniques, and food safety and sanitation. Some programs also include business essentials for running a bake shop.
Many programs also recognize the need for professional experience, often requiring an externship. By working in a kitchen, students acquire hands-on skills important for transitioning into a professional baking career.
Know About Types of Baking and Pastry Colleges
Culinary students have a wide variety of baking and pastry colleges to choose from. Some of the most common institutions offering a culinary education with an emphasis in baking and pastry arts are listed here, along with some basic characteristics:
- Culinary Schools: Don’t be fooled by the title – culinary schools, while offering professional training in the kitchen, also provide courses in business skills and scientific processes. Students interested in baking and pastries in particular enroll in baking and pastry arts concentrations.
- Vocational schools with baking and pastry programs: These schools provide students with a wide variety of culinary skills while simultaneously teaching business and science fundamentals. Many students find vocational schools to be a practical choice when developing their baking and pastry career.
- Colleges that have culinary majors, degrees and certificates: Appropriate for students at all stages of a culinary career, these schools offer a diverse range of degrees. Students interested in baking and pastry arts in particular can find programs with a baking and pastry emphasis.
With such a variety of schools, which one should students choose? Prospective students should research the schools according to the location and degree offering appropriate for them.
Which Baking Degree Should You Get?
While experience is important in the restaurant business, a degree from a top baking and pastry school demonstrates the depth of culinary knowledge to employers. Depending on the program and the depth of focus, prospective students may consider a:
- Diploma or certificate: These programs range from four months to a year and provide training for entry-level positions in bakeries and restaurants. Students working towards a pastry diploma or baking certificate learn fundamental baking and culinary arts techniques.
- Associate degree: Students in these baking and pastry programs learn the fundamentals, but also augment their baking education with courses that introduce human resources management and finance skills. Associate degrees in baking and pastry arts typically take two years to complete.
- Bachelor's degree: These four-year degrees generally focus on more extensive management training. Students in these programs need to know culinary processes and techniques, of course, but dive into additional event management, food marketing, and business courses - important for baking management, leadership positions, and maintaining a successful business.
Prospective students should start researching degree programs by thinking about where they are, and where they want to be, in their baking and pastry arts career.
Baking Scholarships and School Cost
The price of baking and pastry colleges varies enormously, depending on the type of school, program, and degree. Students considering professional training should note that baking and pastry schools often require purchasing books, uniforms, and supplies on top of paying for regular tuition.
However, pastry and baking schools offer degrees at a diverse range of price points. Private and federal loans, grants, and baking and pastry scholarships may be used to make a school’s degree program within financial reach. Navigating the grants and loans for any degree program can be confusing; looking over a culinary arts financial aid guide, which includes scholarships for baking and pastry arts students, can help.
Is Pastry School Necessary?
Pastry chefs and bakers work in many settings. Restaurants, hotel or resort kitchens, supermarket bakeries, specialty bakeries, catering businesses, and even research kitchens for food manufacturers are all places that employ workers trained in baking and pastry arts. Many hardworking and talented bakers without a formal education have found good jobs with opportunities for advancement.
So, not everyone agrees that going to baking school is worth the time and money. After all, there is a lot to learn outside of a baking school classroom. Some professionals recommend simply going to the best restaurant you can find and starting at the bottom.
While there are no strict baking or pastry chef education requirements for landing a job, there are advantages of pursuing professional training. According to bls.gov, specialized training can increase chances of finding a job in competitive upscale restaurants and hotels where the pay tends to be better. Highly trained bakers should also be in demand thanks to the rising popularity of special food products. Furthermore, graduates of top culinary schools who have sharp business skills and management finesse are often more appealing potential hires in an economy where employers value financial know-how.
How Much Do Bakers and Pastry Chefs Earn?
The salary of a pastry chef or baker can vary according to the location, size, and popularity of the restaurant and the level of responsibility of the position. Many start careers in baking and pastry arts in entry level positions, later working to positions of higher responsibility with added experience. In 2008, bls.gov found that the average pastry chef salary, along with other chefs and head cooks, came to $38,770, with the middle 50 percent earning between $29,050 and $51,540. That same year, bls.gov calculated the average baker’s salary at $23,290 annually. They also found that, in general, the highest paying jobs in upscale restaurants and eateries were the most competitive, and that highly skilled bakers had strong demand from employers.
Experience counts the most for those building careers in baking and pastry arts. However, pastry and baking school can help furnish skills and give potential bakers a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Additional Information on Baking and Pastry Arts Schools and Careers
Bureau of Labor Statistics on careers in baking and food processing
Bureau of Labor Statistics career information on chefs and head cooks
Occupational Information Network (O*NET) on career skills important to bakers