Information on Baking and Pastry Arts Schools

The baking and pastry industry comprises a significant portion of the culinary world. A $30 billion dollar industry, baking and pastry arts are concentrated in two areas: commercial and retail baking. Baked goods and pastries are major business segments with the global market reaching approximately $170 billion in 2014, according to research from Marketline and Global Industry Analysts. With growing demand for specialized options and healthy alternatives, graduates of baking and pastry schools are well-positioned to pursue a range of professional opportunities both in the kitchen and corporate life.

Baking Pastry Arts

Baking and pastry schools and education

There are multiple avenues to gaining the education and training necessary to become a baker or pastry chef:

  1. Apprenticeships and on-the job training
  2. Formal training from a culinary, technical school, or community college

Below is an overview of the different types of educational options available to prospective bakers and pastry chefs.

Apprenticeships integrate on-the-job training and classroom instruction to offer future bakers and pastry chefs with professional level skills to pursue employment opportunities in the culinary industry. As an apprentice, students work under the supervision of an experienced chef. Apprentices typically rotate through various stations, gaining experience in all facets of baking and pastry arts. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) is one of the country's largest provider of pastry and baking apprenticeships. Through partnerships with local technical and community colleges, culinary associations, and other organizations, ACF offers three types of apprenticeship options:

Two-year programs are typically hands-on programs that include 4,000 hours of experience across 150 different areas of practice. Students also complete 445 additional hours of apprenticeship in ten concentration areas. These competencies are outside of hands-on experience and include classroom- and online-based instruction in subjects such as nutrition, basic baking, food cost accounting, and beverage management.

Three-year programs are usually 6,000 hour programs that cover 150 different areas and include 445 apprenticeships hours in ten concentration areas.

Culinary skills fundamentals programs are usually six-month instructional programs that include 1,000 hours of hands-on training and 30 hours of food handler's preparation. The program provides students with the basic culinary skills necessary to pursue entry-level employment opportunities.

Culinary schools tend to focus solely on training programs in the culinary arts, such as baking, pastry arts, food studies, culinary science, and foodservice management. The academic award varies by the specific culinary school. For example, The Culinary Institute of America offers both an Associate in Occupational Studies in Baking and Pastry Arts and a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Baking and Pastry Arts Management.

Certificates in baking and pastry arts are generally entry-level instructional programs designed to prepare graduates for a career in the pastry industry. Focusing more on hands-on instruction in the kitchen, certificate programs introduce students to the foundations of culinary arts, cover basic and advanced baking principles, and include an externship where students put their knowledge into practice. Depending on the program, certificates in baking and pastry arts can be finished in as little as nine months.

Associate degrees in occupational studies can typically be completed in 24 months, and introduce students to a broad curriculum in baking and pastry techniques, basic and classical cakes, advanced baking principles, menu development, contemporary cakes and desserts, and more. Classroom-based instruction is complemented by hands-on externships, which in some instances require 700 or more hours to complete.

Bachelor's degrees in baking and pastry arts are limited. However, these programs build upon the skills taught in two-year associate degree programs. Curriculum includes both general education and industry-specific coursework. Through an additional two years of study, students can develop management and leadership skill and explore related subjects through degree concentrations.

Community colleges or technical schools are usually found at the local level, and students may choose to enroll in either certificate or associate degree programs in baking and the pastry arts. These programs teach students not only industry-specific techniques but the theoretical and conceptual underpinnings of each field as well. Although curriculum varies by program, students may take courses in subject such as cake and pastry decoration, artisan breads, retail bakery management, hospitality marketing, food sanitation and preparation, and catering management.

Baking school certifications and licenses

In the culinary world, earning a certification is one way to enhance professional skills and develop greater marketability in the workplace. For bakers and pastry arts chefs, certification programs are available both in the US and abroad. In the culinary industry, certifications are traditionally sponsored by culinary academies, associations, and institutes. For example, the Culinary Arts Academy in Switzerland offers a Swiss Pastry Chef specialization, a 22-week intensive program that includes instruction in Swiss and European desserts and pastries, modern and traditional recipes, and advanced pastry preparation and presentation.

The American Culinary Federation is the country's largest professional organization for chefs and has more than 17,500 members across the country. It sponsors four certifications for baking and pastry professionals.

  • Certified Pastry Culinarian (CPC): CPC certification is open to individuals with varying levels of professional experience: no degree (2 years); culinary arts certificate (1 year); and associate degree (no required work experience). Candidates must successfully pass a written examination and complete an application process to qualify for the designation.
  • Certified Executive Pastry Chef (CEPC): The CEPC designation is designed for pastry chefs that have at least three years of staff and food production management experience in a foodservice operation. Candidates must successfully pass a written examination and a practical examination at an ACF-approved testing location.
  • Certified Working Pastry Chef (CWPC): The CWPC certification is available to pastry chefs with at least five years of entry-level experience. Candidates must successfully pass both a practical examination and a written test that includes 100 multiple choice questions.
  • Certified Master Pastry Chef (CMPC): The CMPC is the highest designation available from the American Culinary Federation for pastry chefs. Designed for experienced chefs, candidates must hold a current Certified Culinary Educator (CCE) or Certified Executive Pastry Chef (CEPC) designation from ACF. Earning CMPC requires the completion comprehensive testing process and an examination fee of $3,300.

Baking and pastry arts career outlook

There are numerous potential employment paths in retail and commercial baking, from restaurants to food manufacturing, specialty food stores to independent pastry shops. Although the BLS projects tepid national employment growth rates (6 percent) between 2012 and 2022, solid career opportunities exist in numerous states. 

Career Outlook for Bakers

RegionTotal EmploymentAnnual Median WageProjected 2012-2022 Growth
Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Between 2014 and 2019, revenues in the baking industry are expected to climb to nearly $40 billion. As new markets continue to emerge (e.g. gluten-free products), new career avenues and opportunities should become available to graduates of baking schools.


  • American Bakers Association, Industry Data, http://americanbakers.org/industry-data/
  • American Culinary Federation, Apprenticeships, http://www.acfchefs.org/ACF/Education/Apprenticeship
  • American Culinary Federation, Certifications, https://www.acfchefs.org/ACF/Certify/Levels/ACF/Certify/Levels/#bpp
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh
  • Culinary Institute of America, Academics, http://www.ciachef.edu/academics/
  • SBDC, Bakery Business, 2014, http://www.sbdcnet.org/small-business-research-reports/bakery-business-2014

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