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Information on Pastry Chef Schools

Anyone who has ever eaten a wedding cake, cracked the top of a crème brûlée, or bitten off a chocolate curl from a beautiful dessert has experienced both the art and precise science of pastry arts. Behind these pieces of edible art lies the work of chefs trained in pastry arts. Because of the chemistry and physics involved in baking and sculpting sugary concoctions, highly specialized training, a delicate hand, and a creative mind are all necessary to work as a pastry chef.

Baking Pastry Arts

Pastry School: Necessary or Not?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many pastry chefs are taught on the job and some earn their titles through years of working their way up the ranks of restaurant, hotel, or supermarket kitchens. Increasingly, other chefs have been learning their craft through culinary schools and in colleges offering 2 or 4-year degrees in culinary arts.

But because this is an elite profession, competition is keen. In fact, the American Culinary Federation (ACF) says that only 3 percent of its culinary membership's jobs are held by pastry chefs. Additionally, a 2008 survey by the ACF found that 76 percent of respondents working in the culinary arts attended culinary school.

Many employers simply prefer to hire those with certifications or degrees from pastry schools. In general, workers with a good sense for business should have better job prospects. Plus, having more advanced training often leads to better opportunities for advancement and higher salaries.

How to Become a Pastry Chef: Training and Practice

Understanding the many recipes for pastries and desserts, down to the smallest cookie and chocolate, is essential for anyone wanting to work in this profession. Trained pastry chefs should know the little nuances that make their creations go from something decent to delectable.

Pastry arts schools cover basic baking principles as well as more advanced skills, including how to prepare or develop recipes for just about any dessert, from pies and cakes to custards. Pastry chefs also need to be able to prepare sauces, glazes, icing, marzipan figures, blown or pulled sugar, ice carvings, and dough sculptures.

Shorter pastry chef education programs, such as pastry diplomas and certificates, focus mainly on culinary skills and kitchen techniques, safe work practices, and sanitation compliance. These programs, which include courses in breads, cakes, tarts, chocolate, and sugarwork, typically take around one year to complete. Students in these pastry programs have the advantage of a lower time commitment for their training, although the programs are less extensive in the skills they offer.

Longer programs for pastry chef training, consisting of associate and bachelor’s degrees, typically include business fundamentals to enhance students’ culinary understanding. These programs include pastry courses commonly found in certificate and diploma programs, with additional classes in finance, food marketing, and management. An associate degree usually takes 2 years to complete, while most students finish up a bachelor’s degree in 4 years.

In addition, most pastry chef schools will include an externship as a necessary component of their programs, most lasting for about the length of a semester. These externships are helpful in providing professional experience—an important step for students transitioning into a pastry chef career.

Pastry School Cost, Scholarships, and Aid

Costs vary for training programs, depending on the school, the length of the program, and whether the program is taken at full or part-time. There are ways to help students afford pastry school, including scholarships, employer sponsored tuition reimbursement, financial aid and student loans. In fact, the ACF and other culinary organizations offer scholarship opportunities.

Students considering pastry school should think about the training appropriate for where they are, and where they want to be, in their culinary career.

Pastry Chef Salary and Career Information

Pastry chefs work in a variety of settings, including restaurants, hotel or resort kitchens, supermarket bakeries, specialty bakeries, catering businesses, or even research kitchens for food manufacturers. Here, pastry chefs are on their feet for most of the work day, creating their edible art in locations that can sometimes be hot and noisy. Most start in an entry-level position and gradually advance to higher levels of responsibility.

Pastry chef salaries vary depending on the employer and experience. Statistically, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that the majority of pastry chefs have between 0 and 9 years experience, with the middle 50 percent of salaries ranging from $29,050 to $51,540. On average, the annual salary of a pastry chef is identified at $38,770. The highest salaries, of course, are found in the more competitive and upscale food establishments.

Additional Resources for Pastry Chef Careers:
Bureau of Labor Statistics information on pastry chef careers
Occupational Information Network (O*NET) information on pastry chef career skills

Featured Pastry Chef Schools

Check out this directory of Pastry Chef schools and institutes to get started!

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5 Program(s) Found
  • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
  • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
  • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
  • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
  • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Program(s) Found
Le Cordon Bleu Schools of North America , Online (campus option available)
  • Its first location, in Paris, officially opened its doors as a culinary school in 1895.
  • Teaches students by having them spend significant time in the kitchen practicing precision techniques.
  • Provide hands-on training from instructors who are certified, master chefs.
  • Offer flexible schedules and online programs.
  • Has 30 schools worldwide, spanning 5 continents, including 17 campuses in the U.S.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
1 Program(s) Found
  • Provides students the opportunity to train at home in their spare time to get their high school diploma, train for a new career, or enhance current skills.
  • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
  • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
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  • Online Courses
1 Program(s) Found
  • Offers more than 150 self-paced, career-relevant programs that are connected to a supportive 24/7 online community of students and faculty.
  • Profiled in many publications such as The Boston Globe, Fox Business, and  Inside Higher Ed.
  • Nearly 25,000 graduates each year.
  • Accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
  • Founded in 1890 in Scranton, Pennsylvania    
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  • Online Courses
5 Program(s) Found
  • Received the 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
  • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
  • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
2 Program(s) Found
  • First opened its doors in 1980 as the Academy of Medical Art and Business.
  • Students can choose from a variety of diploma or degree programs, as well as continuing education courses.
  • Provides programs in massage therapy, dental assisting, criminal justice, cake decorating, and more.
  • 7.5 acre campus is located in the foothills of Blue Mountain, north of Harrisburg, PA.
  • Involved with many community service organizations, including the Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank (CPBB), March of Dimes, and Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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  • Accredited
  • Financial Aid
4 Program(s) Found
  • Has been training students in the culinary arts since 1946.
  • Teaches hands-on culinary training in French, Asian, Mediterranean, Latin and American cooking, along with professional baking and pastry techniques.
  • Helps students gain professional skills in culinary management.
  • Offers an Italian Culinary Arts program where students get to externship in Italy.
  • Its instructors are respected chefs who put their dedication and life experiences into their instruction.
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  • Financial Aid
2 Program(s) Found
  • Designated as a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
  • A private post-secondary institution of higher education serving south-central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland since 1967.
  • Offers associate degrees in specialized business and specialized technology, as well as programs leading to professional certifications and diplomas.
  • Gives each student their own career services specialist who helps keep them focused on their goals.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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  • Accredited
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Program(s) Found
  • Dedicated to providing a hands-on, personal approach to education since 1946.
  • Provides associate degrees and short-term certificate programs in business, design, healthcare, and more.
  • Offers alumni free “brush up” classes, allowing graduates to exercise certain skills or software that they may not have used in a while.
  • Gives students many options for campus activities, including intramural sports, drama club, and campus parties.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Program(s) Found
  • Offers career-focused programs in allied health, business, and computer technology, and more.
  • On-the-job training available through externships, internships, and clinical placements.
  • Graduates in good standing can take refresher sessions in courses at no additional cost.
  • Day and evening class options are available for flexible scheduling.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
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Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
2 Program(s) Found
The Chef's Academy , Indianapolis
  • Listed on the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).
  • Offers intern and externship placement assistance for real-world experience.
  • Offers programs in culinary arts, pastry arts, and hospitality & restaurant management.
  • Accredited by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation (ACFEF).
  • 2 campus locations in Indianapolis, Indiana and Morrisville, North Carolina.
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4 Program(s) Found
Virginia College , Chattanooga
  • Instructors are typically real-world professionals with many years of experience in their career fields.
  • Ranked #3 in Best for Vets: Career & Technical Colleges 2014 by Military Times.
  • Presents the full tuition cost up front. In most cases, even textbooks are included in the total price.
  • Provides career services associates to help students review their resume, provide career counseling, help with job searches, and more.
  • Has 27 campus locations across the southern United States, plus offers online degree programs.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
1 Program(s) Found
  • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the South in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
  • Ranked the 13th  Best College for Veterans in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
  • A private institution founded in 1977 with a current total undergraduate enrollment of over 15,00.
  • Its student-faculty ratio is 11:1, and 89.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
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2 Program(s) Found
  • Gives students the opportunity to earn their associate’s degree in the culinary arts field in less than 15 months or bachelor’s degree in the food service management field in 2.5 years through their year-round schedule.
  • Located in Norfolk and Newport News, Virginia.
  • Offers externship experiences to students for experience in the field.
  • Hosts regular career fairs for employer recruitment.
  • Has student housing available.
  • Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC).
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4 Program(s) Found
  • Culinary Arts program includes the 3-week Farm To Table® Experience, where students gain a direct, in-depth look at where food comes from.
  • Numerous scholarship opportunities and financial aid are available to students who qualify.
  • Accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET), and the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 2 campuses located in Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid

More Pastry Chef Schools in the U.S.

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