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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.
  • Offers programs in psychology/social work, business management, medical billing, criminal justice, and more.
  • 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
  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Links students to hundreds of training opportunities ( beyond their traditional internships and practicum) at their many “partner agencies” in each of their local communities. 
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
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Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Dedicated to providing a hands-on, career-focused education since 1953.
  • Offers classes online, as well as at 14 campuses across California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois and Virginia.
  • Develops curriculum with input from employers, subject matter experts.
  • Has small class sizes to promote one-on-one, student-teacher interaction.
  • Makes no-cost tutoring available in every subject to every enrolled student.
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  • Accredited
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Has students attend one four-week class at a time and take their final exam before moving on to their next class.
  • Offers 24/7 online tech support, with a typical response time of 4 hours or less.
  • Has online help centers that offer assistance with writing, statistics, medical assisting, and more.
  • Provides job placement assistance to all its students and alumni.
  • Researches trends for growing fields to tailor a more effective curriculum.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
UEI College , Fresno
  • Dedicated to providing  career training since 1975.
  • Has 13 campus locations in Southern California and a campus in Morrow, GA.
  • Provides flexible class times including weekends.
  • Offers curriculum that ranges from 8 month diploma programs to 16-month Associate of Applied Science degree programs.
  • Has admissions professionals available to help students decide which diploma or degree program they should pursue.
  • Gives job placement assistance strengthened by relationships with local employers.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Offers training in various types of massage therapy, physical therapy/sports rehab, and personal fitness training & wellness.
  • Teaches in an environment that promotes learning and encourages empathetic and compassionate therapists.
  • Career service professionals work directly with students from the start of their program, and help them pursue employment in day spas, luxury hotels, cruise ships, and other locations.
  • Students can work in the SOCHI Massage Clinic to gain experience and build their career skills.
  • Financial aid representatives help students develop a personalized financial plan to finance their tuition.
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  • Financial Aid

•     Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs and Best Online MBA Programs in 2015 by U.S. News & World Report.

•     Listed among The Princeton Review’s 2015 Best Midwestern Colleges.

•     Student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1, with most classes ranging from 10 to 19 students.

•     Online library offers 75,000 e-Books, 90,000 full-text electronic journals, and 101 databases services, available 24/7.

•     Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).

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  • Online Courses
Fremont College , Online (campus option available)
Fremont College traces its roots to Platt College’s founding in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1879, and the Southern California branch campus was established in 1986. The most significant evolution of the College started when its third CEO, Dr. Sabrina Kay, assumed leadership in 2007. Fremont College became an innovative center adopting the framework of Work-Based Learning Leadership at the Wharton School and Dr. Kay’s thesis on improved learning through practice and collaboration.
  • Online Courses
  • Has over 350 employees who provide personalized, one-on-one live student support.
  • Partnered with AmeriCorps to create the Segal AmeriCorps education award that pays up to $5,500 towards tuition.
  • Provides 100% tuition assistance for military service members who qualify.
  • Offers JANET, the Job Assistance Network that covers instruction on résumé writing, cover letters and weekly job leads for up to three years.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC).
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  • Online Courses
  • One of the largest massage therapy schools in the nation teaching since 1979.
  • First massage school in California to be nationally accredited.
  • Has a successful job placement record— 86% of graduates get placed into work in massage therapy.
  • Provides massage therapist education with multiple methods to ensure every student learns the material.
  • Offers lifetime career placement assistance and holds partnerships with a variety of employers.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
Milan Institute , Bakersfield
  • Offers career programs in accounting, cosmetology, massage therapy, physical fitness training, and more.
  • Provides hands-on training led by instructors who have relevant, on-the-job experience.
  • Each campus features a public salon and spa for student practice.
  • Campuses are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) and Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 11 campuses across California, Texas, Nevada and Idaho, as well as 8 additional Milan Institute of Cosmetology campuses.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Gives students the option to choose from day, evening, and weekend classes to fit their schedule.
  • Offers public spa and salon services at all campuses for students to gain real-world experience.
  • Provides short specialty programs and workshops open to non-students as well.
  • Has 60 campuses across the United States.
  • Accredited by the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences (NACCAS).
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  • Accredited
  • Financial Aid

More Pastry Chef Schools in the U.S.

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