How To Become a Professional Baker in 5 Steps
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated June 23, 2021 | Published March 22, 2021
Updated June 23, 2021
Published March 22, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Baked goods take many forms, from baguettes and bagels to more complicated confections such as macarons and kouign-amann. The work environments of bakeries themselves can be just as diverse, making this a flexible career path with a variety of options. In this article, we explain how to become a professional baker, including the education, certifications, skills and experience that can help you advance on this career path.
Related: How To Start a Bakery From Home
How to become a baker
The requirements for becoming a baker vary depending on your goals, but you will need a combination of experience and education to hone the necessary skills. Here are five steps you can take to develop a career as a baker:
1. Finish high school or equivalent
You may not need a diploma to do a baker’s work, but if you are considering culinary or pastry school, most vocational schools will require that you obtain the equivalent of a high school diploma to start a program. Additionally, if your high school offers an elective that would allow you exposure to any baking or nutrition, take advantage of having this opportunity to begin building your skillset.
2. Consider attending a culinary or technical school
You might have perfected some recipes of your own, but a culinary or technical school can teach you valuable skills to improve your baking abilities and hone your craft. Courses cover topics on nutrition and health, diverse cuisines, proper culinary techniques, kitchen management and recipe calculations. While attending culinary or technical school is not a requirement, it can help you develop more sophisticated culinary skills. Those looking to open their own bakery may want to consider pursuing an associate degree in baking and pastry arts.
Typically, a culinary or technical school education takes between one to two years to complete, depending on the depth of the program and whether you attend full- or part-time.
3. Gain experience as an apprentice or baker’s assistant
Becoming an apprentice, trainee or assistant at a local bakery can help you gain hands-on knowledge of the industry. Training normally takes one to three years, and as you work under a baker, you learn safe food handling, sanitation and other basic baking practices. Working as an apprentice or assistant also helps you build connections with other bakers, which can help you find a job as a professional baker in the future.
4. Choose a specialty
After gaining some experience baking, find what type of baking you are most interested in. Depending on the path you choose, you may need to learn certain skills. For instance, plant bakers often use high-volume industrial machines and ovens, which may require additional training to properly operate. Here are a few common types of baking specialties:
Commercial baker: These bakers work in manufacturing facilities and use equipment to mass-produce baked goods for stores.
Retail baker: These bakers work in grocery stores or specialty shops and bakeries to produce smaller amounts of baked goods for customers. Some retail bakers own their own bakeries and oversee the management of staff and inventory.
Pastry chef: Sometimes called a patissier, pastry chefs work in a professional kitchen and are often specifically responsible for the dessert menu. They typically create and choose recipes and manage all aspects of the kitchen as it pertains to pastries.
Artisan bread baker: These bakers specially craft and shape bread on a small scale, often working by hand and with only the standard bread ingredients of flour, water, yeast and salt.
Bakery owner: Craft bakers may open up their own bakeries so they can have complete control over things like the menu and store hours.
Pie maker: These bakers specialize in making pies and use similar culinary skills for fillings and crusts specifically.
Cake decorator: Decorators make the finishing touches using icing and other accents to elevate the way a cake looks, often for special occasions by custom order.
Food stylist: Not exactly a baker, these food professionals finesse food, including baked items, to look their best for photography and presentation.
4. Consider getting certified
Earning a certification can leave a lasting impression on future employers and show that you have the knowledge and skills needed to work in a bakery. The Retail Bakers of America offers certifications for bakers in the following four areas:
Certified journey baker: You need at least one year of work experience to earn this certification.
Certified baker: To earn this certificate, you need at least four years of work experience or be a certified journey baker and three years of work experience.
Certified decorator: You need at least four years of decorating work experience to earn this certificate.
Certified master baker: To earn this certificate, you need at least eight years of work experience along with 30 hours of professional development training and 30 hours of sanitation coursework.
5. Continue perfecting your art
Finessing your culinary craft is an ongoing project you will continue throughout your career. Always be on the lookout for new tricks or continue upgrading your recipes. Creativity and vision will of course also give you the tools for becoming a great baker who can continue to improve and grow.
Practice regularly. Practicing and experimenting with new recipes on your own weekly can help you develop your baking skills. Through trial and error, you learn what works and ways to be more effective in baking.
Network with others. Having connections with other bakers can help you advance in your career through potential job opportunities and professional recommendations. Attend a baker networking event or join a professional group to meet more people in the industry.
Continue your education. Since baking practices are always changing, it is important to continue learning. You can do this by earning a certification or taking additional classes online or in your community.
Skills you’ll need as a baker
In addition to professional techniques, there are several skills a baker must exhibit to work efficiently in the kitchen, including:
Attention to detail: Since bakers monitor their products while they are in the oven and create fine details when decorating items, they need to be detail-oriented.
Communication: When interacting with customers, vendors and coworkers, bakers must communicate effectively.
Creativity: Bakers must be creative and have the curiosity to try new recipes and brainstorm creations.
Mathematics: When adjusting recipes, bakers must use math skills and convert fractions for measuring ingredients.
Organization: Having all their ingredients prepared and laid out beforehand allows bakers to make their goods more efficiently and with the proper measurements.
Patience: To ensure their baked goods are of high quality, bakers must be patient and bake their products for the full duration needed. For example, they wait for their bread to rise before putting it in the oven.
Physical strength and stamina: While working in the kitchen, bakers need to be capable of lifting and moving heavy items like bags of flour. They may also need to be on their feet for long periods.
Related: How To Become a Pastry Chef
Tips to excel as a baker
Apart from skills in the kitchen and the basic qualities that will help you succeed in a culinary career, there are a few characteristics that will help you thrive in a baking career. Mainly, that you should:
Be an early riser
Fresh baked bread and breakfast pastries are associated with the morning, which makes a baker, by definition, a “morning person.” Apart from the fact that baked goods are often a breakfast item, baked goods must also be sold fresh and need time to be prepared and cooled. This means that if you are running a shop dedicated to baked goods, assisting in the bakery department of a market or even just filling orders, you will have to be comfortable with starting your day much earlier than many people naturally would.
Stay on task and able to perform under pressure
Baking takes place in a hot kitchen where everything must be timed and mixed in ways that can be pretty exact. You’ll need to be in control of an orderly environment or your kitchen will end up in disarray. Staying aware of your surroundings and being able to think quickly could salvage a baked good from disaster should there ever be any missteps.
Never stop practicing
As you get comfortable with your profession, you’ll have your tried-and-true recipes or signature items that never fail. But to truly be a master baker, you must continue advancing your repertoire throughout your career. Creativity and a quest for new baking knowledge are what will separate you from the ordinary and keep you inspired in your career.
Stay physically fit
Baking can be a physically taxing job, with days that start early, keep you on your feet and working under fast-paced time constraints. While it’s a rewarding job full of culinary expression, you’ll need to be rested and resilient to perform well.
Related: Learn About Being a Caterer
Job outlook for bakers
A baker's salary depends on their level of experience, location, workplace and industry as well as the type of position. For example, specialty bakers typically make more than factory bakers.
Average salary in the U.S.: $12.88 per hour
Some salaries range from $12.11 to $16.18 per hour
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, bakers will see a 5% job growth from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than average.
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