How to Become a Pastry Chef: Job Description, Salary & Training


We are not even going to pretend that when we think of how to become a pastry chef our first thought isn’t – mmmhhh donuts. Once we came out of our Homer Simpson stupor we got right to work on finding out anything and everything we could about how to go into this awesomely flour covered field. We have a ton of information for you today, so get you pen and paper handy!

How to Become a Pastry Chef

The first step after deciding that you want to become a pastry chef is figuring out how to go about doing so and you’ve come to the right place because we are going to tell you all you “knead to know”…get it “knead to know”? We slay ourselves!

 There are things that go into the process and each is equally important, so let’s get cracking and whisk away to answer all your questions.35_Restaurant_PastryChef_xxxlarge

You will first want to decide what kind of training or schooling you wish to pursue in order to become a pastry chef. There are quite a few options here and you will likely want to do a bit of research to find the perfect fit in terms of duration of the program, cost and how it will fit into your schedule. Once you’ve knocked the training or schooling out of the park you will be ready to start getting some real world experience, which can come in the form of an internship or an actual paying job in the industry. It is important to jump on your opportunities early so that you are able to continue learning and hone your skills right out of the gate. Trust us it will help you out a ton later on when you want to pursue other avenues such as opening your own bakery business.

When the time comes to filling out applications for potential jobs it is super important to include all of your schooling or certificates you have earned as well as including the areas of your craft that you are particularly skilled and interested in. This will give the potential employer an idea of what you are capable of and will hopefully garner you a position that will fuel your fire too. Ultimately you want to make yourself really shine and stand out from all the other applicants so the places you are applying to will see how truly “egg”-cellent you are.

Pastry Chef Job Description

You may be asking yourself at this point “What exactly does a pastry chef do?” and we’ve got the answer for you, but first let us wipe the powdered sugar off out faces from our most recent bear claw binge. It’s all in the name of research! That’s our story and we’re sticking to it, anyhow.

A pastry chef is skilled in making breads, desserts, confections and of course pastries. There is the potential to work in many different setting to showcase your rocking skills such as: retail or commercial bakeries, grocery stores and restaurants. There is quite a range of hours available depending on where you land a job and there is likely a schedule that is suitable for anyone. Bakery chefs are needed to work shifts in the early mornings, late evenings, weekends and even on holidays.

Your day to day tasks will likely vary depending on the type of establishment that you are employed in, but you can expect lots of egg cracking, flour sifting, dough kneading and dessert forming/filling. Oh and taste testing, let’s not forget that! Keep in mind that even though some of these tasks seem monotonous and less than thrilling, they are stepping stones and learning tools to become the best pastry chef you can possibly be. Plus you get to wear one of those super cute chef hats the entire time and you can always practice your Swedish Chef accents from The Muppets while you crack, sift and knead!

How Long Does it Take to Become a Pastry Chef?

The answer to this question is totally dependent upon how long you want to be in school, how much time and money you have to devote to becoming a pastry chef and ultimately what your intentions are after you complete your degree.

The most common avenue that is traveled to become a pastry chef is to obtain an associate’s degree and this can be done usually at a community college or career institute. An associate’s degree takes 2 years to complete with some schools requiring you to complete an internship to complete the degree program. As we’ve already mentioned, an internship is an excellent way to get some hands on experience and serves as an excellent stepping stone to obtaining a solid job in the field.

 As a student you will learn all about the awesome art of baking with loads of hands-on learning experience with lectures incorporated. Some of the most common things learned are how to bake desserts, bread, confections and pastries with lectures generally consisting of menu development, food safety and nutrition. If you decide that you’d like to go the distance, there are many schools that offer bachelor’s degrees in this field as well and will require an additional 2 years of schooling.

The bachelor’s degree with cover much of the same information and skills as an associate’s degree does, it does dive in depth a bit more with extra focus on professional baking and some emphasis on the business side of it. This may be a route you want to consider if you are interested in opening your own business in the future.

Another increasingly common educational direction being chosen by many students that are considering entering the world of a pastry chef, is receiving a program certificate. These types of certificates are offered through career specific programs universities or career colleges. The learning paths are very similar to actual degree programs, but they require much less time and are considered to be a broader approach to the profession.

Pastry Chef Salary

Now let’s talk about money, Honey! We all know that money makes the world go round and that we unfortunately have to take it into consideration when deciding on a chosen career path. Well that’s the case for those of us that aren’t too keen on living off of ramen noodles and ketchup packets for the next 10 years anyhow.

We found some really great information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics about the salary that can be expected once you officially don your white chef’s hat and become a full-fledged pastry chef. According to the ever helpful Bureau of Labor Statistics the median salary for a pastry chef is $23,140 per year, which translates into about $11.13 per hour. We also did a bit of research on salary.com and found that their salary projections vary slightly coming in at a median yearly salary of $26,306 that essentially means you will be pulling in closer to $12.65 an hour. That’s a bit better than what the BLS is projecting and we imagine that the sweet spot is somewhere in between.

There are a few things to consider when it comes to what your salary will be once you’ve become a pastry chef and these things could have an impact on what the final figures end up being. As with anything the more experience and educational background you have, the higher the salary ceiling may be for you.

Potential employers are going to look favorably on you if you have a fat resume that is stacked with experience and that shows you put the energy into going to school for this career, thus making you a bit more likely to receive a high pay grade than Homer does just because he likes donuts and thought he’d give a career as a pastry chef a try.

 Lastly, location will also play a hand in what your salary winds up being. The more rural areas will likely pay less than the more urban areas. This is just some food for thought for you smart cookies and worth some consideration. Be sure to check out the resources at salary.com for more a more state specific breakdown of what the salary expectations are in your area. This extra bit of information will definitely prove me be rather helpful when the time comes to bust out the job applications.

Pastry Chef BLS

Pastry Chef Schools

There are a ton of schooling options available to you and there is sure to be a school that will offer the degree of program you want. You will have the ability to take online courses as well as actual in class courses depending on the school you decide to attend. Definitely be sure to take a gander at your local community college or career college to see if there are degree of certificate programs available in this field as they are usually a lot lighter on the wallet and faster than state universities.

The Culinary Institute of America

The Culinary Institute of America offers a pastry chef associates degree program that will take you about 2 years to complete if you intend to attend the school as a full time student. There is also a more in depth bachelor’s degree program as well that will take an additional 2 years to complete, so a total of 4 years. One of the many great things about CIA is that there are several campus locations around the country that will accommodate a wider range of students too.  Some of the awesome classed offered at CIA are baking and pastry techniques, culinary math (cue the collective math hating groan) and introduction to gastronomy just to name a few.

City Colleges of Chicago

If you decide to go the route of a certificate program to fulfill your dreams of becoming a pastry chef then a pretty awesome place to go is the City Colleges of Chicago. This school offers a basic certificate program in baking and pastry art. There is a wide berth of subject matter that is covered in this program and you will dive into the commercial environment, baking and pastry terminology as well as sanitation skills.

Le Cordon Bleu

The Le Cordon Bleu is another school that’s entire curriculum is devoted to different forms of culinary awesomeness. They currently offer students the opportunity to obtain an associate’s degree in baking and pastry arts and an associate’s in applied science degree in patisserie and baking. If a certificate program is more your speed, that’s cool too. Le Cordon Bleu offers a certificate in baking and pastry arts as well as a diploma in this field too.

There is also the added option of being able to take some of your required classes online, which will help for those of you with busy schedules. There are Le Cordon Bleu locations all over the country that are all equipped with the latest and greatest culinary tools for all students. If Le Cordon Bleu strikes your fancy, be sure to check out their financial aid options for sure. They are pretty stacked with scholarships and grant opportunities. We love to see students keep their debt low, so hopefully they will have an option for you should you happen to choose them as your school of choice.

Here are a few more:

Your creativity is a big part of who you are and where you're going. To take it, and your future, as far as you want, you need an education that's focused on developing your talents and putting you on the path toward the creative career that stirs your imagination.

Programs:

  • Baking & Pastry (C)
  • Culinary Arts (AS)
  • Culinary Arts (C)
  • And more...
Locations: Durham

Turn your passion for food into a career at the Culinary Institute of Virginia.

 

What Are You Waiting For?

Programs:

  • Baking and Pastry Arts
  • Culinary Arts
Locations: Newport News

How to Become a Pastry Chef at Home

One of the really awesome things about this type of career path is that it is really great for entrepreneurs and allows you to really reach for what you want without limitations. A career as a bakery chef will afford you the opportunity to have your own business and be your own boss if that is the path you wish the follow. As a matter of fact many people that choose this as their chosen profession do so, so that they are able to pursue their dream of being a business owner.

Who doesn’t want to be their own boss, call all of the shots and most importantly have complete creative control over their passion in life? Sounds about as good as a freshly baked goods smell, right? There are a few things that you will really want to keep in mind when being a pastry chef at home to save yourself time, money and many headaches, so grab another pen for some more notes.

If you choose to grab the egg by the proverbial yoke and venture into your own bakery business do keep in mind that the location you are in will have a significant bearing on your success as will the surrounding competition, so be sure to check that out before making any concrete decisions. So what we are saying is don’t open a bakery shop next to a Dunkin Donuts, capiche?

You will also want to keep your overhead as low as possible until you are really up and running. This will give you a break from the Tylenol bottle as well as really give your business roots to grow and wings to expand once the time is right. Once you have a solid foundation for your business, a good reputation for your product and the greenbacks in the bank – you will be ready to expand and show everyone what you are made of.

What’s the Job Outlook?

The bakery profession is a really slow moving industry and there really isn’t a lot of growth to be had, so be prepared to fill out a lot more applications for a job than you did 5 or 10 years ago. If you are a baker at heart and don’t mind a bit of a cramp in your hand, then by all means get your pen out with some ink refills. In fact it is actually much slower moving on average than nearly all other occupations. The employment of bakers and pastry chef’s is only projected to grow 6% from 2012 to 2022 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What we are ultimately saying here is that it is really important for you to find your niche and stay put as long as you can or try to expand your skill set as much as possible. This is an industry that values experience and skill above all else, so get those things under your belt and you’ll have a job even in an industry that isn’t exactly booming. The growth or lack thereof of the bakery industry is something that you will want to keep in consideration when you are considering becoming a pastry chef at home as well.

Final Grade

Alright boys and girls we’ve pretty well covered the scope of how to become a bakery chef, what schooling is required and how much you can expect to make. We think this is an awesome career choice for those that are truly passionate about baking and that have a strong desire to pursue opportunities beyond just cracking eggs, sifting flour and kneading dough, especially since the yearly salary isn’t super stellar on its own and you will likely find yourself needing to supplement it in some way. Now we are ready to give it our final grade after much careful consideration. So here is the report card for a career as a pastry chef:

  • Degree vs debt: B-

    We give it a B- since the earnings are low as is the debt here, especially if you intend to obtain an associate’s degree or certificate from a career college. Another way to keep your earnings vs debt ratio decreased is to apply for any and all grants that may be available to you rather than applying for student loans or using credit cards. The student debt rate is crazy high as it is, so try to spare yourself that frustration if at all possible. There are plenty of tools available on the internet to guide you through it as well.

  • Difficulty of Degree: A+

    We are pretty impressed with this area and give it a solid A+. It is an easy and fun degree to obtain without a doubt. There isn’t much that is more fun and enjoyable that tossing on a chef’s hat and jacket while getting to play Chef Boyardee, ok well maybe not quite to that skill level, but the mental imagery was just too great to pass up.

  • Happiness quotient: A-

    You can’t really be unhappy when you are surrounded by sweets and delicious pastries all day, so we give this area an A-. We decided on this grade because it is super hard to get flour out of your hair and there is still a lot of hard work that goes into each task you will perform. You can totally be a glass half full kind of pastry chef and view each batch of eggs whisked or each pound of flower sifted as a way to bulk up those biceps as well.

  • Job outlook: C-

    This is really the only area that we have less than stellar feelings about, but only because we see how difficult it can be to grow and expand your business. We are going to give it a C- because unfortunately this is a career that has slower than average growth therefore there isn’t a ton of room for advancement or salary increase. Since you know that from the get go, however, it gives you time to plan and prepare for your growth when the time is right.

 

Sources and Recommended Reading628x471

Now you know the who, what, where, when, why and how to become a pastry chef and are ready to get the process started! Here are some super helpful resources that will lead you to your dreams of becoming a flour covered, cream horn making and rocking bakery chef. Don’t be afraid to go to any of the schools that are locally available to you as well to speak to an advisor about how to get the process started or to get any of your questions answered. Good luck and most importantly – save a donut for us!

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