How to Become a Baker: School, Training & Salary


Our inner fat kid is geeking out over this topic. Who doesn’t love a good cupcake or warm cookie, right?! It’s probably pretty awesome to be able to make your own insanely delicious baked goods as well, so we are going to tell you all about how to become a baker today. Just do us a favor and be sure to overnight some brownies to us when you get the chance…we think that’s a sufficient enough thank you for giving you the information you need to get started. We like ours without nuts by the way.

How to Become a Baker

You should definitely make sure that you want to be a baker before heading down this incredibly flour covered path. As a baker you may have to work in factories, restaurants, retail stores or bakeries. There will be lots of mixing, kneading, sifting, cutting and rolling going on. You will possibly work some wonky hours and a lot of those hours will be in the early morning to ensure that the baked goods you are cranking out will be nice and fresh for your customers. If this sounds good so far, keep on reading because we’re going to get into the real details of how to become a baker.

Step 1: Work as an Apprentice

Before you become a professional baker, it’s a really good idea to get some experience under your apron. A great way to get this experience is to sign onto an apprenticeship program to work under an experienced pro baker. During your apprenticeship you will learn lots of the skills that are needed to work as a baker on your own. It’s a great way to gain some on the job training before you enter into a training program through a college or technical school. It would be a pretty big bummer to put all of your eggs in one bread basket if you really aren’t too keen being covered in flour, egg and icing on the daily.

Step 2: Learn to Operate a Business

Many bakers decide that owning their own business is the way to go, so naturally it is a good idea to gain some experience operating a bakery if that’s the way you’d like to do it as well. Colleges often offer programs in business to aid future business owners and you would benefit from taking one. You can also work in a bakery and try to learn all of the ropes to get a real feel for how a bakery is run. You’ll want to learn how to manage the employees, keep track of finances, payroll, marketing and keeping supply costs down.

Step 3: Earn a Certification

A certification is not required to become a baker, but it does have its benefits. It will help you to learn extra culinary skills that you may not already have and it will ultimately look better on your resume or job application when it comes time to finding a job. There are a quite a few different certifications that are available for want-to-be bakers. The Retail Bakers of America (RBA) offers students certification options including: Certified Journey Baker (CJB), Certified Baker (CB) and Certified Master Baker (CMB).

The CJB certification is for those bakers that are just starting out and are a little green. The CB’s have some work experience already and are ready to gain some more. A CB willing also need to get a sanitation course completed before completing certification. The CMB’s are the big guns of the bakery world. CMB’s are highly experienced and are likely ready to run a bakery or have one of their own.

There are also Certified Decorator (CD) certifications available to bakers as well. This is a great extra tool to you have in your arsenal. You will be an expert cake and cupcake decorator in no time with the CD certification.

There are schools that offer associate’s and bachelor’s degrees as well, so be sure to check those out if you are willing to put in the additional 2 to 4 years of schooling.

Step 4: Gain Additional Experience

Once you have completed the steps we have already listed it’s important to get right into the industry and get some more experience. Get into a bakery for the snacks…we mean to get some experience and to help you decide where you will eventually want to work and use your new certification or degree for.

Step 5: Consider Schools (like these)

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Success Tips

Here are some success tips that will help you to become successful during your journey to become a baker as well as while you are actually working. Take a look and some notes while you’re at it:

  • Become familiar with the equipment in the bakery
  • Become educated in ways to handle food as safely and in as sanitary a way as possible
  • Keep up with the many different certifications that are available
  • Try not to eat everything you bake. We know this is going to be hard but don’t do it unless you want to get diabetes or have to buy bigger pants.

How to Become a Baker at Home

You can totally become a baker at home without going to school or earning a certification. You can do a lot of self-study to learn lots of mad baking skills. YouTube is also a pretty great source to help you learn how to bake some of those more complicated treats. Feel free to hit us up if you need a taste tester!

We’d also like to say that many successful bakers start their businesses from home too. It’s a perfect training ground to play around and make mistakes. You can start small and eventually work your way to a bigger and better setting this way.

How Much Does a Baker Make?

Let’s talk about the dough, yo! That’s right we want to talk about money now! The Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting that as of May 2013, bakers are expected to earn a median yearly salary of $23,160. That’s $11.13 an hour for those of you that would prefer to break it down that way.

For those bakers that are a bit less experienced a yearly salary of $17,300 is expected depending on where you are employed. For those bakers that have been around the baker’s rack a few times, the yearly salary expectation is around $37,110 a year. Bakers with more schooling, experience and those that own their bakery – there will be a bit of a salary variation that will likely be an increase rather than a decrease. Keep that in mind when it comes time to find a job as a baker.

women-baker

Baker Schools

There are a few different schooling options for all of you future bakers out there. You can go a more traditional route of an associate’s degree, go to culinary school or receive a certification as a baker. No matter which way you decide to go about it, you’re sure to learn oodles of cool stuff and it will totally be worth the time and money spent. Let’s take a quick look at some ways to get some education under your hat.

Monroe College

Monroe College in New York, offers an Associate’s degree in Baking and Pastry to students that would like to specialize in this culinary area. The program is intended to help students manage all of the challenges that are presented on the job as bakers.

This associate’s degree program is intended to take about 2 years to complete. It will cover general education as well as some of the important business components that bakers will need to become successful business owners. There are many great classes offered at Monroe College. Some of your course options are: Culinary Arts I, Bake and Pastry Arts I & II, Contemporary Cakes and Desserts.

Institute of Culinary Education

The Institute of Culinary Education has a School of Pastry and Baking Arts program that arms students with every tool they will need to become a cake boss. This school is known for turning out well know bakers that have won awards, written bestselling cookbooks, appeared on TV and been featured in some leading foodie magazines. Sounds to us like the road to success is through this program.

There are a few different program options for students to choose from depending on what their schedules will accommodate. The program will last anywhere from 6 months to a year with classes offered on various days of the week or solely on weekends. The curriculum for the Pastry and Baking Arts program is constantly evolving, but one thing is for certain – students can expect hands on learning from the start and to become an accomplished professional in no time.

Le Cordon Bleu

Le Cordon Bleu is one of the most well-known culinary schools in the world and for good reason too. This school has over 100 years of culinary excellence behind it and it shows itself clearly with the Baking and Pastry Arts Certificate Program as well as the Associate’s in  Baking and Pastry Arts degree programs that are offered. Each of these programs will allow students to work with some of the most caring and experienced bakery chefs in the industry. Students will walk away ready and able to pursue a career as a professional baker.

Those that choose to enroll in the Le Cordon Bleu Professional Baking and Pastry Arts certificate program can expect to learn things like how to elaborate things like marzipan, how to prepare artisan breads and how to handle food properly. The Associate’s degree in Baking and Pastry Arts program offers many of the same things that the certificate program offers, but students are able to walk away with a college degree on top of all of the great experience that comes from attending this school.

Different Types of Bakers

The term baker is a broad description that encompasses all aspects of the profession. We thought you might want to take a peek at some of the different types of bakers are out there. If that sounds good, grab a cupcake and have a read.

Pastry Chef:

A pastry chef is a trained chef that specializes in making pastries, cakes and desserts. Pastry chefs are also very skilled at assembling and decorating different types of pastries and filling them. Cake baking falls under the pastry chef category and it has seen a new popularity as of late. There is a lot of room for creativity with pastry baking too. You can have a decent amount of natural talent here, but there will be some skills that you will be better suited to learn in culinary school with a  solid base in baking and pastries.

Bread Baker:

Bread bakers create baked goods unlike any other. Some breads are simple and made with simple ingredients like flour, water, salt and yeast. There are even more difficult types of bread that take complicated ingredients and complicated recipes. Bread making is an art that requires patience and finesse. Bread baking is covered at culinary arts schools or vocational schools, but will be tied in with other baking skills.

Bakery Chef:

A bakery chef is your go to guy or gal for any type of baked goods. They can make cakes, bread, cookie, pastries and pies just to name a few things. The training to become a bakery chef will also come from culinary arts schools with a focus on baking or from a vocational school.

Freeze! Watch this video or we’ll take your cookies away! 

We found this cool video from the self-appointed Recruitment Guy, Graham Martin. In this video he interviews experienced baker and bakery own Richard Copsey. Richard has been a baker for a long time, so he has some cool and helpful information about how to become a baker. Definitely give it a quick watch because it’s helpful and their accents are pretty cool. Click here to go straight to the old YouTube or watch it below.

Meet Lorelei – Super Baking Mom

We recently needed a cake baked for a very special occasion when we came across a super cool lady named Lorelei. She just so happens to be new to the professional baking world as a solo business owner, but boy is she ever a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen. After seeing a few samples of her cakes and other various treats, we were sold on having her whip something up. Before she got down to business we asked her to tell us a little about herself since we knew that we’d soon be writing about being a baker. Here is Lorelei’s cute journey to becoming a baker.

Lorelei became a mom at a pretty young age and had to postpone her intent to go to culinary school to become a baker. About the time that her first little one turned 1, she found out that another little cupcake was in the oven. This naturally left her with the tough decision to put off her dreams of becoming a baker for a bit longer.

Time passed and Lorelei found herself working a job that she didn’t really like while raising her cute kiddos. One day she realized that she had more to offer than waiting tables and she decided she take a leap of faith. She enrolled in culinary school and gave her notice at work. While she was very nervous and a bit scared of what her future would be like, she was also excited and eager to start on a path towards her passion.

After two hard years of culinary school, Lorelei finally became a certified baker and cake decorator. She wanted to hit the ground running, so she applied to everywhere under the sun in hopes of scoring a job. It didn’t take her long and she had a job in a small bakery right by her house within days of her culinary school graduation. She started out at the bottom, but that was just fine with her because she was actually able to do something that she loved to do.

Not much time passed before Lorelei’s talent was noticed and she was soon promoted. After about a year of baking at the crack of dawn and on nearly every weekend and holiday, she decided that it was time to take another risk. She had a bit more faith in herself than she did when she left her old waitressing job to become a baker, so she made the bold move of quitting her job again…Only this time she had bigger plans in mind.

Lorelei decided that it was time for her to start her own bakery of her own because she felt that she had gained enough experience from her time at her old job. She opened Sweet Treats from her home a little over a year ago. She has already experienced an amazing amount of success even though she is just starting out really. Lorelei has a steady flow of clients and specializes in amazing cakes and cupcakes.

She is a perfect example of what can come from lots of hard work, determination and dedication. She went from thinking that she would never fulfill her dreams to making them a reality all on her own. We also have to add that her creations are not only super cute, but they are also so tasty. Congrats to Lorelei on all of her success! We hope that she proves to be an inspiration for our readers and that you push yourself a little further after reading her story.

Final Grade

Rolling pins down, kids! That’s right, it’s time to settle the score and give you the final grades for the career as a baker.

  • Degree vs. Debt: B –

For the most part the schooling isn’t absurdly expensive, but it’s not free which means that you may have to pay out of pocket or take out a loan. The salary expectations of bakers is not really high, so it may be a little tight financially for a while if you have to squeeze out some extra dough to pay off loans.

  • Difficulty of Degree: A

If you’re happy and you know it eat a brownie! This is a super fun job that lets you show off your creativity skills, make awesome sweet or savory treats and put your culinary love out into the world. You will spend most of your time in a kitchen, slaving away over one type of baked good or another. It’s not too hard in the sense that it doesn’t require endless hours of calculations or constant spelling and grammar checks. It’s still a lot of work and you’ll have to apply yourself, but at least you will be able to have fun while you’re getting your learn on.

  • Happiness Quotient: B

Sure you may gain a few pounds during the early days of this job, but despite that, it’s a pretty cool and fun job. The only reason we didn’t drop a big fat A on this category is because you will have to work wonky hours at times like wicked early mornings or super late nights. You may also have to work holidays, which is a big bummer for those that would like to celebrate and enjoy the day rather than work. It’s part of the job though because those pies certainly aren’t going to bake themselves.

  • Job Outlook: C

The job outlook for bakers is kind of like burned chocolate chip cookies…not very good at all. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the job growth for bakers is only going to be about 6% from 2012 to 2022. This means that there won’t be a ton of job openings, which is a real bummer for some of the newb bakers out there. There will be quite a bit of competition for the job openings that do pop up, so make sure that you have all of your cookie pans in a row to ensure that you stand out among a sea of otherwise boring or underqualified people.

Sources and Recommended Reading

Excuse our excessive amount of sources for this piece, but we got a little carried away thinking about all the cupcakes and icing that you will get to eat…oops we mean make. Put down the whisk and take a look at these links for some extra information.

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