Pros and Cons of a Career as a Baker
Bakers produce breads and pastries for consumer retail establishments, institutions or personal sales. Consider the following pros and cons if you're thinking about a career as a baker.
|Pros of Being a Baker|
|Low level of training required*|
|Opportunity to advance to management positions or pursue ownership opportunities*|
|Ability to utilize your aptitude for design and creativity*|
|Needed in multiple industries*|
|Cons of Being a Baker|
|Early morning, weekend and holiday work*|
|Modest income for entry-level work (average of about $26,000 per year)*|
|Little job growth expected from 2012-2022*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Bakers often work under the stress of meeting strict deadlines. Your work will consist of combining ingredients; operating ovens, mixers and other equipment; maintaining health and safety standards; and in some cases, completing administrative or supervisory duties.
Career Outlook and Salary Information
Bakers are employed by manufacturers, bakeries, restaurants, grocery stores and other institutions. Based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), bakers earned a mean salary of around $26,000 as of 2014. Little change was expected in employment of bakers from 2012-2022, with only six percent growth estimated, according to the BLS. As in many industries, advances in production technology could slow growth; retail stores and restaurants might choose to purchase bakery goods from large manufacturers to reduce labor costs.
Career Skills and Education Requirements
The BLS reports that a high school diploma is often sufficient to begin training as a baker. However, a growing number of postsecondary institutions offer culinary arts and baking certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree programs. These programs explore several areas, including cake decoration, international pastries, dessert production, breads, cookies and tarts. As job opportunities become more competitive, you might want to gain vocational training through a college program that can substitute for on-the-job training.
As a baker, you'll weigh and measure items and convert recipes, so math skills are essential. A great deal of stamina is also needed because bakers spend a lot of time standing, walking, carrying and lifting. Bakers are often exposed to different temperatures and need to have the ability to taste and smell. Attention to detail is an important skill when dealing with bakery items that are prone to overbaking or burning. Additionally, although some baking tasks are completed in solitude, strong interpersonal communications and customer service skills are often necessary.
Job Listings from Real Employers
Many job opportunities for bakers require a minimal amount of baking experience and a high school diploma. Other related skills, such as mathematics, general food preparation and customer service experience, are often highly valued. Here are some examples of job openings for bakers from March 2012:
- A large bread company in Memphis was looking for a baker with baking or food preparation experience but was willing to train interested individuals. This third-shift worker needed to be professional and able to work with limited supervision and lift up to 40 lbs.
- In North Carolina, a retail grocer sought a baker with a high school diploma plus 1-3 months of experience. Successful candidates needed strong interpersonal and customer service skills as well as mathematics and reasoning ability. They needed to be able to read and understand English and to lift at least 30 lbs. Candidates needed to be at least 18 years of age.
- A California-based casino resort had an opening for a full-time baker with a 1-year certificate or 3-6 months of experience. Tasks would include baking dessert items, setting up desserts for banquets and complying with portion sizes when plating items.
How to Get an Edge in the Field
Although not required, professional certification can demonstrate that you have the skills and expertise to work as a baker, perhaps over those who don't have experience. There are four levels of certification available through the Retail Bakers of America, including Certified Journey Baker, Certified Baker, Certified Decorator and Certified Master Baker. Each has its own set of education and experience requirements.
Complete an Apprenticeship
The BLS states that many bakers enter the field as apprentices. You might find an apprenticeship program that allows you to work under the supervision of an experienced baking mentor. These programs combine classroom and practical training, are usually full-time and vary in length. Apprenticeship experience can provide you with the training and experience necessary to advance quickly in your career.
Certain college programs and professional organizations offer training in specialized baking skills. Among these, specialized cake decorating for events such as weddings, birthdays and anniversaries could prove to be a skill that isn't affected by mass production and outsourcing. Other specializations that you might utilize in a restaurant or bakery include producing ethnic pastries, custards, crèmes or frozen desserts.
Alternative Career Paths
If you like the idea of baking, but are seeking additional cooking tasks, a career as a chef or head cook is another option. These workers experience the same physical demands as bakers, but have more responsibilities, such as hiring staff, planning menus, ordering inventory and preparing a variety of foods. As in the baking industry, little to no change was expected from 2010-2020, according to the BLS. Chefs have traditionally received some postsecondary training, sometimes followed by a lengthy apprenticeship program, before they're deemed qualified for demanding restaurant positions. Some have started as dishwashers or line cooks. Based on 2011 BLS data, chefs and head cooks earned a mean salary of about $47,000, which was significantly more than bakers.
Food Service Manager
If management is a path that you'd like to explore while staying in the food industry, you might be interested in a career as a food service manager. In this role, you would oversee service and/or production within a restaurant. According to the BLS, food service managers could see a five percent increase in employment from 2010-2020. While BLS 2011 data shows a mean salary of about $53,000 for food service managers, income can vary greatly based on geographic location and establishment type. The 90th percentile of workers made more than $81,000.