Who doesn’t love the smell of freshly baked bread, right? Becoming a baker is one of those fantastic career paths where you can take your passion and turn it into your profession. Many people love baking at home because it can be a cheap way to provide very tasty bread, pastries, and cakes, but also because it’s therapeutic and creative.
Professional bakers can be found in many walks of life, from standalone bakeries to supermarkets, factories, and even hotels. It goes without saying that becoming a professional baker takes a little more work and effort than baking for fun. The role is known for unsociable hours, but also for a rewarding career creating some very tasty products. Read on if you want to know more about becoming a baker!
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A baker not only creates and bakes products, but they are also responsible for selling them too. Most bakers will either work in or own a bakery, where they can bake bread, pies, cakes or pastries, selling them on-site or taking them to other places (such as markets or grocery stores) where they can be sold instead. There are generally three types of bakers: those who work in a factory, making bread on an industrial scale, those who work in a store bakery, and those who work in a specialty shop or smaller independent “craft” bakeries.
Although many bakers are focused on baking bread or other savory baked goods, some bakers have a wider remit, creating desserts and other baked produce not typically associated with the role. This said, the role of baker shouldn’t be confused with pastry chef, the latter being in charge of the section of a kitchen that makes bread, but also creates desserts.
Here are the main responsibilities a baker will cover:
- Creating recipes for baked goods, including breads, cakes, pastries, and pies.
- Operating bakeries, such as opening and closing them, and managing staff as needed, as well as sourcing ingredients and managing suppliers and deliveries.
- Measuring out ingredients and following recipes to bake products, organizing the workload of the bakery, allowing times for the mixing of ingredients, the baking of them, as well as the resting or “proving” times of dough (which can be many hours).
- Displaying and marketing baked goods in the bakery.
- Delivering baked goods to shops or other customers, as well as arranging payments from customers and clients and creating budgets and/or profit-and-loss statements.
- Maintaining bakery equipment such as ovens and mixers.
Being a baker is a creative and responsible job which can be very enjoyable, as long as you understand and appreciate what the working day looks like. This section covers what to expect if you work as a baker, in terms of the work environment, the work hours, and the job satisfaction.
Bakers work in industrial kitchens or commercial bakeries, and these can be noisy and dangerous places. Baking ovens are a lot more powerful than regular ones and can operate at higher temperatures. Mixing equipment in a manufacturing facility can be so large it presents various hazards, and the weight of raw ingredients, such as flour or mixed dough, can be very heavy.
Aside from kitchen work, bakers often work in a shop, dealing with customers and employees. They might also spend plenty of time on the road, delivering bread to customers or other clients. The working hours (discussed below) are very different from regular jobs or even many other roles in the food and beverage industry, so might take some getting used to.
In general, there are two main shifts a baker might work: early or late. The early shift can be very early indeed, starting at around two or three o’clock in the morning and finishing around lunchtime. The reason for this is the time bread takes to prepare. Factoring in the preparation time and then multiple hours for proving (sourdough can sometimes take almost a day to prove), and then the actual baking, there is plenty to be done before customers even wake up.
The night shift aims to alleviate some of this prep time. Some bakers might come in in the evening and work until the morning, preparing, proving, and baking, before handing over to a day team who serve customers. Whichever way you look at it, these working patterns will not be for everyone.
Being a baker is generally regarded as a fun and enjoyable job that allows people plenty of free time (thanks to the atypical working pattern) and creative space. Many job adverts, when talking about the role, describe it as being a job where “you can eat your work”!
This said, the role is very challenging. The hours are tough, and the pay is below average. In addition to this, the role of baker is physically demanding and can therefore cause plenty of stress. Those who enjoy it the most are people that are truly passionate about the baking profession.
With population increases and a demand for fresh baked goods increasing every year, being a baker is a very secure job with long-term prospects. Furthermore, baking has become a very trendy topic, increasing people’s awareness of the profession, as well as the sheer variety of baked produce on offer. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that there will be around 31,000 baker roles opening every year in the US between now and 2030. This equates to the profession growing by 8% every year, far higher than national average occupational growth of 5%.
The average wages for a baker start at $32,300 per year ($15.53 per hour) compared to the US’ national average salary of $58,260 ($28.01) per hour. Although most bakers work full time, part-time shifts are common, especially amongst students, and this will impact take-home wages. Annual wages for bakers at the 10th percentile sit at $22,820, $27,660 at the 25th percentile, $29,750 at the 50th percentile, $36,930 at the 75th percentile, and $45,450 at the 90th percentile.
The best paying state for bakers is the District of Columbia, paying an average annual salary of $45,160, followed by New Jersey ($37,950), Washington ($36,930), California ($36,910), and Massachusetts ($36,600).
Being a baker requires using a variety of different skills, some of which might be quite surprising at first glance. The reality is that becoming a baker is a result of combining technical proficiency, creative prowess, relationship management and communication, and even a little bit of mathematics! Here are the top ten professional skills and qualities you will need to become a baker:
- Knowledge of bulk baking and food production methods
- Attention to detail and time management
- Mathematical skills (for both measuring out ingredients as well as the budgeting side of the job)
- Customer service skills, including verbal communication and negotiation skills
- Health and safety awareness
- Dexterity and the ability to work well with your hands
- Creativity and innovation
If you have gotten this far and still feel that becoming a baker is the dream job for you, then it’s time to think about the way into this role. This section takes you over how to prepare for a career as a baker, as well as the step-by-step process you might need to follow to “bake” it big in this industry.
Step 1: Determine if it’s the right job for you
As with any job, you will be happiest as a baker if you are naturally interested in baking. Maybe you are an experienced baker at home, simply have a knack for making tasty bread, or like the idea of bringing smiles to the faces of your customers with captivating cakes, lovely loaves and piquant pies.
If you have the interest and the passion for baking, the next step is to think about if your skills match up with what is needed to become a baker. If you have roughly the same skillset as what is laid out above, and these are skills that you enjoy using, then this could be another sign that becoming a baker could be a brilliant career step for you.
If you are really not too sure about your career plan, then don’t worry, as you are not the only one feeling this way. It might be a good idea to take a career test, such as CareerHunter’s six-stage assessment. This maps out your interests and skills to different types of career paths that are a good choice for you.
Step 2: Complete your high school education
Although becoming a baker doesn’t necessarily require higher education, such as a bachelor’s degree, focusing on the right subjects at school will be useful in giving you a head start into the career. The best subjects to focus on in order to become a baker would be STEM subjects, as well as home economics or culinary classes.
It is worth a thought to consider post-high-school education to prepare yourself to become a baker. This could be achieved through diplomas in the culinary arts, or baking programs that will give you a useful introduction into the profession, as well as hands-on experience.
Step 3: Complete an apprenticeship or internship
Technical training colleges offering baking courses will usually also offer some form of apprenticeship, where you spend a part of the course learning baking theory, and a part of the course working in bakeries, learning from professional bakers. Most apprenticeships last around one year, but some take a lot longer. Becoming an expert baker takes many years of practice and skill, so an apprenticeship is usually seen as the first recognized step to become one.
Step 4: Complete on-the-job training
Whether or not you go down the route of taking an apprenticeship in order to become a professional baker, the best way to learn about this job is by rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck in. On-the-job training is essential to your success as a baker. By working in a bakery, alongside more experienced bakers, you will pick up the skills, techniques and tricks needed to succeed in this role.
You will also learn all the basic recipes for making bread and other baked goods, and this will provide you with the foundations for making your own personal mark on the industry, including coming up with your creations and signature style.
Step 5: Complete your accreditation as a baker
Regardless of which path in the industry they might wish to take, all prospective bakers will need to complete health and safety accreditation as standard. Aside from this, there are other accreditations that might be useful.
The Retail Bakers of America association offers varying levels of certification in various areas and specialisms, ranging from technical skills, budgeting, management and leadership, and staff training. The American Society of Baking offers many different levels of certification, too, including the Certified Journey Baker and Certified Master Baker certifications.
These courses are all exam certified and nationally recognized. If you are interested in taking a more chef-led approach to baking, then the American Culinary Federation offers pastry chef courses that combine baking theory with technical knowledge. If you complete any of these certifications, ensure you shout about it when writing your résumé in order to get noticed by employers.
Becoming a baker is not only a tasty career goal, but a job that combines creative flair with the precision and skill needed to create truly tasty baked produce. The working hours and salary might not be to everyone’s taste, but if you love cooking and baking and have a natural talent for doing so, and want to run your own bakery, then this job could be the one for you.
Becoming a baker does not need professional qualifications or even higher education, but there is plenty of recognized training and accreditation that will complement on-the-job training, to ensure you have all the support you need to become a certified master baker, and someone known nationwide for tasty creations.
Are you interested in becoming a baker? What is it about the role that attracts you? Let us know in the comments below!