A baker bakes breads, pastries, pies, cakes, cookies, tarts, and other baked goods by combining raw ingredients according to recipes. Though the traditional idea of a baker is somebody who works in his own bakery and caters to a local market, nowadays, bakers may also work in specialty shops or restaurants where they produce smaller quantities for consumption at the location itself, or in manufacturing positions where they oversee the production of large quantities of goods for distribution. Becoming a baker involves enrolling in a training program at a supermarket, or apprenticing with a craft baker to gain practical experience. If you want to know how to become a baker, see Step 1 to get started.
Getting the Training
Have a high school diploma. Though it’s not mandatory for you to get a high school diploma to become a baker, having one can help you become a more desirable candidate. For one thing, high school will help you learn basic math, as well as other concepts that can help you in your profession. Additionally, you may choose to go to culinary school to get a leg up in your field, and you’ll need a high school diploma to do that. Though it may not be worth it for you to go back to high school to become a baker, if you’re still in high school, you should finish the course.
While you’re in high school, you should take home economics, cooking, or other baking-related elective courses to help you get a head start on your passion and career.
Attend a technical or culinary school. A technical or culinary school can help you improve your craft, learn more techniques, and to find your niche as a baker. These programs typically last from 1 to 2 years and they will give you an education in nutrition, health, and mathematics, among other relevant subjects. If this sounds like the best path for you, look into programs in your area that offer a reasonable financial package and take your studies seriously.
You shouldn’t look at this experience as slowing you down from being a real baker. You can even begin working as an apprentice or trainee in your area while being in school, if you can make the time commitment for both.
If you want to be a high end pastry chef, for example, then you should get trained at the best program you can afford. This kind of work is highly specialized and extra training will give you the edge you need to get noticed and hired.
Apply to be an apprentice or trainee in your area. You can be a trainee at a local store or supermarket, where you’ll learn more basic cooking skills, like how to bake a variety of cookies, or you can become an apprentice at an artisan bakery, where you’ll learn more complicated skills, like how to bake cakes. This training typically takes 1-3 years, and you may be able to find an apprenticeship for aspiring bakers at a bakery in your area. Of course, it always helps to have some connections, or to have worked at a bakery or local store in some capacity so you have a leg up when looking for work as a baker.
It’s common for bakers to start out as an apprentice or a trainee in a bakery or grocery store, working on learning the basics of baking, icing, and decorating.
As you work as an apprentice or trainee, you’ll also learn topics such as basic sanitation procedures and nutrition.
If you begin your training or apprenticeship in a manufacturing facility, then you will also learn how to operate industrial-sized blending and mixing machines for producing baked goods.
You can also look into becoming a baker’s assistant if you have the experience and determination to do so.
Choose a specialty. Though you don’t need to make this decision as soon as you begin your training or apprenticeship, it helps to have an idea of the type of baking you’re most interested in. You can be an in-store, plant, or craft baker. Being a craft baker requires the most skill, and you can also work your way up to becoming successful in this field by starting off at a store or a plant. Here’s what else you should know about choosing what type of baker you want to be:
Plant or commercial bakers most often work in manufacturing facilities that make baked goods at high speeds. If you choose this route, you’ll need to learn to use high-volume industrial machines, ovens, and conveyors, and you must carefully follow instructions and schedules. There’s definitely less room for creativity in commercial baking than in craft baking.
In store or retail bakers most commonly work in specialty shops, bakeries, or grocery stores. They produce a smaller volume of baked goods for people to buy or to eat directly in the store. They may even take orders from customer, prepare special-order goods, and, depending on where they work, they may even serve the customers themselves.
Some retail bakers even own their own shops. In this case, they’ll need to not only make a variety of breads, pastries, pies, and cupcakes, but they’ll also have to hire, train, and supervise staff, as well as budget their supplies, set their prices, and manage daily production.
Consider getting certified. Though you don’t have to get certified to become a true baker, certification can help show that you have the knowledge and skills to work at a retail baking establishment. It can help you catch the attention of bakeries where you want to work, and it can help you stand out from the rest of the candidates. There are different areas of specialization that you can get certified in, which include management, retail sales, baking sanitation, and staff training. To become certified, you must meet a series of requirements, which are based on both your experience and your education, before taking an exam to prove your competence. There are different levels of certification based on your level of experience. For example, to be a certified journey baker, you don’t need any formal education, but you do need 1 year of work experience. To be a certified baker, you need to have 4 years of work experience, and to call yourself a certified master baker, you’ll need 8 years of work experience, along with 30 hours of professional development training and 30 hours of sanitation coursework.
Possessing the Qualities
Be detail-oriented. Being detail-oriented is an incredibly important part of the job, even if you’re working as a commercial baker. You’ll need to closely monitor your baked goods to make sure that they don’t burn while being cooked to perfection. If you bake cupcakes or cakes, then you’ll need to have an eye for detail in order to decorate those cakes and cupcakes to perfection. You’ll also need an eye for detail in order to follow recipes and cooking instructions to perfection, or to tweak those recipes thoughtfully if you’re trying out something slightly different. You’ll also need an eye for detail if you’re taking orders from customers so you know exactly what they want.
Be creative. Though you may think that creativity may be the last skill you need when it comes to being a baker, in fact, you may need to use your creative faculties to succeed in your career. If you work as a craft baker and create your own recipes, you may need your creativity to try something different, so you can keep your customers interested in your goods. You may also need your creativity if you’re missing a certain ingredient or two while still needing to cook a certain baked good or pastry, or if you want to fix a recipe where something has already gone wrong. Sometimes, the most important part of your job will lie in improvising, and you’ll need your creativity to make things work.
Of course, if you don’t work for yourself, you shouldn’t spend all day experimenting, or you’ll have an unhappy boss and many confused customers. However, if you have the means and the green light, then being creative can lead to some of your best discoveries.
Have strong people skills. You may think that bakers work in isolation, perfecting their craft as they make delicious treats. However, people skills are actually vital for most bakers. If you work in a retail store where you have to interact with customers, then you’ll need to have people skills in order to talk to customers, take their orders, and keep them happy with your store and your products. As you move further along in your career, you may have people working under you or you may even own your own bakery. If that’s the case, then you’ll definitely need those people skills in order to train, or even to supervise or hire your employees.
Even if you don’t have anyone working under you, it’s likely that you’ll be baking along with several other bakers. Being able to get along with your coworkers will make for a more pleasant work environment, and will make your work easier and more enjoyable.
Have strong basic math skills. Having a strong grasp of basic math is essential to being a great baker because you’ll need to understand math, especially fractions, in order to mix recipes, weigh your ingredients, or adjust your recipes to fit a given quantity. If you didn’t get formal math training in a high school or certification program, then it’s important to brush up on basic math on your own. Having these skills can make or break a recipe, and you don’t want to end up ruining a batch of croissants because you didn’t know how to multiply fractions.
If you were never an ace at math, don’t worry about it. You don’t need to learn calculus or trigonometry to make delicious baked goods. You should, however, learn how to add, subtract, or multiply numbers with ease.
Going on the Job
Wake up early. Though many bakers typically work a 40-hour workweek, they don’t normally work the 9-5 shift. In fact, many of them get up as early as two o’clock in the morning in order to prepare their baked goods for the morning shift. They’ll need to be morning people in order to get the job done, and sleeping in or getting tired in the morning is not an option, because this will be the most important time of your day. If you want to be a baker, then you have to be prepared to get up early to start preparing your recipes, mixing your ingredients, and making sure that your baked goods are cooked to perfection.
The good news is, since your working day will start early, it will tend to wrap up earlier than the evening. Some bakers are done working by the early or late afternoon.
Complete your daily tasks. Being a baker is about more than just cooking. When you go on the job, you will be required to complete a number of tasks, which will vary a bit depending on the type of baker you are and your place of employment. However, many aspects of the job are true for any baker. Here are some of the things you’ll be expected to do:
Prepare your equipment for baking
Weigh and measure ingredients for cooking
Combine the ingredients in mixers or blenders
Knead, roll, cut, and shape your dough
Place the shaped dough on sheets, molds, or pans
Set the oven temperature
Place your items in grills or ovens
Observe your goods as they cook
Apply toppings, icing, or glaze when your goods have cooked
Perform well under pressure. Baking is very time-sensitive, both in managing the time it takes to make each baked good, and in delivering your products to customers in a timely manner. Many bakers are often under pressure to create delicious goods while also producing them rapidly, especially when they have a large customer base. In order to succeed as a baker, you’ll have to be able to perform well in a time crunch.
One way to make it easier for yourself to perform well in a time crunch is to make sure that your work station and recipe information are organized. That way, you won’t waste time looking for something you misplaced.
Bakers have a higher rate of injuries than people in other professions because of the heavy and often hot equipment that they work with. You’ll need to wear protective clothing and keep your cool while being on the job in order to stay safe. You can let a time crunch affect your safety.
Stay physically fit. In order to be a baker, you must have both physical strength and stamina. You’ll need strength in order to carry the ingredients and equipment you’ll be using, such as heavy bags of flour, large baking equipment, and cooked baked goods. You’ll also need to have physical stamina because most bakers rarely sit down. You’ll spend most of the day on your feet while you prepare recipes, package your goods, check on your goods while they’re baking, or when you monitor your employees or chat with customers.
Being physically fit is an important part of the job. It’s important that you get your exercise and eat well to stay prepared for the daily rigors of the job.
Be prepared for a unique schedule. In addition to waking up early, many bakers have a work schedule that is far from typical. Because baked goods are high in demand during holidays, many bakers will be expected to work on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, or other holidays when people typically order more baked goods. They may also be required to work more on weekends, since bakeries are often at their most busy during these times. If they work at a commercial bakery that bakes continuously, then they may be required to work late in the evenings and on weekends.
This doesn’t mean that bakers work more than the average employee, but it does mean that they work different hours. In fact, 1 in 3 bakers worked part-time in 2012.
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Sources and Citations
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