Although long-term on-the-job training is the most common path, some bakers start their careers through an apprenticeship program or by attending a technical or culinary school. No formal education is required.
Bakers in specialty bakery shops and grocery stores often start as apprentices and learn the basics of baking, icing, and decorating. Most apprentices and trainees study topics such as nutrition, safe food handling, and basic baking. Many apprentice bakers participate in correspondence study and may work toward a certificate in baking.
In manufacturing facilities, commercial bakers must learn how to operate and maintain the industrial mixing and blending machines used to produce baked goods.
Bakers need to learn how to combine ingredients and how ingredients are affected by heat. They also need to learn how to operate various types of equipment used in the production process.
If running a small business, bakers need to know how to operate a business.
All bakers must follow government sanitation and health regulations.
Some bakers learn their skills through work experience related to baking. For example, they may start as a baker’s assistant and progress into a full-fledged baker as they learn baking techniques.
Bakers have the option of getting certification through the Retail Bakers of America. Although not required, certification can show that a baker has the skills and knowledge to work at a retail baking establishment.
The Retail Bakers of America offers certification in four levels of competence, with a focus on several specialties, including baking sanitation, management, retail sales, and staff training. Those who wish to become certified must satisfy a combination of education and experience requirements before taking an exam.
The education and experience requirements vary by the level of certification desired. For example, a certified journey baker requires no formal education but must have at least 1 year of work experience. A certified baker must have 4 years of work experience, and a certified master baker must have 8 years of work experience, 30 hours of sanitation course work, and 30 hours of professional development training.
Arithmetic skills. All bakers should have basic knowledge of arithmetic, especially fractions, to precisely mix formulas, weigh ingredients, or make adjustments to the mixes.
Communication skills. Bakers must often consult with other workers involved in the baking process, such as dough mixers, so they can adjust baking temperatures accordingly.
Detail oriented. Bakers must closely watch their products in the oven to keep from burning or overbaking the goods. They also should have an eye for detail because many pastries and cakes require intricate decorations.
Stamina. Most bakers must be able to work on their feet for long periods while kneading dough and lifting heavy items.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition