How to Become a Baker

If you've decided you want to become a baker, you've picked one of the thriving commercial trades. Bakeries are both major industries and highly successful retail ventures. Some franchise bakeries are very valuable commercial properties. Consumer demand is high and constant, and even small retail outlets can achieve excellent turnovers. 

Education and training

Bakery is a trade. You need to do a two year training course or in some cases an apprenticeship, to qualify. A High School Diploma is required as an entry qualification. The US has a lot of baking colleges in every state, usually in major cities, and it's worth checking locally for training facilities.

Bakery training is based on industrial methods, using state of the art equipment. This training includes:

Bakery production methods: The baker's oven training is particularly important in commercial bakery. Many bakery products require almost totally different processes of production, and are very temperature sensitive. This training includes learning baking scheduling, use of baking equipment and pans, and working with large batches of products. 

The complete process of mixing ingredients: This includes selection of ingredients, nutrition, and basic food chemistry. Mixing on a production level is different from home cookery, and there are logistics, weights, and measures to learn as part of the fundamental skill set of bakery.

Operation of industrial ovens: Critically important training, covering all aspects of the baking process handling temperature requirements, and safety procedures.

Bakery techniques: This training includes working with fancy pastries, styling of products, icing, glazing, decoration, toppings, and other skills in advanced bakery.

Food safety: Essential as part of commercial operations, food safety is a mandatory study. You learn hygienic cookery practices, and the laws which apply to your new career.

Business concepts and training: Extremely important training, providing a good understanding and background knowledge to bakery operations.  

Skills requirements

Bakery is a very busy trade, all the time. Production is constant, and fresh baked products are always in demand from the sales areas in retail outlets. Bakers need particular skills:

Communications skills: A baker must have good written and oral communications skills, and be able to follow instructions in these forms. 

Attention to detail: Every aspect of bakery includes measurements and sometimes complex recipes.

Good senses of taste and smell: Food preparation requires good perception of quality of products and ingredients.

Maths skills: Calculation of materials, ingredients, batch volumes and baking times is a natural part of the work.

Good manual skills: Bakery often requires manual dexterity, and fine movements.

Team and interpersonal skills: All bakeries are coordinated team-based operations.

Ability to work independently: May be required in retail outlets or when allocation of resources requires. 

Licensing and certifications

In the US formal certification isn't legally required, but may be obtained from The Retail Bakers of America. These certifications are awarded upon passing examinations. They operate as industry standard certifications, useful for employment purposes to prove skill levels. There are four levels of certification: Management, staff training, baking sanitation and retail sales. 

  • Certification for a Master Baker requires:
  • 30 hours accredited food sanitation training
  • 30 hours workshop or accredited professional development courses
  • Minimum 8 years experience in retail or commercial baking

Note: In the US state licensing requirements for bakers include commercial licenses for businesses and in some cases additional licenses.