The profession of Baker falls under the category of 'food processing occupations.' Individuals in this profession, in one way or another, are responsible for processing raw food products into finished goods that are sold either through wholesalers, in food services establishments, or at point-of-sale to a customer in a grocery store, for example.
Following specific recipes, Bakers are responsible for mixing and baking a variety of ingredients together to produce baked goods such as breads and pastries - cakes, rolls, pies, cookies, etc. Bakers may also create their own recipes or develop their own procedures; this is more common with Bakers who work in a manufacturing setting.
A Baker typically performs the following tasks
- Check baking production schedules on a daily basis.
- Weigh, measure, and mix ingredients (following recipes) to make dough, batter, fillings, and icings.
- Work with large mixing/blending machine bowls to combine products.
- Knead, roll, interweave, twist, cut, and form prepared dough into various shapes for cookies, tarts, pie crusts, etc.
- Pare, cut, and prepare fruits for pastry or pie fillings.
- Determine and use a wide variety of sheets, pans, and molds.
- Set oven temperatures and baking times, and monitor products while they bake.
- Prepare and apply icings, glazes, and a wide variety of toppings to finished baked products.
- Decorate fancy pastries and special cakes (done by some Bakers).
- Check equipment to conform to safety and health rules and regulations.
Some Bakers work in grocery stores, bakeries, and restaurants where small quantities of baked goods are produced and consumed on the premises, or are purchased as a specialty baked good. Other Bakers work in organizations that specialize in the manufacture of large quantities of baked goods that are sold through grocery stores, supermarkets, distributors, and the like. Regardless of the workplace, Bakers generally perform the same or similar tasks, but on different levels (e.g., Bakers in manufacturing produce baked goods in large quantities and use high-volume, large, mixing machines and ovens).
A Baker may work part- or full-time and generally in shifts or off hours that may include early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays. These shifts are more common with individuals who work in grocery stores, bakeries, and restaurants. Bakers typically work with time-sensitive baking requirements and under stringent order deadlines, which may prompt stress.
Work settings for Bakers differ, depending on the establishment's type and size. Regardless however, all work indoors. Following are some environmental conditions to which a Baker may be exposed:
- high temperatures from ovens
- flour dust and oil mist
- noisy surroundings
- working closely with others, generally within a few feet
- depending on the work setting, hazardous conditions may exist: possible burns from hot ovens and baking pans; exposure to cleaning solvents and related used to maintain clean workplace regulations; strains as a possible result from attempting to lift heavily weighted items - note that established safety procedures aid in reducing the amount of hazardous occurrences
An individual in this profession is expected to possess and/or display many of the following skills, knowledge, and attributes:
- precisely follow oral and written instructions
- possess an eye for detail
- good sense of taste and smell
- understand and apply basic math in order to follow recipes and measure or alter baking formulas
- strong interpersonal and communication skills
- knowledge of and ability to work with specific equipment used in their workplace
- dexterity and speed in order to work quickly and apply repeated movements with hands, fingers, and wrists
- work well as a team or independently
- stand for long periods of time
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (USDL BLS), "overall employment for Bakers, particularly highly skilled Bakers, should increase 10 percent, about as fast as the average for all occupations." Growth in this area stems from the increasing numbers of Bakers in traditional bakeries, specialty shops, and stores. Furthermore, "in addition to the growing numbers of cookie, muffin, and cinnamon roll bakeries, the numbers of specialty bread and bagel shops have been growing, spurring demand for artisan bread and pastry Bakers."
Baking School, Classes and Certification
While a minimum of a high school diploma is required in this profession, some Bakers enroll in formal training programs offered by two-year colleges, special culinary arts schools, and professional-technical schools. Culinary training generally includes courses in food preparation, menu planning, and food selection and storage. Baking programs offered by some institutions provide instruction on how to bake specialty items (e.g., gourmet breads, pastries). Baking school can also includes practical, hands-on experience, and many include courses in business management. More often than not however, Bakers begin their careers as apprentices or trainees under the tutelage of an experienced worker. Learning the craft through on-the-job training can take several years.
Baking school typically helps students gain skills and knowledge in:
- ingredient selection and preparation
- bakery ingredients and products
- baking, icing, and decorating
- mixing and baking equipment
- government health and sanitation rules and regulations
- business concepts
- 'applied chemistry' (e.g., understanding how ingredients mix together and are affected by heat and production processes)
- machinery maintenance and operations
While not a requirement, Bakers may choose to obtain certification through the Retail Bakers of America (RBA). Achieving certification provides a Baker with recognition of their skills and knowledge, and assures prospective employers and the public of their abilities. The RBA offers certification in four levels of competence that are focused in a variety of areas that include: management, baking sanitation, retail sales, and staff training. To qualify for the certification examination, applicants must meet education requirements and experience that varies by the level of certification being sought. Below are examples:
- Certification for a Journey Baker - does not require formal education, however it does require at least one year of work experience.
- Certification for a Master Baker - requires having achieved the certified Baker designation; completion of 30 hours of sanitation coursework (government agency or culinary school approved); 30 hours of workshop or professional development courses; at least eight years' experience in retail or commercial baking.
Most Bakers will find employment in supermarkets with bakery departments, bakeries, hot-bread shops, cake shops, restaurants, hotels, cafeterias, and manufacturing firms that specialize in the production of large quantities of baked goods.
Schools for Bakers are listed in the Browse Schools Section.