Baking and pastry arts degrees

What other set of four ingredients can produce as much variety as flour, water, yeast and salt? Once you start adding things like sugar, milk, eggs and other ingredients, the variety of treats that can come out of a baker's oven is nearly unlimited. With that fact, it's no wonder that baking and pastry training programs have their own curriculum, separate from general culinary arts degrees. If earning a living by baking up breads, cookies, cakes, muffins, biscuits, scones and more sounds like a dream job to you, then a degree in baking and pastry arts might be the key to making that dream a reality.

Why choose baking and pastry arts degree programs?

The field of baking and pastry arts can be highly specialized. From breakfast breads and hand-pastries to sandwich loaves and wedding cakes, many bakers choose to focus on a certain kind of product. One of the advantages of earning a baking arts degree is the ability to familiarize yourself with the various methods and techniques of the wide world of pastry, which can help you hit the ground running once you enter the workforce.

Depending on the training program you choose, your baking and pastry arts degree might run the gamut of bakery skills or focus on one or two specializations. These are some of the subjects that students in baking and pastry arts programs might study on the path to their degree:

  • Baking and pastry techniques
  • Culinary math
  • Classical cakes
  • Hearth breads and rolls
  • Principles of design
  • Confectionery art
  • Production desserts
  • Restaurant operations

On-the-job training can also be tremendously helpful to an aspiring baker or pastry chef, but examples of successful pro bakers who haven't earned a degree are few and far between. Whether it's menu development, chocolate and confectionery technology training, or advanced baking theory, there are subjects covered in baking and pastry degree programs that working master bakers just don't have the time to cover with their apprentices.

Types of baking and pastry arts degrees

Degrees in baking and pastry arts are available at three main levels, and each has different pros and cons for the students pursuing them, depending on how long you want to be in school and what you want to study. Here's a little info about each.

Associate degrees

Q&A with a master baker

We spoke to Gregory Campbell, executive pastry chef at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, to get his take on pastries, passion and why memorable desserts matter.

1. What made you decide to go to school to be a pastry chef?

It was a lifelong dream to attend the very best school for pastry. I knew since I was 11 while baking with my mother that this is truly what I loved. ... Once the right opportunity made it possible, I enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu.

2. What's the most important thing you learned in your degree program?

Pastry is science, artistry and creativity all in one. ...  A pastry degree gave me the special tools to strive for the best — and that the last thing that is served is the pastry, so the customer would always remember your dish. So I had to do everything to make it a memory for life.

3. What was your favorite thing about pastry school?

This is a very hard question. ... If I had to narrow this down, it would be my plated desserts, and doing unusual things that no one has ever seen or tasted.

4. What notable things has your culinary degree helped you achieve?

My degree gave me a big head start in the industry, such as working for a Michelin Star restaurant, Blackbird and Avec in Chicago. If I had not listened and practiced what I had learned I would have never gained the opportunity to work for one of the top restaurants in Chicago.

5. What advice do you have for students thinking about studying baking and pastry arts?

Passion, passion, passion. You have to really want to do your best. Take the knowledge you're being taught, then practice and practice. Do not just do the minimum to pass your class; strive to be the very best but never forget you will always be learning.

Associate degrees in pastry and baking can be found at culinary academies, community colleges and career schools. They typically focus on traditions, techniques and practical skills of the baking profession without delving too deeply into administrative, beverage or front-of-house café concepts. Most associate degrees in baking and pastry can be completed in two years or less of full-time study, with part-time programs taking somewhat longer.

Bachelor's degrees

Baking and pastry arts bachelor's degrees often contain a considerable amount of material in restaurant management, marketing, finance, business planning and other managerial aspects of the field. Culinary schools and junior colleges both may offer bachelor's degrees in baking, as well as some traditional universities. They often take four years of full-time study to complete.

Certificates and diplomas

These credentials in baking and pastry can be great for professionals who want to expand their skill sets or take on new challenges. These programs tend to focus on practical skills and may require an apprenticeship or other work experience to complete them. Accelerated schedules that lead to a diploma or certificate in pastry arts and baking can be completed in as little as six months, depending on students' schedules, and most full-time programs take a year or less.

Baking & pastry arts degrees online

It may be surprising, but it is possible to earn a baking and pastry arts degree online. Students with experience in the culinary industry can find several online degree options to help them strengthen their understanding of the business at large.

Online degrees in baking and pastry typically don't cover technique and other hands-on subjects, but theory, management, nutrition, entrepreneurship and other academic subjects can be taught just as well online as in person. These degrees can be a good fit for more experienced bakers who want to expand their skills, but traditional campus-based programs are likely to be better suited to novices.

Featured baking and pastry schools

Prominent culinary schools like the Culinary Institute of America and the French Pastry School at City Colleges of Chicago are popular and respected places to get a baking and pastry arts degree, but they're far from the only option out there for aspiring pastry chefs.

Le Cordon Bleu, for example, maintains 16 U.S. locations and 15 more internationally, and multiple campuses run by The Art Institutes offer certificates and associate degrees in the discipline. The New England Culinary Institute offers baking and pastry arts degrees at all three levels, including an online bachelor's option debuting in 2014.

After graduation, the best piece of advice is probably this: Get out there and bake! Once you've completed a full program of study in baking and pastry arts, there isn't much more formal education available without traveling to a specific region and diving deep into their specific baking and pastry traditions.

Of course, if your ambition includes owning your own café or restaurant, there are business-oriented degrees in hospitality management that can help you do it right the first time.

Disclaimer: Le Cordon Bleu, The Art Institutes and The New England Culinary Institute are clients of QuinStreet, Inc., which owns Schools.com.


Baking and Pastry Certificate, Baker College,

Associate Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts, The Culinary Institute of America,

Bachelor's Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts Management, The Culinary Institute of America,

Bachelor's Degree in Baking & Pastry Arts, Johnson & Wales University,

Associate degree in Baking and Pastry Arts, Le Cordon Bleu,

Baking and Pastry School Programs, Le Cordon Bleu,

Diploma Program Overview, School of Pastry and Baking Arts, Institute of Culinary Education, http://www.ice.edu/career-programs/school-of-pastry — baking-arts

The French Pastry School of Kennedy-King College at City Colleges of Chicago,

Baking and Pastry Arts, New England Culinary Institute,

Online Bachelor's in Baking and Pastry Arts, New England Culinary Institute, http://www.neci.edu/online/online-education-at-neci/online-ba-baking-and-pastry

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