Skilled bakers have come into the spotlight recently, thanks in no small part to televised competition shows and increasing demand for tasty treats that fit into restricted diets. If you're passionate about baking and pastry, a degree program from a top culinary school can help you mold that passion into the foundation for a lifelong career.
Different institutions may have their own structure for their baking and pastry curriculum, but the basics are fairly consistent across the spectrum. You'll learn how to work efficiently and effectively in a commercial kitchen, bake dozens of classic and modern recipes and use essential techniques from centuries of baking history.
Aspiring bakers with busy lives can look into online baking and pastry programs, which teach you the fundamentals via distance education and often provide the opportunity for a short residency at a professional bakery. Online degrees for baking and pastry students may require an extra measure of self-supervision, but the extra flexibility can be a big help.
Best Colleges for Baking & Pastry Degree Programs
With so many programs to choose from, we wanted to find out which institutions were the top schools for baking and pastry arts. Click the methodology button to find out how we figured out our scores and rankings from National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data, and read on below to see our ten best colleges for baking and pastry degree programs.
The graduation rate at this Houston, Texas, institution was the second-highest of all the nearly 150 schools we surveyed for this analysis, and no other institution in the country reported a higher percentage of baking and pastry arts graduates among its 2015 graduating class. This French-owned school also has an open admission policy, meaning no qualified applicant will be turned away.
Baking and pastry degree programs at Culinary Institute LeNôtre include 50-60 week diploma plans in either baking and pastry arts or patisserie, which focuses mainly on pastry baking. The 80-week Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree plan in baking and pastry arts contains training in management, marketing, customer service and other valuable culinary industry skills.
Pioneer Pacific College fell just behind our No. 1 school in graduation rate, taking the No. 3 spot in the country. The student-faculty ratio at this Oregon institution was just 9:1 in 2015, which tends to mean ample accommodation for students who like to work directly with professors.
Pioneer Pacific College offers two tracks that lead to a baking and pastry diploma -- a 32-week traditional weekday plan and a 48-week plan with classes that meet on weekends. The Associate of Occupational Studies (A.O.S.) program covers entrepreneurial skills as well as baking and pastry fundamentals.
Just three other schools on our list posted more affordable average tuition rates in 2015 than the City Colleges of Chicago's Kennedy-King College, which also reported one of our top ten's highest rates of budgetary reinvestment in classroom technology and other instructional expenses. On-campus flexibility was high here, as well, with weekend and evening courses available for students who need them.
Three baking and pastry degree programs at Kennedy-King each lead to a Basic Certificate (B.C.) upon graduation: an introductory baking and pastry arts certificate program, a 24-credit patisserie program and a cake baking and decorating track. Students looking for more in-depth instruction can choose a 37-credit advanced certificate or a 61-credit A.A.S. degree in baking and pastry arts.
No other school on our list reported a higher proportion of distance education enrollment among its student body than Stratford University. Nearly 50 percent of students attending the Fairfax, Virginia, school in 2015 took at least some of their courses online. Although no fully online baking and pastry degrees are on offer as of 2017, students may be able to take some of their general education courses in the virtual classroom.
The A.A.S. degree plan at Stratford is 90 credits long and can be completed in 18 months of full-time study. What's more, if you have the mobility to travel up the coast to Baltimore, the school's sister campus in Charm City features a baking and pastry club where you can network with fellow students who share your passion.
Students can choose among three separate programs from Southwestern Oregon Community College, which is home to the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute and possesses American Culinary Foundation (ACF) accreditation for its baking and pastry degrees. Aspiring bakers can opt for either a certificate of completion or an A.A.S. program in baking and pastry, while those looking to parlay their skills into a culinary executive career can pursue an A.A.S. in baking management.
SOCC also had the second-highest percentage of 2015 online enrollment among schools on our list. The 2017 catalog doesn't list any fully online degrees for baking and pastry students, but certain courses required for an associate degree are likely to be offered online.
Niagara County Community College ranked No. 2 in tuition and fees affordability among the schools that made our list, charging students an average figure of just $4,370 for basic enrollment expenses. It also earmarked over 50 percent of its annual budget to invest in instructional improvements, a higher percentage than any other school in our top ten.
Baking and pastry programs at NCCC are offered through the campus's Niagara Falls Culinary Institute and feature both a certificate and an A.A.S. program for future bakers. Students who hope to compete for upper-tier baking and pastry jobs at hotels and resorts can also earn a certificate or an A.A.S. in hospitality management to build the administrative side of their skillset.
Our No. 7 school ranked third in the country for the percentage of its graduates who earn baking and pastry degrees, which can be a plus if you prefer to have a large group of classmates to share your experience with. The Culinary Institute of America graduated 286 baking and pastry students in 2015 -- larger than any other school on our list.
CIA is based in Hyde Park, New York, but maintains two additional branch campuses in the U.S. and one international location. The A.O.S. degree in baking and pastry arts is available at the home campus as well as in Napa, California, and San Antonio, Texas, and includes a 15-week paid culinary externship to help build your skills in a real-world setting.
This Vancouver, Washington, school is the largest institution on our list, awarding more than 2,600 degrees in 2015, and the statistics show that it goes the extra mile to ensure that its students can access the classes they need. Not only did Clark College post the lowest average tuition and fees cost of any school on our list, it reported 30 percent online enrollment and offers select classes in the evening and on weekends.
Clark College's Associate of Applied Technology (A.A.T.) degree in professional baking and pastry arts requires 104 credit hours of work to complete, while the career-oriented certificate of achievement takes 43 credits. The baking program here operates a retail bakery in the campus's student center, also, which gives students hands-on experience in the commercial side of the field.
Baking and Pastry Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
Graduates of baking and pastry programs often find their way into jobs at restaurants, retail bakeries, resort hotels and other hospitality industry outposts. Some bakers choose the entrepreneurial path and go into business for themselves. Here's some info on baking careers and the degrees that can get you there.
Career Outlook for Baking and Pastry Majors
Knowing how the job markets are expected to look by the time you graduate can help you prepare to tackle the job search that follows the completion of a degree program. Here's some info on employment projections for baking and pastry careers.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Cooks, Institution and Cafeteria||$29,030||402,480||4.6%|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Baking and Pastry
Scholarships and other financial aid opportunities for baking and pastry students are most often awarded at the institutional level, directly through your school's financial aid department. National and international awards based on technological innovation in food science also exist, for adventurous bakers with an eye toward the future. Here's some info on financial aid for future pastry chefs and bakers.
May 1 (Fall); November 1 (Spring)
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015