What is a Baking and Pastry Arts Degree?

Degree programs in baking and pastry arts are generally offered by vocational schools and community colleges and provide students with theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Depending on the level and length of program, instruction may include training in:

  • Pastry techniques
  • Baking ingredients and technology
  • Nutrition
  • Principles of pastry design
  • Classical and modern presentations
  • Fundamentals of cooking and gastronomy
  • Menu development
  • Food safety
  • Business skills: management, communications, finance/cost control

Program Options

Currently, no schools in the United States offer a Master’s Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts, and only a few offer a bachelor’s. The associate degree, therefore, is the typical credential held by professionals in this field.

Certificate / Diploma
Most certificate and diploma programs in pastry arts take less than a year to complete and prepare students for an entry-level / junior position in a pastry kitchen.

Associate Degree in Baking and Pastry
At this degree level students take general education courses in liberal arts, math, and science, as well as baking-specific courses. Training typically exposes them to local, classical, and international pastry specialties. Most programs include an internship with a food-industry partner such as a bakery, bistro, restaurant, hotel, resort, or private club. Core courses include:

  • Fundamentals of baking and nutrition
  • Breads
  • Cakes and chocolate desserts
  • Advanced cakes and decorative breads
  • Regional pastries
  • Sugar artistry
  • Plate design and composition
  • Food science, microbiology, and culture
  • Kitchen safety, sanitation, and management
  • Baking retail management
  • Finance, accounting, and marketing

Bachelor’s Degree in Baking and Pastry
Some pastry arts degree programs at the bachelor’s level are designed for high-school graduates with no baking experience. Others are structured as transfer programs for students who have earned a two-year associate degree. In these four-year programs, there is typically a greater focus on business management and work/study experiences.

Degrees Similar to Baking and Pastry Arts

Culinary Arts
As the name implies, this diploma program focuses on training students in the wider culinary arts of cooking, baking, international cuisines, and food aesthetics – instead of focusing on how to create baked goods and desserts.

Nutrition Science
This degree studies the relationship between food, diet, and human health—and also takes an in-depth look into what the body requires in order to achieve and maintain optimal health.

Food Service Management
Degrees in food service management are targeted at individuals who wish to combine their passion for food with an interest in managing a food-related business.

Hospitality Management
With a wider scope than a degree in food service management, the emphasis of this degree program is the principles of providing not only quality food, but accommodation and activities to tourists. From a general perspective, it address how to achieve customer satisfaction in all facets of hospitality.

Skills You’ll Learn

Completing a pastry arts degree leaves students with a particular set of skills that are transferrable to many different walks of life:

An unorganized approach to baking is a recipe for disaster. Students in baking and pastry programs learn to prepare their ingredients in advance so they are ready to create in an organized environment and keep things tidy as they do so.

Bakers often work in fast-paced environments and share their kitchens with coworkers. This scenario calls for the ability to communicate and interact with others.

Attention to Detail
Baking involves both a scientific component and an artistic one. Ingredients must be precisely measured and combined and baked at a specific temperature. But bakers also view themselves as artists, who pay equal attention to the aesthetics of their craft and the visual presentation of the breads, cakes, and pastries they create.

Composure under Pressure
Baking in a hot kitchen, sometimes needing to meet customer order and event deadlines, calls for a calm demeanor and the capacity to handle stressful circumstances that arise.

Curiosity and Creativity
Artists are by nature curious and creative. In the case of baking and pastry chefs, these qualities allow them to make innovative products – from the perspectives of flavor, texture, and presentation/appearance.

Patience and Dedication
One of the first things that students in baking and pastry programs learn is to be patient. Their first lesson in patience comes by failing, by having their cake sink instead of rise, and by being dedicated to trying again – and again. As they hone their craft, they also learn that some creations simply take a long time. Baking a bread, for instance, can take 24 hours or more.

Physical Stamina
Busy commercial kitchens demand physical stamina. Standing for long hours is typical.

What Can You Do with a Baking and Pastry Arts Degree?

Bakeries, Restaurants, and Cafés
For most people, these are the business sectors which immediately come to mind when thinking about employment opportunities for pastry arts graduates.

Opportunities with hotels are similar to those with restaurants. In the case of large hotels or resorts, positions may be responsible for more than one restaurant or café.

Cruise Ships
Growth in the cruise ship industry shows no sign of slowing down. Ships are getting bigger and bigger and often boast 10 or more restaurants on board – presenting opportunities at various levels of food service and food and beverage management; along with the fringe benefit of traveling the globe.

Event Venues / Catering Services
Cultural centers and banquet halls sometimes maintain independent food service staff. In some cases, they hire culinary professionals on a contract / per event basis, making this particular option a good choice for freelancers in the field.

Large Corporate Offices
Some prestigious law firms and other well-established corporations maintain in-house kitchens and dining rooms that serve employees and clients. While this is a particularly small niche sector, it does create some additional jobs in the culinary field, mostly in large urban centers that are home to big business and corporate head offices.

Private Yachts
This is another high-end niche sector. While it may first appear as extremely glamorous, it is important to note that positions aboard private yachts are very demanding and typically involve long hours and unexpected requests from the yacht contractor/client.

Food Sourcing and Purchasing / Menu Development
This role is sometime an independent one – especially with large operations – or can be part of the chef or executive chef role.

Specialty Food Retailing / Marketing / Public Relations
Higher-end grocery stores and specialty food retailers sometimes hire culinary/baking/pastry professionals to develop and market their brand.

Food Writing, Media, Styling, Photography
Culinary broadcast, print, and digital magazines often seek out professionals with a background in gastronomy, pastry arts, and the culinary discipline in general.

Research, Development, and Test Kitchens
Some large companies in the food industry and some restaurant chains operate their own test kitchens, in which they develop new products and craft new recipes. Individuals with a culinary background are among the most sought after hires.

Career Paths

Learn about your career prospects after graduation.

Read about Career Paths