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What does a baker do?
A baker is sometimes also known as a bakery operative. There are many different types of bakers, including head baker, commis baker, baker patissier (pastry chef), artisan baker, industrial baker, craft baker, assistant baker and trainee/apprentice baker. Some may even specialise in specific types of goods, such as bread, pastries, cakes and savoury products, and areas of baking, such as decorating and finishing. Therefore, what a baker does will depend on their type of role and where they work.
A baker can work in various bakery settings, such as shops, supermarkets, factories and kitchens. They will carry out many tasks, including weighing and measuring ingredients, monitoring and adjusting baking processes, decorating and finishing, and serving customers. The role may also require ad hoc administrative work, such as recipe writing, stock checking and ordering, and completing HACCP documentation.
A baker’s main aim is to produce good quality, well-presented, great-tasting baked goods, to sell directly to customers or suppliers. Bakers must also protect customers from being harmed by unsafe food, e.g. caused by food safety hazards, such as food poisoning bacteria, allergens and foreign objects. Overall, being a baker is about enhancing a business’s reputation (or theirs) to attract and retain customers.
Bakers can work in different establishments, serving a variety of baked goods. They will work with many colleagues (including agency staff) of different levels. They may also be required to liaise with other external stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, delivery companies, Local Authority Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) and Trading Standards Officers (TSOs).
Bakers can work in different sized establishments, from small businesses, e.g. bakeries and shops, to organisations with a few hundred employees, e.g. supermarkets and factories. Some bakers may choose to have their own business and may even work from home.
A baker’s responsibilities will depend on their role, the baked goods they produce and the establishment where they work. For example, an industrial baker will have different responsibilities from an artisan baker, and working in a factory will be different to being a baker in a restaurant kitchen or bakery shop.
Some of the duties bakers may have can include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Preparing any necessary equipment for baking.
- Collecting and weighing out/measuring ingredients, e.g. flour.
- Mixing ingredients, e.g. by hand or machine.
- Preparing dough, e.g. kneading, rolling, cutting and shaping.
- Setting oven temperatures.
- Baking products in batches, e.g. in ovens and on grills.
- Monitoring and adjusting (where necessary) baking processes, e.g. oven temperature, humidity and baking times.
- Applying decoration and finishing once baking is complete, e.g. glazing, icing, filling and other toppings using utensils, such as brushes and spatulas.
- Carrying out quality control checks, i.e. of ingredients and finished products.
- Monitoring, controlling, ordering and inspecting stock.
- Packing and labelling, as per the company’s requirements and legislation, e.g. allergen laws.
- Preparing and maintaining baked goods displays.
- Taking orders and serving goods to customers.
- Developing new products and recipes.
- Ensuring all baked goods produced are high quality and portion sizes are consistent.
- Understanding and complying with relevant laws, e.g. food safety and hygiene, allergens and health and safety.
- Maintaining a clean and hygienic work environment and equipment at all times.
- Complying with company policies, procedures, HACCP systems and risk assessments.
A baker in a small business may need to carry out many of the above responsibilities. In large establishments with a hierarchy, these duties are divided between roles. For example, a head baker will be responsible for managing the day-to-day running of bakery processes, supervising a team of bakers and budgeting. Whereas, a bakery assistant will be responsible for preparing ingredients, cleaning equipment, machinery and utensils, and assisting with any other tasks as required.
A baker can expect to work 40–45 hours a week, but they can do more or fewer hours depending on the requirements of their role and the company’s needs.
The shifts can be quite long and up to 12 hours a day. Most of this time will require bakers to be on their feet, and it may also require some heavy lifting, so they must have a certain fitness level. Enthusiasm for the role is essential.
Being a baker is not a 9–5 job, and those looking at entering this profession must be committed to working unsociable hours. Early starts are typical for bakers, but some may also be required to work evenings, nights, weekends and bank holidays. There may be some roles that offer set days and hours. However, there may be a requirement for overtime in busy periods.
Travel may be a requirement for a baker if they work for a company with several establishments or freelance at different locations, which may lengthen the working day.
What to expect
There are many positive aspects to being a baker, especially if an individual has a passion for baking and a creative flair. Producing good quality, beautifully presented and tasty baked goods that customers praise can give individuals a real confidence boost. Some roles also allow individuals to be innovators by experimenting and being creative with baking, almost like an artist, e.g. decorating and finishing wedding and birthday cakes.
Baked goods are usually treats for people, and some are for special occasions. Bakers are an essential part of providing a positive experience. They can go home at the end of the working day knowing they have made customers happy with their exquisite baked goods, which can be rewarding.
There are no boundaries for bakers, and there is a high demand for those with talent. If bakers become recognised for their talent, it will open up opportunities to work in high-end establishments, and there is the potential to earn fantastic salaries.
There is no shortage of baker roles, jobs are available nationally, and there are many different areas of baking in which to specialise. There are opportunities to learn new baking techniques and work in various establishments. There are many avenues for career progression. As some baking roles do not require formal qualifications, it can be a great career choice for less academic individuals.
Even though being a baker is rewarding, and there are many positives associated with the role, it is also important to consider the cons and challenges, for example:
- Physical demands – bakers can get extremely busy baking different products during their shifts. It is also physically demanding work. Individuals can spend all day on their feet and often need to carry out manual handling as part of the role. On the flip side, it can be great for increasing fitness levels.
- Fast-paced – working in a bakery can be fast-paced and stressful at times. Bakers will need to produce baked goods to deadlines and targets. However, they will still need to maintain a high standard, in terms of quality, presentation and consistency. Being able to cope with pressure is essential.
- Difficult working conditions – depending on the bakery environment, bakers will often need to cope with working in uncomfortable temperatures. When ovens and grills are on, it can get hot and humid. Bakers will need to wear protective clothing, which can increase discomfort. The environment can also get dusty, which is not ideal for allergy sufferers.
- Health and safety risks – working in a bakery environment can be dangerous. Bakers can face many hazards, e.g. hot surfaces and liquids, manual handling, noise, dust from flour and other powdered ingredients, use of equipment and machinery, knives, hazardous substances, slips, trips and falls and work-related stress. Working nights and early mornings can affect sleep patterns, increasing the risks. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website has further information on health and safety in a bakery environment.
- Food safety risks – unsafe food, e.g. contaminated with microorganisms, foreign objects, chemicals and allergens, can harm customers. Bakers must strictly comply with HACCP systems and complete associated paperwork properly for due diligence. If baked goods make customers ill, e.g. allergic reactions, it can damage the reputation of businesses and bakers. It may be too much responsibility for some individuals, but it is necessary for the baker’s role.
Every career choice has pros and cons, and prospective bakers must know what to expect before deciding whether the role is for them. Working in a fast-paced bakery environment is difficult and stressful. It is physically and mentally demanding, requires work in uncomfortable working environments, and the hours are long and unsociable. However, there are many positives too, and those who become a baker really enjoy their work.
When considering whether to be a baker and the type of role, individuals should look at the pros and cons. They should also ensure they have the right personal qualities to carry out the role and responsibilities required.
Personal qualities needed to be a baker
Some of the personal qualities that a great baker requires will include (this list is not exhaustive):
- A passion for food and baking.
- Enthusiastic and upbeat.
- Being creative and an innovator.
- A desire to learn, progress and develop especially new baking techniques.
- A high standard of personal hygiene and cleanliness.
- Knowledge of food production methods.
- Knowledge of food safety and hygiene and health and safety legislation.
- Knowledge of maths, e.g. for measuring ingredients.
- Good hazard perception and risk awareness.
- Having practical skills and can work effectively with their hands.
- Good communication skills, both written and verbal.
- Good customer service skills.
- Good listening skills and the ability to understand and follow instructions.
- Good problem-solving skills, especially if something goes wrong (as it can do when baking).
- Good time management.
- Being thorough, accurate and having attention to detail.
- Having resilience and the confidence to produce good quality and safe food in challenging conditions.
- The ability to work both in a team and alone using own initiative.
- The ability to accept criticism.
- The ability to work under pressure and remain calm in stressful situations.
- The ability to use IT equipment for basic tasks, e.g. writing reports and recipes.
- The ability to work in a physically demanding role and environment (hot/humid/dusty).
- The ability to work long and often unsociable hours.
- The ability to work with and maintain various baking machinery, equipment and appliances.
There are many different ways to become a chef. One way is by taking a relevant university or college qualification or enrolling on an apprenticeship.
Course levels – foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree.
Foundation degree or higher national diploma (one or two A levels or equivalent).
Degree (two or three A levels or equivalent).
Example courses – Bakery and Pastry Technology Degree and Bakery, Confectionery and Patisserie Science Foundation Degree, Diploma in Professional Bakery and Higher Diploma in Baking and Pastry Art.
Course levels – level 2, and 3 courses.
Level 2 – two or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) or equivalent.
Level 3 – four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent.
Example courses – Level 2 Certificate in Hospitality and Catering, Level 2 Certificate in Bakery and Level 3 Diploma in Professional Bakery.
There is an apprenticeship route to become a chef.
Intermediate level – some GCSEs, usually including English and maths or equivalent.
Advanced level – five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent, including English and maths.
Further information on bakery apprentice courses can be found on the Food & Drink Training & Education Council’s website.
Opportunities are found on the Government’s Apprenticeships website.
On the job training and volunteering
There are no set formal academic or training requirements to become a baker. Therefore, gaining qualifications is not the only route into the role. However, some employers may stipulate that basic qualifications are required, e.g. GCSE maths, English and food technology. Baking is very competitive, so having relevant qualifications will help individuals stand out from others.
There may be an opportunity to work in a bakery (as a bakery assistant or trainee baker) in shops, supermarkets, bakeries or factories and learn on the job by shadowing more senior bakers. There are also opportunities to attend relevant baking training courses whilst working in a relevant field, such as catering. On-the-job training can lead to becoming a baker with the right experience, training and supervision.
There is no substitute for practical experience. Volunteering can also help individuals understand what is involved in being a baker and help them build their knowledge and skills. Charities (e.g. conservation and hospices) and community kitchens may provide practical experience. There is information on volunteering and local opportunities on Do-IT, NCVO and Volunteering Matters.
Having any work experience relevant to baking can be beneficial, e.g. catering, and can help an individual work towards becoming a baker. Even amateur community courses and cookery schools covering different aspects of baking can count.
Training courses to become a baker
Learning does not stop with experience or once someone becomes qualified. Attending relevant training courses and having additional certifications can help bakers enter the profession, enhance their employability and give them a competitive edge. Many colleges and accredited private training providers can provide baking training courses.
Some examples of relevant courses that may be useful for bakers include:
- Food preparation and service.
- Food safety and hygiene training, e.g. at least a level 2 course.
- HACCP training, e.g. at least a level 2 course.
- Allergen awareness.
- Principles of nutrition.
- Additional health and safety training, e.g. COSHH, noise, slips, trips and falls and manual handling.
- Customer service skills.
- Stock control.
- Menu planning.
There are also courses in specific areas of baking, such as:
- Patisserie and confectionery.
- Pastry making.
- Bread making.
- Cake baking and decorating.
- Sourdough baking.
Professional bodies and trade associations, such as the British Society of Baking, the Federation of Bakers and the Craft Bakers Association (CBA) can also advise on reputable training courses. Some also provide events to help individuals become bakers, giving them the means to continue their professional development.
The type of training required will depend on what employers are looking for and the areas and products in which bakers specialise. It is worth looking at several job advertisements to identify the training courses required for specific baker roles and other training needed for specialist baked goods. Jobs are on websites, such as GOV.UK find a job service, Indeed, LinkedIn, Caterer.com, Foodmanjobs, YourFoodJob.com and other job sites.
If bakers have more relevant training and competence (skills, experience, talent and knowledge), it will open up more opportunities. Refresher training will also be required, as it is a legal requirement under health and safety and food hygiene legislation and keeps knowledge and skills up to date.
Where do bakers work?
Bakers can work for commercial and retail companies in a variety of establishments, such as (this list is not exhaustive):
- Factories, i.e. food manufacturing facilities and plant bakeries.
- Shops, i.e. bakeries, confectioners, speciality and other retailers.
- Supermarkets, i.e. in-store bakeries.
- Restaurants (chain, Michelin-starred or AA Rosette-awarded restaurants) and cafes.
- Cruise ships.
- Offshore installations, e.g. oil rigs.
- Catering businesses (including contracts).
- Their own home (if self-employed).
Working in bakery environments can be challenging, as a lot is happening. They are hot and humid environments, and bakers will likely have to wear a uniform. Having on extra clothing can make working conditions even more difficult.
Some bakeries may be more demanding than others, particularly where large quantities of different baked goods are produced, e.g. plant bakeries. The working environment in bakeries is similar, but there will be differences depending on the business’s size, nature and products. For example, there is likely to be more complex baking equipment and machinery in a food manufacturing facility compared to a small artisan bakery.
How much do bakers earn?
A baker’s salary will depend on their qualifications, experience, location (i.e. London supplement), shift times and whether they choose to be self-employed. It will also depend on the type of role, for example (these are only a guide):
- Trainee baker – £15,000+ a year.
- Assistant baker – between £18,000 and £24,000 a year.
- General baker – between £20,000 and £26,000 a year.
- Specialised baker, e.g. artisan, organic and sourdough – £22,000+ a year.
- More experienced (senior baker) – £23,000+ a year.
- Head baker – between £30,000 and £50,000 a year.
The downside to being a baker in an entry-level position is that salaries are relatively low, but this can quickly change with ambition, talent and passion. The more qualifications and experience a baker gains, the more earning potential they will have, especially if they decide to specialise, e.g. artisan baking.
As an apprentice, the salary will depend on an individual’s age and how long they have been in their apprenticeship. Apprentices must earn at least the current National Minimum Wage (NMW). Some employers will pay more than this. However, it will depend on the organisation and role on offer.
£15,000+ a year.
between £18,000 and £24,000 a year.
between £20,000 and £26,000 a year.
Specialised baker, e.g. artisan, organic and sourdough
£22,000+ a year.
More experienced (senior baker)
£23,000+ a year.
between £30,000 and £50,000 a year.
Types of baker roles to specialise in
There is a hierarchy in baking and many different types of baker roles, for example (this may differ in individual establishments):
- Trainee/apprentice bakers – an entry-level role working alongside other bakers and assisting them in the bakery. They are usually provided with on-the-job training to help them become a baker.
- Assistant bakers – may have more experience than trainee bakers, although not needed for some roles, as on-the-job training is provided. They assist more senior bakers, e.g. with preparation, cooking and cleaning.
- Commis bakers – a junior baker who reports to someone more experienced, e.g. head baker or pastry chef. They typically work with pastry and desserts in a restaurant kitchen.
- Bakers – have more experience than trainee and assistant bakers and will have responsibility for most baking tasks. It can include bakers specialising in certain baked goods, e.g. bread bakers and cake bakers/decorators.
- Deputy head bakers – deputise for the head baker in their absence and assist them with their duties.
- Head bakers – oversee bakery operations, develop recipes/menus, and manage financial budgets, staff, food hygiene and health and safety. There is usually only one head baker, so it is competitive.
There may also be bakery operatives, bakery supervisors and bakery production plant managers in larger establishments, such as factories.
There are also plenty of opportunities for bakers to specialise in various aspects of baking. For example (this list is not exhaustive):
- Industrial bakers – work in a large setting, such as a factory or plant bakery, producing large quantities of baked goods using machines and equipment.
- Artisan bakers – bake a variety of traditional baked goods in small quantities, e.g. specialised bread, cakes and other bakery products, from start to finish, usually by hand or other traditional methods. These types of bakers typically work in restaurant kitchens or independent bakeries.
- Craft bakers – an alternative name for an artisan baker. It is essentially using specialised skills in baking.
- Patisserie bakers – make desserts, bread and pastries from scratch, usually in restaurant kitchens.
- Cake bakers and decorators – bake and decorate cakes using various tools and techniques. They can work in bakeries of all sizes, and some may be self-employed and work from their home kitchen.
All different baker roles will require differing knowledge, skills, experience, talent and qualities. However, most bakers will need to know how to prepare and measure ingredients, use baking equipment and monitor processes, decorate and finish products, provide good customer service and maintain food hygiene and safety. Any additional areas of expertise will depend on what a company is looking for in a baker and the type of work a baker wants to carry out.
If baked goods are not prepared, handled, cooked and stored safely, it can result in customers becoming ill. It can affect a baker’s reputation, as well as the establishments. It may also result in enforcement action.
If baked goods are not of a quality expected by customers, this can also lead to a poor reputation. If customers are unhappy, they can add negative reviews online, affecting future business. Therefore, bakers must be competent to produce baked goods professionally and safely. They should also know the limits of their competency and not carry out duties if they are not trained and competent.
Food safety and hygiene standards, technology, baking techniques and laws are updated regularly. Therefore, bakers need to keep abreast with the latest developments and changes in legislation to remain legally compliant and ensure they produce high-quality and safe baked goods. Continuing professional development (CPD) gives bakers the knowledge and skills to keep up to date with these changes and understand their responsibilities.
Joining a professional body or trade association can help prospective and current bakers enhance their skills and overall career. The Craft Bakers Association (CBA) and the British Society of Baking offer different levels of membership, CPD and access to industry contacts and networking events.
There is ample opportunity for career progression within the industry. With more qualifications and experience, a baker can become a head baker or move to larger-scale production in a factory. They can also decide to focus on a particular area, such as patisserie/artisan bakery or cake decorating. Alternatively, they may want to move away from baking to supervising or managing or may choose to start up their own business and become a self-employed baker. There is potential for growth and movement in baking.
Having the knowledge, skills and experience can also lead to a career in different industries. For example, a baker may want to teach/train prospective bakers at a college, university or private training provider. They may also want to work as a development baker or technical adviser or move into other aspects of catering or sales.