7 Exciting Careers for Baking & Pastry Arts Grads

Delving into the world of baking and pastry arts allows you to tap into your artistic, creative, and scientific side. From towering, multi-layered cakes to light and fluffy puff pastries, baking and pastry arts offers students endless opportunities to create some seriously delicious — and jaw-dropping — desserts.

If you’re passionate about baking and pastry arts you might be considering a career in this field. Whether you’re interested in opening a specialty bakery in the future or you’d like to spend your days creating stunning cake designs, a baking and pastry arts degree will help you navigate your career path. First, let’s explore the myriad of exciting baking and pastry arts careers and then we’ll dive into some noteworthy mentions about JWU’s Baking and Pastry Arts degrees.

1. Executive Pastry Chef

Executive pastry chefs are responsible for creating all the sweet treats we know and love such as rich custards, decadent cupcakes, buttery croissants, and so much more. The primary role of an executive pastry chef is to oversee sous chefs and pastry chefs as well as create new dessert recipes and develop the dessert menu. Their keen eye for detail and passion for the culinary arts is what leads them to create sensational desserts and pastries that are aesthetically pleasing. Executive pastry chefs also have extraordinary measurement skills which allows them to have precise chemical reactions when baking.

chocolate frosted puff pastry

The Ingredients to Culinary Success: Colleen Kranich '18, executive pastry chef at Newport Vineyards, along with other JWU culinary alums, shares advice on how to become successful in the culinary industry.

Executive Pastry Chef Responsibilities

  • Create and test new pastry recipes
  • Plan the dessert menu including custom menus for special events
  • Analyze and adjust the cook time, shape, measurements, and color of baked goods
  • Manage pastry staff including hiring, scheduling, and training
  • Monitor health and safety of the kitchen
  • Work with suppliers to ensure the kitchen is receiving the best possible ingredients

culinary student using piping bake on dessert

Education & Training

Many executive pastry chefs have a minimum of five years of experience in a related field along with a bachelor’s degree in baking and pastry arts.

2. Research & Development Pastry Chef

Research & development (R&D) pastry chefs play a large part in product and menu development and testing kitchen equipment. R&D chefs are also typically responsible for analyzing recipes and offering improvements. This career is best suited for chefs who have a deep understanding of how culinary science and culinary arts are connected.

culinary student baking in culinary lab

Science Meets Pastry Arts at JWU: Students in our Baking & Pastry Arts bachelor’s degree program enroll in a food science course where they learn about the relationship between the chemistry and functionality of food systems and the chemical and physical changes that take place as we prepare and process food. 

R&D Pastry Chef Responsibilities

  • Develop recipes that are shelf-stable and can handle mass distribution
  • Develop new flavor profiles and improve existing ones
  • Monitor emerging trends and food products that can be incorporated into the menu
  • Prepared baked goods for taste testers and adjust recipes based on feedback

Education & Training

A formal culinary education is highly preferred by employers. A bachelor’s degree in culinary science, food science, culinary nutrition, culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, or a related field allows students to sharpen their culinary skills while also learning about the science behind their food. 

READ MORE>>>Why We Think JWU’s Culinary Program is the Best

3. Chocolatier

Chocolatiers have the extraordinary ability to blend science and art to create beautiful chocolate confections. Filling candies, crafting truffles, and molding chocolate are just a few of the fun day-to-day tasks completed by chocolatiers.

box of assorted chocolates

Chocolatiers are often used interchangeably with chocolate makers but the two roles are actually quite different. Chocolate makers’ sole focus are to grind, roast, refine, conch and temper the cocoa beans to create chocolate. Chocolatiers use this chocolate to make truffles, ganaches, pralines, and other tasty confections. Although uncommon, some chocolatiers do make their own chocolate.

Get to Know a JWU Alum Chocolatier: Aura C. Fajardo Quintero’s ’17 passion for chocolate led her to enroll in JWU’s Baking & Pastry Arts program where she later went on to intern at Hebert's Candy Mansion in Massachusetts. Quintero now owns Aura’s Chocolate Bar located in Cranston, Rhode Island where you can find unique creations such as the Lemon Lavender Honey Chocolate Bar, Tutti Frutti Swirl, and the Rosé Raspberry Sommelier Series.

Chocolatier Responsibilities

  • Precisely temper and mold chocolate to achieve the right finish
  • Create customized chocolate artwork
  • Make chocolates that require a filling such as caramel or fruit
  • Design and create chocolate centerpieces for events and holidays
baking student pouring chocolate into mold

Education & Training

An associate degree in baking and pastry arts is strongly preferred by employers because chocolate is incredibly complex and it requires a deep understanding of its chemical makeup. Apprenticeships and entry-level positions provide aspiring chocolatiers with hands-on experience and allow them to work their way up in the industry. Chocolatiers usually work at specialty chocolate shops, chocolate manufacturing companies, or open their own business.

4. Cake Decorator

Cake decorating is a prime example of turning your hobby into your dream career. Not only are cake decorators incredibly creative, they’re also patient, meticulous and work with the utmost precision. Professional cake decorators have a wealth of knowledge about the different types of cakes and how they interact with various frostings and icings; this is extremely helpful when it comes to assembly. Some other common tasks include piping, molding fondant or frosting and incorporating embellishments/accessories.

culinary student with assorted cakes

Cake Decorator Responsibilities

  • Design and decorate cakes according to client specifications
  • Provide clients with recommendations to ensure they’re receiving the best possible design
  • Bake, assemble, and sculpt cakes
  • Design cakes for special events such as weddings
  • Strategically blend icing colors to achieve the desired result

culinary student sculpting cake

Education & Training

A formal education is not required to become a cake decorator but many professional cake decorators have enrolled in online courses or received a baking certification. Some companies may require an associate or bachelor’s degree in baking and pastry arts. Having a formal education is also an excellent way to stand out among the competition and feel more confident entering the field. Students who enroll in a baking and pastry arts degree learn how to produce different types of buttercreams and icings, how to efficiently assemble and stack, and how to make flowers with marzipan, rolled fondant, gum paste, and other mediums.

Fun Fact: A small team of JWU culinary experts won Disney’s ‘Foodtastic’ with their Lion King foodscape using cake pops, fondant and modeling chocolate. Check out the video on Facebook or read our blog to find out more.

5. Baker or Specialty Baker

There’s nothing quite like entering a bakery to be greeted by the aroma of fresh baked pastries, breads, and desserts. As customers, we see (and taste) the finished products, but there’s a lot of work that goes into whipping up these treats. Professional bakers are responsible for a multitude of tasks from meticulously measuring, mixing, and baking raw ingredients to taking note of any inconsistencies between different batches of dough. Bakers also set oven temperatures and timers so ingredients are baked properly.

baking pies in culinary class

Specialty bakers have the same responsibilities but they focus on a specific area of expertise rather than baking a large assortment of items. Culture-focused bakeries such as Italian and French bakeries are very common. Some specialty bake shops cater to those with gluten, nut, and dairy allergies, as well as other dietary restrictions. Oftentimes you’ll find adorable specialty bake shops that exclusively sell one product in multiple flavors, such as cupcake bakeries!

Shoutout to Some JWU Alum Owned Bakeries: Jamie and Ray Rios '08 opened the delightfully delicious Love Bakery & Cafe in Berlin, Connecticut. Owner of Fox Den Baking Co., Melissa Brinley '13 specializes in buttercream tiered cakes and beautiful wedding desserts. Lexie Greer '18 creates custom cakes for any occasion. If you’re ever in Cornelius, North Carolina stop by Sweet Cakes Bakery.

Baker Responsibilities

  • Quality check ingredients
  • Measure, weigh, and mix ingredients
  • Knead, cut, and roll dough to create breads, pie crusts, and other baked goods
  • Research and cultivate recipes and follow existing recipes
  • Decorate baked goods to customer specifications
  • Ensure baking equipment is working properly and meets health and safety standards

Education & Training

An apprenticeship program is a great way to learn about food safety, preparation, measuring ingredients, and handling baking equipment. However, an associate degree or bachelor’s degree in baking and pastry arts teaches students much more than baking. These degrees are ideal for students who wish to learn about the business side including inventory management and finances. Students also gain valuable lessons in communication, advanced pastry applications, nutrition and plating.

6. Bakery Merchandiser

Bakery merchandisers promote baked goods using a number of methods in order to attract new patrons and entice repeat customers. They also make sure that the brand’s signature item and seasonal treats are front and center. Observing the bakery’s aesthetic and customers’ responses when entering helps the bakery merchandiser think like the customer. This helps them evaluate what needs to be improved in the establishment.

pink, white, and red pastries aligned in a tray

Bakery Merchandiser Responsibilities

  • Use cross-merchandising to promote multiple items
  • Research packaging trends and create packaging that’s on brand
  • Research baking trends
  • Promote daily specials or items that are featured on specific days
  • Promote baked goods for holidays, special occasions and upcoming events

Education & Training

While a college education isn’t required, many bakery merchandisers have an associate or bachelor’s degree in a related field. These culinary programs offer internship opportunities which gives students extensive training through hands-on learning.

7. Food Stylist

Food stylists have a wonderfully creative career where they use their culinary and media talents to generate beautiful food photography. Analyzing the texture, color, and shape of food allows food stylists to put together artistic plates that can be used in magazines, menus, websites, social media, and more. While every food stylist prepares the plate to be photographed, some food stylists also take on the role of the food photographer.

culinary student preparing chocolate dessert plating

beautifully plated chocolate cake

Food Stylist Responsibilities

  • Select accessories that compliment the food
  • Work with the marketing team and/or photographer on which recipes will be stylized
  • Use a variety of techniques such as adding more texture and color to fruit

Education & Training

An associate degree in baking and pastry arts, culinary arts, nutrition, or a related field is highly recommended for this position. Many food stylists get their start as an assistant which helps them understand if this is the best fit for them and it comes with plenty of networking opportunities. Food stylists often continue to improve their skills by taking photography and food styling workshops. To really set themselves apart, some food stylists will also gain additional knowledge in business and marketing.

READ MORE>>>Food Plating 101: Contrast and Balance in Food Presentation


About JWU’s Baking & Pastry Arts Programs

Johnson & Wales University is honored to be recognized as a global leader in culinary education where we teach students more than just cooking. At JWU, students are introduced to lab-based culinary arts where they are taught by our talented faculty and work closely with their peers.

baking student learning to measure ingredients

Baking & Pastry Arts Associate Degree

JWU’s Baking & Pastry Arts associate degree program has been uniquely designed to teach students both the art and science behind baking and pastry arts. One of the major advantages of this program is that students aren’t just mastering artisan breads, chocolate confections, pastries and cakes, but they also enroll in professional studies where they learn about effective communication and critical thinking in the workplace. For instance, in the nutrition class, students gain a deep understanding of how carbs, proteins, lipids, vitamins and minerals affect our bodies. This enables students to make better decisions when coming up with recipes or crafting a dessert menu.

Associate Degree - Providence

Associate Degree - Charlotte

jwu students baking in culinary lab

Baking & Pastry Arts Bachelor’s Degree

Once students complete this culinary program, they can choose to enroll in the Baking & Pastry Arts bachelor’s degree program at our Providence campus. This program teaches students advanced baking techniques so they can create delicious artisan breads, wedding cakes, advanced petites gâteaux, decorative breads, and more.

Bachelor’s Degree - Providence

Sample Baking & Pastry Arts Courses

  • Tiered and Themed Cakes
  • Advanced Chocolate and Sugar Artistry
  • Supervision for Food Service Professionals
  • Decorative Breads and Advanced Viennoiserie

Internship and study abroad options are also a fantastic way for students to immerse themselves in other cultures, bake in a completely new environment, work with local ingredients, and learn different methods of baking. One of the popular sites among students is Alain Ducasse’s famed pastry school in southern France.

Launch Baking and Pastry Labs


Transfer to JWU

Apply to JWU

Visit JWU