The Job and What's Involved

Bakers make products such as loaves, rolls, croissants, buns, pastries, cakes and biscuits.

Baking involves:

  • Weighing out and measuring ingredients.
  • Mixing and dividing the dough, moulding it and shaping it into tins.
  • Setting the dough to rise.
  • Baking different kinds of bread and pastry products.
  • Finishing the products by decorating, slicing and wrapping them.

Many of these processes are now carried out by machines on automated production lines, but in craft bakeries some of the work is still done by hand.

Bakers work in three main settings:

Plant bakeries - large-scale automated factories which bake sliced and wrapped bread and related products. Those working in large plant bakeries may be involved in only one part of the baking process.

In-store bakeries, usually in supermarkets, produce fresh bread products and cakes for sale in the store, using semi-automated processes. Bakers may be involved in manual work, such as lifting and moving baking trays, and may use machinery for slicing and wrapping products.

Craft bakeries, baking products to be sold in a small shop or chain of specialist shops. The work is more varied than in plant or in-store bakeries, and usually involves seeing a product through from start to finish. Craft bakers use machinery, but also do some of their work by hand. They may be trained in flour confectionery work, which includes cake decoration. Craft bakers who work in small shops may also serve customers.

Some bakers, particularly craft bakers, specialise for example in cake decorating or in patisserie work.

Bakers work 39 hours a week or more, over five days. In plant bakeries they usually work shifts, which can include night shifts and weekends. In an in-store or craft bakery, shifts are likely to include Saturdays and Sundays. Work as a baker usually involves early starts. There is occasionally some overtime, particularly at special times of the year such as Christmas or Easter.

Bakers work in a busy environment. It can be hot and dusty, but there is normally good ventilation. The work is physically demanding and can involve a lot of standing. Heavy lifting and carrying is part of the job, though lifting equipment is often available.

Bakers wear protective clothing, including hats (and hairnets if appropriate). Bakers have to keep to strict health, safety and hygiene regulations.

Bakery work may not be suitable for people with asthma, an allergy to dust or some skin conditions.

Starting salaries may be around £8,500 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are currently about 27,000 people working in the bakery industry. Opportunities exist around the UK and there are shortages of suitable applicants. Skilled craft bakers are in great demand as freshly baked products become more and more popular.

The number of in-store bakeries is growing, while employment in plant bakeries is declining.

Some specialist bakers and flour confectioners work in large hotels and restaurants.

Jobs may be advertised in local newspapers and the specialist journals, British Baker and Bake and Take, as well as on recruitment websites.

Education and Training

It is possible to train for bakery work without any formal qualifications, but GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) in English, maths and science or food technology are useful.

It is also possible to enter the industry after taking a full-time or part-time course. A useful course guide, Student Bakery Course Finder, is available on the Worshipful Company of Bakers' website at There are also courses for those who are keen to become bakery managers or supervisors.

Key Stage 4 students may be able to develop skills and knowledge for the NVQ Level 1 in Bakery, through work-related learning provided by a further education college, training provider, employer or a combination of these.

Young people can enter the bakery industry and work towards NVQ's/SVQ's through Apprenticeships (Skillseekers in Scotland).

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

For jobs involving night shift work, entrants may need to be aged 18 or over.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Some people start as operators and receive basic on-the-job training. To advance to more skilled work, it is important to have further training.

Anyone who handles food has to undertake basic food hygiene training.

NVQ,s/SVQ,s in Bakery, which are available at Levels 1 to 3, can be gained through assessment in the workplace or by attending a part-time college course. For plant bakery work there are NVQ,s/SVQ,s in Food and Drink Manufacturing Operations at Levels 1 to 3.

There are also higher level courses for those who want to specialise, and for those who want to become supervisors and managers. These include:

  • BTEC National Certificate in Food Science & Manufacturing Technology (with baking options)
  • SQA intermediate and higher courses on flour technology and sugar confectionery

The Federation of Bakers runs short courses for those working in plant bakeries.

For flour confectioners, the following qualifications are available from the Awarding Body Consortium (ABC):

  • Level 2 Certificate for Pastry Chefs and Patissiers
  • Level 3 Diploma for Pastry Chefs and Patissiers
  • Certificates in Cake Decoration at Levels 1 to 3
  • Certificates in Wired Sugar Flowers at Levels 1 and 2

There are also HNCs/HNDs, Foundation degrees and degrees in food science, food technology and process management, which are relevant to the baking industry.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Bakers need:

  • To be able to read labels and instructions.
  • To have an interest in cookery and food.
  • Basic maths ability for measuring ingredients, ordering supplies and calculating cooking times.
  • To be well organised and work quickly to meet deadlines.
  • To work well with others.
  • To be flexible and adaptable.
  • To be able to deal with problems effectively.
  • To be careful about safety and hygiene.
  • Reasonable physical fitness - this is an active, practical job.
  • Creative skills, for moulding dough and decorating confectionery products (in craft bakeries).
  • To be able to use machinery.

Your Long Term Prospects

It is possible to work up the promotion ladder to supervisor, charge hand or production manager.

Some bakers move into related areas of work, such as:

  • Working for a flour mill or bakery equipment company as a sales representative, technical adviser or test baker, trying out different baking techniques.
  • Teaching baking skills in a college or training centre.
  • Quality control.
  • Food science and nutrition.

Craft bakers with experience can set up and run their own bakery business.

There are some opportunities for bakers to work abroad.

Get Further Information

The Federation of Bakers, 6th Floor, 10 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2SL
Tel: 020 7420 7190

Improve Ltd, Ground Floor, Providence House,
2 Innovation Close, Heslington, York YO10 5ZF
Tel: 0845 644 0448

The Worshipful Company of Bakers,
Bakers' Hall, Harp Lane, London EC3R 6DP
Tel: 020 7623 2223

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