Baker - How to enter the job Alternative titles
Bakers prepare, bake and decorate bread, rolls, pastries, cakes and other yeast goods.
Call us on 0800 222 733
Pay for bakers varies according to experience.
- Trainee bakers usually earn between the starting-out or training minimum wage and $30,000 a year.
- Qualified bakers usually earn between $30,000 and $45,000.
- Bakers working in supervisory roles can earn up to $67,000.
- MoreBusiness.com website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website - information about minimum pay rates
What you will do
Bakers may do some or all of the following:
- follow recipes and alter ingredient quantities when needed
- measure and mix ingredients
- knead, roll and shape the dough or pastry for baking, either manually or using a machine
- bake items in an oven
- prepare items for sale, including icing items or decorating cakes
- prepare customer orders and serve customers.
Skills and knowledge
Bakers need to have knowledge of:
- bakery products and ingredients
- mixing and baking processes
- icing and cake decorating
- mixing and baking equipment
- health and safety regulations.
It is also useful for bakers to know about what is happening in the market, new products being sold, and to know how to prepare the food of various cultures.
Self-employed bakers need small business skills.
- usually do shift work, including early mornings, evenings, and weekends
- work in kitchens at places such as bakeries, cake shops, hotels and restaurants
- usually work in hot and noisy environments, and have to meet strict deadlines.
What's the job really like?
Stacey Johnson - Baker
From dishwashing to a bakery apprenticeship
Stacey Johnson started working at a bakery at 21. "I needed a job so I began as a dishwasher, which led to making sandwiches and rolls."
When a vacancy later came up for a baker position, Stacey went for it. "I got the job and kicked off on my three-year apprenticeship. Earning while I learned was brilliant. We were taught the processes, so you got a clear understanding of what's actually happening when you're mixing, and when something's in the oven. We learned fancy techniques too."
Creative flair is important
Stacey says though she didn't do a lot of arty stuff at school, it’s important to have creative flair, especially if you want to get into specialty areas, like cake decorating.
Stacey now runs her own cake-decorating business, and says creativity and resourcefulness count for a lot.
"People often don't know what they want, so it's fun shaping ideas with them. I prefer making the funkier, out-there styles because you really get to express yourself, and try new things.
"I have a brother who's getting married in January and he wants a cake with five tiers! It'll be a challenge, but he knows I can’t resist!"
- Having good job opportunities.
- Getting to express your creativity.
- Getting up at the crack of dawn to bake.
- Co-ordinating the baking of a range of products, which can be stressful.
Taine finds out what it's like to be a baker - 6.18 mins. (Video courtesy of Competenz)
Clinton: It’s two in the morning at Taradale near Napier, and St John’s College head boy, Taine Hanara is going to join the overnight shift at Heaven’s Bakery.
Jason: Morning Taine.
Taine: Good morning.
Jason: An early start for you eh?!
Taine: Yeah it’s not too bad.
Jason: We’ll introduce you to baking and see how you like it
Clinton: The bakery is one of New Zealand’s best and have a raft of awards to prove it. Showing Taine that in a bakery you can have your cake and eat it, is Jason Heaven, MD of Heaven’s Bakery.
Jason: Taine, this is our bulk storeroom, this is where our dry materials are – treat this like our artist’s pallet. I think of myself as an artist, and we’re going out there to create some art for the customers.
Jason: Excellent? Ok Taine, in this area here, this is where we make all the yeast goods. Anything with yeast in it like, buns, doughnuts, bread…
Jason: Over here we’re got the deck ovens ok, so this is where we bake most of our cakes and small items.
Jason: Over here, this is what we call a rack oven, so this is rack because we can stick we can put these baker’s racks two at a time in the oven and it revolves around, and it goes around for one minute, one way, and then it turns around and goes for one minute the other way so we can get even baking for the products.
Jason: This is where it all ends up and finishes, so if it needs icing, cutting up or decorating, this is the department they do it in.
Jason: We’ve got a saying in the bakery – the eye sells the first cake, the eye sells the second, so if these guys make a good job of finishing and it looks really good presentation, the punters will buy it and as long as it tastes good they’ll come back.
Jason: I started to get the passion when I started to go to work with Dad and you start to help, he chucks you a bit of dough to keep you quiet in the corner, and then you start to make stuff and it’s being creative, and you’re creating someone’s lunch, or you’re creating a nice cake and you start to get more passionate about food. We’re a special breed, that’s for sure.
Clinton: Well there’s no holding back Jason, he’s got Taine straight on to the job of making pinwheel scones.
Jason: Wash the whole thing with a nice layer of egg wash. This section up here – we don’t want any ingredients on. Just a light sprinkling of curry, spring onions to get that onion flavour, but you’re also getting that nice colour, bacon – make sure you go right to the end – if anyone gets that scone they don’t want to be ripped off!
Jason: Next it’s the cheese mate, you’re doing a good job – it’s nice and even.
Taine: It must be the teacher!
Jason: I dunno about that!
Jason: Now roll it up like this. There's a little difference in our quality control, but that's alright, we’ll just have that one for smoko eh!
Taine: Sweet, sounds good!
Jason: The alarm will go off when it’s ready.
Jason: Can you smell it? Mmmmm…making you hungry?
Clinton: Pinwheel scones – done.
Jason: I remember when on the first week when I started, and I was actually starting at four o'clock in the morning then I got out of bed at three o'clock in the morning and I sat on the end of my bed and I thought, what am I doing? This is what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life, you know. You get used to it – you acclimatise to it, your life acclimatises to it you know – this is what I do for a living.
Clinton: Next job for Taine: coffee custard strips.
Jason: Bavarian cream – which is custard and fresh cream mixed together. It’s all yours!
Jason: What happened? Did it pop out?
Taine: I was saving some for later!
Jason: Saving some for later? Oh good on ya! We’ll have that for smoko too eh?!
Clinton: Coffee custard strips - done.
Jason: Why the baking industry? It’s very rewarding. You know you go out to the shop and you might be checking out - having a look at what you’ve done for the day and seeing how they’ve set it up and it makes yourself feel proud of how it looks and a customer will come up to you and say, “Man that was an awesome scone I had yesterday”, or, “You did my birthday cake last week and it was fantastic, my kids loved it!”
Clinton: Well nothing’s turned to custard so far and decorating cakes looking bags of fun.
Jason: Well Taine we’re going to actually mask the cake, and that fills up any imperfections, makes it nice and straight.
Jason: Chocolate shavings around the sides…
Jason: A clean baker is a good baker…
Jason: This is called a shell boarder…
Jason: Do you want to have a crack on here? You’ll be alright.
Taine: I’ll try!
Jason: Chocolate cream…rightey-o, your turn.
Jason: You’ve done this before, haven’t you?
Jason: Coffee coloured – this is called a rosette.
Jason: No pressure…
Taine: No pressure?
Jason: No one's watching!
Jason: This is paper made out of sugar. Ok, now we’ve got our Just the Job logo, we can’t make any mistakes otherwise you start again.
Jason: Acetate paper, and pattern's made out of cocoa butter. When you put the chocolate on there, it will set and the pattern will be on the chocolate. So now we just wait till it semi-sets, and then we’re going to cut it out.
Taine: If I was interested in getting into the trade, where would I start?
Jason: Well basically some of the high schools offer Level 2 training and they actually have courses that do baking and then you come in the industry and you’d be doing either Level 3 or Level 4, and a Level 4 craft baker would offer all aspects of the baking industry.
Clinton: Chocolate Just the Job Cake – well done!
Jason: We’ve got our tins laid out here, so we’re going to roll some bottom pastry out.
Jason: Just pat them down…
Jason: It’s an ever-changing industry. Food eating is like a special club – you will travel New Zealand even and meet new bakers and go to conferences and see new people and talk to them about baking and it's all we do – talk about baking and live the dream.
Clinton: It's 8am and inside the shop the shelves are overflowing from the team’s all night effort. The cakes, bread and pastry along with Taine’s coffee custard strips are looking very good to go.
Jason: So what do you think Taine?
Taine: I think it’s pretty good, just the fact we’re taking something from raw material and just creating it into something like this.
Jason: We’d better have our rewards now we’ve made some quality products!
Taine: This is actually nice!
Jason: It looks like you’re enjoying that!
Taine: It’s good.
Clinton: There are a range of certificates available in baking. Level 2 is an entry level and the skills can often be attained at school. Most employers prefer apprentices to have completed four years of secondary school and useful subjects include English and maths. At level 4 you can specialise in either hands on crafting, large volume automated plant operations, or instore/franchise operations. Bakers generally train on the job and the skills learnt are highly portable. Job and career prospects are excellent.
To become a qualified baker you need to complete an apprenticeship and gain a National Certificate in Baking (Level 4) through Competenz.
To do an apprenticeship you need to get a job in a bakery. Completing a baking qualification at a tertiary provider may help you get a baking job.
Most employers prefer apprentices to have completed four years of secondary school. Useful subjects include English and maths.
Bakers need to be:
- careful and accurate, with an eye for detail
- practical and efficient with good organisational skills
- able to work well under pressure
- able to follow instructions
- able to work as part of a team
- able to do basic maths.
Useful experience for bakers includes work as a baker's assistant, or any food-handling work.
Bakers need to be reasonably fit and healthy, with a high standard of personal cleanliness. They also need to have good hand-eye co-ordination. It is preferred that bakers do not have any skin or breathing problems, but this can be managed so they can still work effectively.
View information on courses in the course database
Find out more about training
years of training usually required
What are the chances of getting a job?
Not enough qualified bakers to fill vacancies
Demand is strong for qualified and/or experienced bakers. This is because:
- experienced bakers often go overseas to work
- not enough people are completing training, such as bakery apprenticeships, to replace those leaving the job
- people are often discouraged from doing the job, or do not stay in it long, due to the early starts.
The job of baker appears on Immigration New Zealand's Immediate Skill Shortage List, which means the Government is actively encouraging skilled bakers from overseas to find work in New Zealand.
Temporary assistant baker jobs common during peak periods
Many bakeries take on assistants on a temporary basis during peak periods such as Christmas.
Working as an assistant is a good way to get a taste of the job, as well as providing useful contacts for getting into the industry.
Types of employers varied
Bakers may be employed by:
- specialised bakery stores
- bakery product manufacturers
Many bakers are self-employed.
- Competenz, job information comment, September 2014.
- Competenz, 'How to become a baking apprentice', accessed September 2014, (www.competenz.co.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data', (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2012.
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Progression and specialisations
Bakers may become supervisors or head bakers, or set up their own businesses.
How many people are doing this job?
Job vacancies by region
Updated 7 Oct 2014