I make cakes as gifts for friends and love decorating cakes. I'm a stay at home mom now and in a year our so would like to work part time decorating cakes at a bakery. There is a course at our community college there is a pastry course to get a certificate. Its a 3 full time semester course. Has the safety and sanitation, basic baking, cakes, pies, cookies,.breads etc. bakery management and a few others. Would a certificate like this actually make a huge difference in getting a job as a decorator? & a difference in pay? I don't even know what decorators make. Just don't want to waste my time and money if it wouldn't make a big coherence in the final outcome. Some Career fields have degrees and just certificates but people only hire those with degrees
If you just want to stick to decorating cakes you would probably be better served spending the time practicing decorating on your own to improve your technique and (more importantly) your efficiency. A comprehensive pastry course would be more helpful if you wanted to become a pastry chef (which is more baking-intensive) instead of a cake decorator.
You can find salary surveys online that will show you wages for cake decorators and pastry chefs in your area, pastry chefs will usually make more (especially at higher-end restaurants and hotels) but they are very different jobs.
If you can afford it, then yes any certification (not learned at a craft store) will help in your favor in this competitive job market. Learning by trial and error is good and all that, but sometimes it would be nice to just take a class to learn how to do it correct the 1st time, especially when it comes to scratch baking. Another thing, many bakeries, especially smaller ones, will need you to wear as many hats as possible, so actually knowing how to wear them is awesome!
As for pay differences, I have no idea, it depends on your city and what your skill level will be like one you complete the course.
I think we can agree though, the answer to the pay question is "not as much as you think you will"
Talk to the instructors! I just enrolled in pastry school after months of deliberation. What finally made my decision was a meeting I had with all the chef instructors. I think a lot depends on the school, the curriculum and the instructors but for me, I feel the opportunities available to me after school far outweigh the opportunities available to me now.
As far as degree vs. certificate... my program is a certificate program. I looked into other schools that had degrees and the curriculum was pretty much the same with added core classes like composition, etc. that I already took when I went to college the first time.
My stepson is taking the certificate course and in my research, every manager asked would rather hire the person who spent that time working and getting hands-on experience. The pay will be no different. Please take into consideration that my answer is the opposite from FromScratch's, but our geographics are completely different. So in a place such as the outskirts of DC, experience gets you the job.
But I have shown that it is very easy to find the answer in your area, just ask. They will also be up front about the pay. There is a low wage ceiling on these jobs, so weight this against any costs associated with the cert courses.
The assoc. degrees and the culinary school grads do get more money.
On another note, there is nothing that cannot be learned from a book and the internet. I looked at the course descriptions for our assoc. degree culinary college and it is so basic. I have gone far beyond what is taught and it has all been just practice until it is right. I joke that I have self-taught my way through culinary school. I can cook as well as I can bake. All through study and practice.
For example, the assoc. degree teached basic bread baking, some yeast and sourdough. I taught this to my kids when they were little. With internet videos, you can teach yourself puff pastry and probably get a decent pastry on the first try. The assoc. degree won't take you there. Right now I'm developing my macaron recipe. I learned from books and videos. This is another item you will never learn.
I do believe in education. In order for me to give my daughter my business, she must get her undergrad degree in business and a full culinary degree after that.
I agree Scratch, take into consideration I was learning by trial and error and am now enrolled in my FIRST culinary class. I have learned so much about scratch baking! It has been so worth my time in the education I am gaining. Now, if my husband had not of pushed me into doing this I would have a totally different opinion. Im sure there are a lot of bakers out there that don't really know the proper way in doing things.
I too am thinking of moving to France to attend pastry school. I've learned a bunch of interesting things in this thread. Thanks!