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Advice? Baking and Pastry arts degree vs certificate,

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Ok so I have read a ton of posts/threads and am still confused as ever!! I am a 24yr old mom who has always dreamed of being a cake decorator. Being a mom at such a young age forced me to put things on hold and now I have no idea where to start! My choices are a community college that has the Midwest Culinary Institute, that offers associate's degrees in Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts. Additionally, four certificates-Culinary Arts, Pastry Arts, Personal Chef and Dietary Management-are available in the MCI. Or there is the baking and pastry program at the International Culinary Schools at the Art Institute- but I have yet to find any specific info on this. Can anyone give me any guidance??? I'm so confused and have no clue what to do. I'm worried about my age hurting me, because I have no formal training at all, and just want to move on with things as quickly as possible. Thank you so much for any help!!
post #2 of 11
Before even going into a program, a good place to start would be at a local bakery/restaurant/hotel. Get a feel for the environment and really evaluate if its where you can see yourself long term in. Alot of people make the mistake of plunging into culinary school and then realizing its really not the field they want/should be in.

As far as schools go, community college all the way. The only advantage the big schools have is a larger advertising budget. Otherwise for the most part the quality of education is comparable (from my experience). I would highly advise an actual degree such as an AA or a BA as it is indeed an accredited degree. A "certificate" is pretty much a worthless piece of paper with the school's seal on it imho.
post #3 of 11
Go to your community college, get a degree.

:smiles:
bake first, ask questions later.
Oooh food, my favorite!


Professor Pastry Artswww.collin.edu
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bake first, ask questions later.
Oooh food, my favorite!


Professor Pastry Artswww.collin.edu
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post #4 of 11
An associates or bach. Degree or fancy certificate does not make one a good pastry chef. You have to have it in the hands, and have to love it.:D I Agree Comm. College IF ANYTHING.
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post #5 of 11
I wasn't familiar with MCI but when looking it up, it is the one affiliated with Cincy State. I have heard some good things about this program and it seems reasonable.

Avoid the Art Institute system and take the others advice of working in the industry in some capacity, before, during, and especially after school.

On a side note, I hear Community College being thrown around as the best option. I don't think that all community college programs are created equal. Some are much better than others and in doing comparisons with the school I work at (none listed below), we actually provided about double the amount of hours spent in the kitchen with a local CC.

Like big named schools with advertising budgets (LCB and AI) and big named schools with advertising budgets and a solid alumni list (CIA, J+W for example), just do your homework and don't get "sold." AI and LCB will sell you. Trust me.

Also, if you get a degree, you could usually transfer some or all credits to other institutions to earn a BA/BS so if you ever want to move into the corporate side of food industry, it's easier than just having a certificate.
See the truth about the culinary education industry at www.culinaryschooladviser.com 
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See the truth about the culinary education industry at www.culinaryschooladviser.com 
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post #6 of 11
Community college, by all means. Of course, do your own research, and see if you can speak with any alumni for whatever school you're interested in. One thing the Seattle area community college system offers is transferrable AAS degrees you can apply toward an AA, and then a BA in Food & Beverage Management. Many of the credits you'd earn through such a path will furthermore be transferrable to other university institutions if you decide on another career change in the future; the private expensive schools cannot say the same (with the exception of the Hotel School at Cornell University). If your local votechs do something similar, it will be a huge plus to stick with them.

The previous poster's mention of comparing actual hands on kitchen hours in the curriculum is a valid one; as with the private places, there are crappy votechs out there too. But past a certain point, you're also dealing with the law of diminishing returns. For example, it's true that you'll get lots of experience in fish butchery at the CIA, whereas maybe you'll only get a few fish at a CC, but nothing is stopping you from just going to a reputable fish monger and trailing there for free, and thus saving tens of thousands of dollars in the process. The same would apply for pastry.

Also, 24 is not at all old; I got my start in culinary school at 32 and am still going strong at 37. That said, I also don't have any spawn. Health insurance, money and just plain ole parent time will be a bigger concern, so do take a hard look at whether or not it suits you to follow this career path while spending a few years making 9-12$/hr (lower in other locales) with no benefits, and no holiday/vacation time or even normal day to day coinciding time with your kid. In fact, all of this I think would also factor into whether or not you go to a school where you can parlay your degree into something suitable for a work environment which allows for more reasonable hours and benefits, e.g. hotels and such.

Good luck,
Pat
post #7 of 11
Nothing to worry about your age for education. Age is not a bar if you are determined to achieve your aim. I would say if you want to learn things just for the sake of your hobby, then certification will also work. Else if you are planning to start with job then degree would be better option. Employers do prefer candidate with degree instead of one having certification.
post #8 of 11
I am a student attending the Art Insititue and i love the school. It is quite expensive and time consumeing but they generate all the general ed classes toward the field. My school is a fairly new branch and the pastry program just started this quarter and it is just a certificate. And just for the record I am also 24 and alot of the students are older and a very vast majority have children. The main thing is to do your own research and find out what works best for you.
Live for the Savory. Die for the Sweet.
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Live for the Savory. Die for the Sweet.
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post #9 of 11
I am a cake decorator. I do not feel that you have to go all the way and get your AA or other such credentials. I took about a year's worth of classes at a local Vo-Tech and then a few other classes here and there when they were available elsewhere. After the classes, it is up to you to teach yourself. You will know pretty much right after the first class if you have what it takes to become a cake decorator. Some people are just not meant for it. Others can make a beautiful cake after the first night. I have decided to pursue my culinary education because I want to be a well-rounded CHEF, and not just a cake decorator. If this is your ultimate goal, then I say get your degree. If you just want to be a cake decorator, then go the cheaper and easier route and take a few classes. In the end, people will buy your cakes because of how they look and taste, not whether you have a degree.
post #10 of 11

I agree with Pixie, I went to WCI and although i learned a lot, I mostly ended up with way to many school loans. When community classes, basic trial and error and some business classes would have done the same thing, without the debt. People wont care what certificate, degree or classes you took, as long as you make them pretty and tasty cakes. Its definitely a good idea to see if you could even do it as a job first. Most people find out real quick that the hobby they loved so much SUCKS (for them) as a job or a career.

post #11 of 11

CnZielinksi:

I would suggest MCI, and avoid Art Institutes!

I would also suggest that you try to get a job at a bakery.

RBA has a Cake Decorator Certification Program.

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Buttercup: You mock my pain!
Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness! Anyone who says differently is selling something. -- The Princess Bride
Miracle Max: Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world-except for a nice MLT - mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean...
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Buttercup: You mock my pain!
Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness! Anyone who says differently is selling something. -- The Princess Bride
Miracle Max: Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world-except for a nice MLT - mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean...
Reply
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