DO YOU MARVEL AT THE COMPLEXITIES of good bread and enjoy getting your hands on a ball of dough? Do you look forward to birthdays so you can whip up the perfect theme cake? Do you try to recreate the winning treats you see on your favorite baking shows? If baking is your passion, a career in baking and pastry arts might be a good fit.Bakers and pastry chefs are the culinary professionals who specialize in making baked goods and desserts. Both are skilled bakers, but there is a difference. Bakers follow recipes to produce breads, pastries, pies, cakes, cookies, and other baked goods. They typically work in either small retail bakeries or in industrial facilities that turn out large quantities of standardized products that end up on supermarket shelves. Pastry chefs are highly skilled professionals that specialize in dessert items and other sweet treats that may or may not come out of an oven. They might follow an established recipe or develop their own new recipes. They usually work in high-end settings, such as fine dining establishments, resorts, hotels, cruise ships, and convention centers. Pastry chefs have the opportunity to specialize in a variety of areas. For example, they could become chocolatiers, cake decorators, sugar artists, custom cakes designers, or a patissier specializing in French pastries. Pastry chefs are also trained to run a commercial kitchen after working their way up through the ranks.It is possible to launch a career as a baker with only a high school diploma and some on-the-job baking experience. Apprenticeships are common. There are also relatively short training programs available from community colleges and vocational schools.Pastry chefs need formal training in the pastry arts. Employers expect to see some kind of postsecondary training. There are a variety of certificate and degree programs available, but most pastry chefs get their training from culinary institutes with pastry arts programs. These programs usually include internships under the tutelage of master pastry chefs. This is an excellent opportunity for students to hone their skills and learn how a commercial kitchen operates.Trained bakers and pastry chefs will find there are many different employment opportunities to pursue. The traditional local bakery is thriving due to the growing demand for specialty baked goods, but that is just one of many places bakers can work. Specialty shops, cafes, coffee shops, hotels, grocery stores, wholesale club stores, and commercial bakeries also hire bakers. Pastry chefs likewise can find work in a wide variety of environments, from world famous kitchens to upscale catering firms. Because baking and pastry art skills are universal, both bakers and pastry chefs can ply their craft anywhere in the world.A career in baking or pastry arts has a lot to offer, but the decision should be carefully considered. It takes more than loving the smell of freshly baked bread or a tasty treat after dinner. The day starts early, and long hours are common. The work is physically demanding, too. Bakers and pastry chefs spend most of their time on their feet and there are heavy bags of ingredients to lift and carry. At the end of the day, the pay for many will be modest, but for those with a passion for baking, the satisfaction of creating something wonderful that people will enjoy outweighs any minuses.