The nitty-gritty: There's nothing quite like the wafting aroma of bread baking or the sweet pleasures of whipping up a batch of chewy chocolate chip cookies. If you can take the heat, get in the kitchen. Look for bakery jobs at local bakeries, schools, cafeterias, hotel restaurants, and in the bakery sections at grocery stores like Whole Foods, chains such as Dunkin' Donuts, and shopping mall restaurants like Panera Bread. Baking chores are typically done at night or in the predawn hours so the goods are fresh at the start of the business day. Tasks can be routine. You measure, mix, mold, shape and bake ingredients adhering strictly to recipes. The bigger the facility and larger the quantities needed, the more standardized the work will be. Kitchens can be hot and noisy. Plan on bending, stooping to grasp goods and climbing ladders, as well as lifting or pushing and pulling carts with 75- to 150-pound loads of ingredients. You also have to be good with the old kitchen timer: No burnt bagels, please.
The hours: Generally after midnight to early morning. Holiday shifts are usually in demand. Full shifts may run from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. for a bakery with a morning clientele.
Median pay range: $8.13 to $17.94. Bakers employed by large grocery store or restaurant and hotel chains generally receive benefits, such as paid vacation days and health and dental insurance.
Qualifications: The hop from home baker to professional takes practice. Your best bet is to find an apprenticeship or trainee position at an established bakery, or even offer to moonlight, literally, for free. You'll learn how to run a range of equipment used in the production process, and be sure your basic math skills — for calculating ingredient quantities — are up to snuff. If you have time to plan your path into late-night baking, consider scoring a certification through the Retail Bakers of America. RBA offers certification for four levels of competence ranging in price from $100 to $850. The American Institute of Baking offers online seminars covering baking fundamentals from cake baking to muffin-making for $75 a pop. Community colleges offer one-year baking and pastry arts degrees that can be completed part time for under $4,000 and are great launching pads for job placement. And check out listings for overnight baker jobs at aarp.org. Betty Crockers, grab your spatulas!