Dietitian vs. Baker
October 11, 2007 9:12 AM   Subscribe

Career path: Dietitian or Bakery Owner?

I'm trying to decide whether or not it's worth it to go back to school and become a dietitian, or if I should concentrate on opening my own bakery.

I currently work as a baker, and have for about seven years. When I graduated from high school, I moved out, and to support myself I worked foodservice jobs while I attempted to go to university. After a couple of years of attending classes on and off, I decided that there was no point in continuing to study. I had been pursuing a BA in Geography with the intent of going on to study Urban Planning at the graduate level, but I felt that there were too many obstacles, no guarantee of a job at the end, and that I would be better off choosing a vocation that would pay me more than minimum wage.

So, I took a course in baking and was able to find better paying work, and while I enjoy baking, I have always been dissatisfied with my jobs. For the first month or so of a new job, it is challenging and interesting, and I think that I've found someplace that I can stay for a while and be happy doing it. Then it all becomes routine, boring, and I start to dread going to work. I always feel that I have to stay for at least a year though, partly because my resume is starting to get a little long, and partly because I feel guilty for leaving - I feel like I would be letting down my boss and my coworkers. I also have a mortgage and bills to pay, so I have to have another job lined up when I leave, and I have become increasingly picky about where I will even apply, let alone accept a job.

I know that it's time for a change, but I am unsure what direction to take. I think that I have it narrowed down to two options - Dietitian or Bakery Owner - but even then I have my doubts, and wonder if I should get away from anything to do with food. I have struggled with disordered eating much of my life, and while I feel that it is under control now, I did go through a serious eating disorder phase, and have also struggled with depression. On the one hand, part of me thinks that by working with food, it has become less of an obsession and that by becoming a dietitian I could help other people with food issues; on the other hand, I sometimes wonder whether any career associated with food is part of an unhealthy obsession.

Leaving aside the above issues, I have specific pros and cons about each career, and about the impact following either path will have on my personal life.

Bakery owner pros: I have experience and training as a baker, enjoy the hands-on nature and creativity, would allow me to be my own boss
Bakery owner cons: the hours can be detrimental to home/family/social life, a large investment of money and time, I would not be able to start it for several years because I would like to have children soon, wherever I start a bakery is the place I would be committing to live for several years.

Although the idea of having my own bakery is appealing for the freedom and control over product I would have, I worry about being tied down to one place. I have always wanted to travel but haven't been able to afford it, as my husband and I were focussed on buying a house and paying off old bills. We also want to have children soon, and that would preclude starting a bakery for several years. However, the idea of working as a baker until any potential children are in preschool is very disheartening.

Dietitian pros: can work for myself (I believe) or for someone else, interesting and challenging, my background both in foodservice & with eating issues could be an asset, I would be helping people and "making a difference", I prefer dealing with people one-on-one rather than working with the public, could take university classes part-time if I had children, professional status
Dietitian cons: many years of schooling, required one-year unpaid internship, salary seems low (as per, requires me to retake highschool classes.

The schooling required to become a dietitian is one of the biggest things holding me back. Although I took sciences in high school, my marks were poor as I was dealing with depression & an eating disorder. I would have to retake the high school courses, which would add an extra year to my studies. I am also not especially scientifically inclined, although I checked the specific course requirements for the degree and believe that I could do it. Adding school to working part-time and having kids would be tough, but it would also give me a goal to work towards which is something I really crave.

Any advice/information about either career is appreciated, or feel free to tell me not to pursue either, just tell me why.
posted by meringue to Work & Money (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I work at a bakery as well. You must know this already, but I'm going to say it anyway: Working at a bakery and owning a bakery are entirely different responsibilities. If you're worried about not having enough time for your friends and family, forget it. The owner of my bakery very often will get in to work at 3am and he won't be gone until 5pm. I know that I couldn't handle that.
posted by Evstar at 9:41 AM on October 11, 2007

Don't buy your own bakery if you find the idea of working as a baker for a length of time "disheartening." It takes hard work over an extended period of time to build a business. You also say you get bored of jobs after a short time...maybe you should address those issues before making your next career move, especially if you are planning a family.
posted by fire&wings at 9:48 AM on October 11, 2007

One of these jobs is largely recession-proof and globally transportable and the other most assuredly isn't. Both are hard paths, but if you're looking for the one to last a life-time, the 'safe' chance might not be as unappealing as it sounds.
posted by mr. remy at 9:49 AM on October 11, 2007

We owned and operated a small, from-scratch neighborhood bakery for four years. We sold it in the spring and I still cannot stop clicking my heels in joy now that we're out of it.

As stated earlier, owning a bakery and working in one are two different things. You will need to be much more than a baker. You will need to be a psychologist, counselor, accountant, repairwoman and drill sargeant among many other roles. If money's tight, you're the one who doesn't get paid. The hours are long, the public is fickle and the work is physically demanding. Prepare to be exhausted around all the major holidays.

That said, it's fun to make things and see people enjoy them. There's a real purity in that, and it's rewarding on a level that some work never is. But the costs of operating a bakery (ingredients, overhead, insurance, payroll, etc) mean you have to run a real tight ship. Knowing how to bake isn't good enough -- you also need to know how to run a business.

Email's in the profile if you have any questions.
posted by Atom12 at 9:58 AM on October 11, 2007

mr. remy, which job do you consider to be the recession-proof, safe choice?
posted by meringue at 10:00 AM on October 11, 2007

I think the fact that you have disordered eating makes you a good candidate to be a really great dietician. I know a dietician in a personal capacity who seems to have no clue what an abnormal relationship with food is really like, and it's infuriating. Her employment situation, apparent abilities and educational experience lead me to believe it's very doable for a motivated and reasonably intelligent person. The math looks to be not so hard. The internship thing is something you need to check out. There may be schools that make that requirement easier. However, the employment options for a RD are varied. Where would you want to work? A school, a spa, a hospital?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:54 AM on October 11, 2007

Thanks for the encouragement, Ambrosia Voyeur. As to where I would want to work, I think a hospital or clinic. I'm not sure whether or not dietitians can go into private practice; I would be looking at working in either BC or Alberta. I would rather work in a counselling-type setting instead of doing meal planning or nutritional guidance for institutions or businesses.
posted by meringue at 11:08 AM on October 11, 2007

I think you should just start taking those classes now, in your free time. A good, healthy, even if difficult, self-improvement pastime can help make your life seem purposeful while dealing with a bummer of a job. There's no big rush, and really it sounds like you have a lot of ability in your field and a lot of room to move forward! You could do something with bits of both options, like start a balanced meals deli, or cook for a health spa... just move in the direction that stimulates you.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:03 PM on October 11, 2007

One way to merge the two (assuming you can cook as well as bake) would be a personal chef. Being a certified dietician would almost certainly boost your marketability.
posted by Atom12 at 12:34 PM on October 11, 2007

One way to merge the two (assuming you can cook as well as bake) would be a personal chef.

That's a great idea. And if you were good at it, I'm sure you could get some travel in, too.
posted by Malad at 1:23 PM on October 11, 2007

The personal chef is actually a fantastic idea. My mom is a dietician, she runs a distance learning program for dietetic internships ( A lot of the people getting into the program are doing so because- she says- they see it as a way to make a difference in people's lives, and also as a good career path as our country continues to struggle with weight and nutrition. It's precisely because our country is getting so heavy that mr. remy's "safe, recession proof" choice isn't clear.

Some are looking to do the business/institution meal planning, while others see it as a way of working in a private practice to help individuals.
posted by hincandenza at 2:14 PM on October 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Perhaps you should do some work experience, shadowing a dietician before committing to it as a career. I personally would not enjoy being a hospital dietician, mostly because it's so damn difficult to get people to lose weight.
posted by roofus at 5:49 AM on October 12, 2007

For what it's worth, my wife was a personal chef for a while and had a lot of fun doing it. She wasn't classically trained and didn't have one family to cook for -- she had five people/families at one point and cooked out of our home. One financial advantage to that aside from the money she made from the jobs was all the leftovers -- we ate very well and spent little on groceries. Again, email me if you have questions on that.
posted by Atom12 at 6:47 AM on October 12, 2007

Thanks, all, especially Atom12 for answering my questions. I think I'll start to take some courses part-time and see where it goes.
posted by meringue at 9:31 PM on October 17, 2007

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