Most bakers enter the profession via one of two paths. The first path is to assume an apprenticeship under an experienced pastry chef or baker. The second is to attend a formal culinary program that specializes in pastries and baking.
In determining which path is the best course, it is best to distinguish the difference between a baker and a pastry chef. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are not necessarily the same thing. A pastry chef is a highly trained individual who is capable of making desserts and pastries as well as baked items, such as bread. A baker can be as skilled as a pastry chef but can also be simply someone who bakes. In the latter case, a baker would likely work under a pastry chef.
Since pastry chefs generally have a more well-rounded skill set, the best course for anyone who aspires to be an executive pastry chef or baker is a formal culinary program. It should be noted, however, that most pastry chefs still spend a period of time as an apprentice or intern after attending culinary school, though it is typically less time than those who choose not to attend culinary school.