Become a Sommelier: Education and Career Information

Find out how to become a sommelier. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career as a sommelier.

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Do I Want to Be a Sommelier?

A sommelier, sometimes called a wine steward, usually manages the wine cellar at a restaurant; he or she may also work in sales. Extended hours standing could be required, and stressful situations might be encountered in the pursuit of customer satisfaction.

Job Requirements

Aspiring sommeliers can complete training at culinary schools or community colleges and earn optional certifications from professional organizations. The following table shows typical requirements to become a sommelier, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Requirements
Degree Level None needed, but education is often desired by employers
Degree Field(s) Sommelier or culinary with a focus on wine technology
Licensure and/or Certification Optional certification is available from sommelier organizations
Experience Most sommelier positions require previous experience
Key Skills Business knowledge, people skills, sales ability
Computer Skills Basic office computer skills, such as spreadsheet setup
Additional Requirements Ability to stand for long periods, sensitive palate

Step One: Gain an Education

While there are no specific educational requirements to become a sommelier, associate degree programs in wine technology can prepare graduates for careers in this field. Aspiring sommeliers might also consider wine courses or diploma programs offered by culinary schools and professional organizations, such as the International Sommelier Guild. Students might discover proper methods for choosing, decanting and pouring wine. They can also learn how wine is made. Other topics of discussion might include food and wine pairing, wine tasting, marketing and sales. Continuing education is recommended to keep up with changes in the industry.

Success Tip:

  • Gain proficiency in a second language. As part of the service industry, sommeliers are likely to encounter customers traveling from different countries. Additionally, understanding of another language may aid in purchasing stock from foreign vineyards. Many community colleges offer courses in a variety of languages. Romance languages, such as Italian or Spanish, as well as common world languages like Japanese may be the most useful for a prospective sommelier.

Step Two: Earn Certification

Although voluntary, certification offers to prospective sommeliers professional credentials. Certification is offered by professional organizations, such as the Court of Master Sommeliers. This organization offers four levels of certification. Candidates must pass the introductory level exam before pursuing Certified, Advanced or Master designations. To attain certification as a Master Sommelier, applicants must pass an oral theory examination, a blind taste test and a practical exam on serving techniques.

Culinary schools may also offer certification to applicants who pass a wine tasting and written exam. Topics could include grape varietals, international wine regions, wine service and wine pairings.

Step Three: Gain Experience

Some sommeliers begin by working in the food service industry under the tutelage of experienced sommeliers. In the meantime, they may take courses towards sommelier certification. Sommelier training may also be useful for individuals interested in taking on the responsibilities of beverage directors or restaurant managers. However, additional experience or education may be required for these positions.

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