Become a Sommelier: Education and Career Information

A sommelier, sometimes called a wine steward, 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.

Do I Want to Be a Sommelier?

A sommelier assists diners with choosing a wine that compliments their meal. In addition, sommeliers use their vast knowledge and expertise to help create wine lists for restaurants. Aspiring sommeliers can complete training at culinary schools or community colleges, and earn optional certifications from professional organizations.

Career Requirements

Degree LevelNone needed, associates helps with career advancement
Degree FieldsSommelier or culinary with a focus on wine technology
CertificationOptional certification is available from sommelier organizations
ExperienceMost sommelier positions require previous experience
Key Skills Business knowledge, people skills, sales ability, proficient with computer programs such as spreadsheet setup, ability to stand for long periods of time, sensitive palate
Salary$45,548 per year (Median salary for all sommeliers)

Source: Payscale.com

Step 1: Get an Education

While there are no specific educational requirements to become a sommelier, associates degree programs in wine technology 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. In these programs, students are taught proper methods for choosing, decanting and pouring wine. They can also learn how wine is made. Other topics of discussion include food and wine pairing, wine tasting, marketing and sales. Continuing education is recommended to keep up with changes in the industry.

Step 2: Earn Certification

Although voluntary, prospective sommeliers can acquire professional credentials by completing a certification program. 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 include grape varietals, international wine regions, wine service and wine pairings.

Step 3: 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 is 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.

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, an understanding of a foreign language may aid in purchasing stock from international 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.

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