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Continuing Education

How to Become a Certified Sommelier: Sommelier Levels

For individuals interested in working in the food, beverage, and/or hospitality industries, earning a sommelier certification can advance your career by offering you an experience-based and rigorous program of study. Attending sommelier school can further your career development by giving you the foundations necessary to succeed in wine service, whether you envision yourself as a Beverage Director, a Consulting Sommelier, a wine merchant, a restaurant owner, or in another position related to beverage service.

At Kendall, we offer two pathways for students to learn how to become successful sommeliers: our Hospitality Management Program (with a concentration in Beverage Management), or our continuing education Wine Professional Program. For a taste of what your future as a sommelier might look like, take a look at our infographic on what a sommelier does, what his or her typically day might entail, and what education, qualities, and skills you’ll need to succeed as a sommelier.


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Wine tasting may be a timeless hobby, but it takes more than a few casual tastings to become a true expert. To give you the full picture of a career as a sommelier, we’ve interviewed several experts in the industry to learn about the field.

What is a sommelier?

A sommelier is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional with a deep knowledge of wine, wine service, and wine and food pairing, and a master sommelier typically earns around $80,000 annually, though that will vary by employer and location. From developing wine lists to training restaurant staff on wine service and working within the taste preferences and budgets of customers, a sommelier is an expert on everything wine-related. In fact, a sommelier today may have a broader range of expertise than just wines, and he or she might also have specialty knowledge of beers, spirits, cocktails, mineral waters, coffees, and teas.

According to Adam Sweders, Head Sommelier at Prime and Provisions in Chicago, a unique point of service that makes diners feel special. “When you have someone come to the table who talks passionately about wine, it infects people with that passion.”

How long does it take to become a sommelier?

While a sommelier is a job title that anyone can have, becoming a professionally certified sommelier requires years of study, tastings, and experience. For example, Laura Rhys, a Head Sommelier at La Trompette Restaurant in the United Kingdom, began working as a sommelier in 2004, eventually taking the Court of Master Sommeliers Exams and participating in several sommelier competitions; she passed her Master Sommelier Diploma in 2010.

What career path does a sommelier typically follow?

It’s possible to start your career as a sommelier by teaching yourself about wine and getting a job in the restaurant or hospitality industry; however, potential employers are more likely to hire you if you have your sommelier certification first.

As a sommelier, you can work at a restaurant as a Beverage Director or Wine Director, enhancing customers’ overall dining experiences with your specialized knowledge; according to Kendall’s John Laloganes, a Level III Sommelier, “the sommelier’s role can be compared to that of an executive chef or chef de cuisine because of their potentially broad range of focuses in the restaurant (aside from wine, beer, distilled spirits, and even coffee, tea, ciders and sake may fall under their domain.”

You can also work as a wine merchant, a manager of a tasting room, as a wine distributor, or as a proprietor of a wine store.

What personality traits does a sommelier need?

A sommelier must blend his or her highly specialized knowledge with exceptional customer service skills to make the customers’ dining experiences outstanding. He or she must be dedicated to all aspects of wine and wine service, and he or she should be able to creatively problem solve (for example, a sommelier will need to be able to find the right wine for a customer’s palate and budget). Strong people skills and an ability to work well with others are also essential.

Laloganes believes that “a sommelier is a position of a highly skilled and talented professional that has an exceptional and exemplary track record of customer service skills. They should not only have a solid foundation of the technical skills, but also personal qualities such as being modest, confident, charming, articulate, and passionate.”

Going further, Marc Weisburg, a former executive chef and sommelier, believes that learning to read people is an essential quality of a sommelier. “After years in the service industry, you get a sense of not only someone’s preferences, but also their mood. As a sommelier, you have to be sensitive to both the customers’ wine preferences, their adventure/risk factor, and their mood. And, the atmosphere at a table will be very different if it is a couple on a date, whether it’s a first date or they’ve been together for a long time, or on the other hand if it’s a casual business meeting or a formal business lunch/dinner.”

How do I become a certified professional sommelier?

Kendall College offers two pathways for earning a beverage management degree: enroll in our School of Hospitality Management and earn a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management, or participate in the Wine Professional Program through TASTE of Kendall College to earn different levels of certifications.

Our B.A. path allows degree-seeking students to enroll in our Hospitality Management program in order to earn their B.A. in Hospitality Management. Students can also choose to concentrate in Beverage Management. Most students attend Kendall year round and can earn their degree in three years through the Hospitality Management Undergraduate Program.

Through our Continuing Education opportunities at Kendall College, non-degree seeking students can join our Wine Professional Program to learn the skills they’ll use in their careers as a wine and beverage professional, from tastings to food pairings to all the nuances of serving wine and other beverages. Students can earn a certificate depending on the level they complete:

  • In Foundation Level I, you’ll learn broad-based wine training appropriate for Wine Apprentices and earn your Wine Apprentice Certification.
  • In Intermediate Level II, you’ll build on this foundational knowledge en route to earning your Wine Steward Certification by involving your critical thinking skills and sensory analysis skills while focusing on notable “New World” wine producing locations.
  • Finally, with these two courses under your belt, you’ll take on the Advanced Level III coursework necessary to earn your Wine Professional: Sommelier III Certification. You’ll explore the “Old World” wine regions in relation to history, significant geological events, climate, and more. You’ll also gain real-world experience by developing a multi-course pairing menu and demonstrating professional wine service techniques.

No matter which path you choose to becoming a sommelier, our Hospitality Management and Wine Professional Programs will help prepare you to become a certified wine professional. Whether you’re a wine enthusiast just starting out in the food and beverage industry or a restaurant professional who wants to continue his or her education by becoming sommelier certified, Kendall College will help you toast to your successful future.

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