Beverage Education in the US

Written by: Edward Korry of Johnson & Wales University

Beverage education is taking off not only in the U.S. but also globally. This article will focus on education both for those who are already working professionals and those who are still in school. Working professionals are seeking out beverage certifications that validate their beverage knowledge. More importantly, employers are using such certifications as independent assessments of their potential employees’ knowledge. But which certifications are valid, easily accessible, and cost effective? Because Master of Wine and Master Sommelier titles represent a relatively small group of individuals, it is unlikely that many employers will come across applicants with these certifications.

So what are the main organizations involved in certifying beverage professionals? There are primarily three organizations: The Society of Wine Educators, The Wine & Spirit Education Trust® and the Court of Master Sommeliers®. The Society of Wine Educators, founded in 1974, is a leading beverage certifying organization in the U.S. that offers the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), the Certified Spirits Specialist (CSS), and the Certified Wine Educator (CWE). It is a nonprofit organization that is easily accessible, with testing sites all over the country, and is home grown. The latter point is of importance because the knowledge tested includes extensive material particularly important to the U.S. trade. The SWE has a vigorous presence in Asia particularly in Japan. The certifications are rigorous and include support materials for the CSW and CSS levels. Ideal for those who are self-studiers, it is also a major assessment tool for large suppliers and distributors who are attempting to raise the bar for their employees. Additionally, it offers the unique advantage of allowing those who pass to apply post-nominals to their names on business cards. There are approximately 350 CWE’s, the same number as MW’s and MS’s, 3200 CSW’s and 200 CSS’s. The pass rates for candidates are 63%, 55%, and 35% respectively.

The Wine & Spirit Education Trust and the Court of Master Sommeliers provide valued certifications, but it is worth noting that their focus is less on the U.S. market and more global in perspective. There is a particularly heavy slant on European wines. These are both UK-based organizations and the Court is extremely useful for those focused on the on-premise careers.

For those contemplating a career as a beverage or a food and beverage professional, there are exciting new possibilities of study. Johnson & Wales University has always focused on career education but it has only recently staked out a leadership position in beverage education. Beverage education includes non-alcoholic beverages as well as wine, beer, and spirits education courses for its Culinary, Hospitality, and Business College students. The university recognizes the significant role both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages play in the food service, restaurant, and retail industries. With this in mind, it has ramped up its course offerings. Students are eagerly enrolling so that as graduates, they will have competitive advantages in the job market. They can choose between two beverage study courses, the Beverage Service Management concentration and the Sommelier concentration.

The Beverage Service Management Concentration is now the leading concentration in the university’s Hospitality College, offering eight beverage classes such as Foundations of Wine and Spirits, Brewing Arts, Non-alcoholic Beverage Specialist, and Spirits and Mixology. The latter course instructs students in spirits and liqueurs, providing them with a systematic and logical process for analyzing product through comparative tastings, and helping them develop advanced bartender/mixology skills including crafting cocktails in a unique facility. The students are tested internally and may be awarded two certifications, the International School of Mixology® Mixologist Certificate and the WSET® Professional Spirits Certificate.

The recently-launched Sommelier concentration includes seven courses that offer much of the same content as the Beverage Service Management curriculum, but this course of study culminates with a capstone Sommelier course designed for those who want careers in the on-premise food & beverage industry.

No doubt, other schools are looking to enhance practical beverage knowledge to prepare upcoming professionalswith the necessary tools and passion for future success in our fast changing world. But for Johnson & Wales University students, the future is now.

Johnson & Wales university, founded in 1914, is a nonprofit, private institution. a recognized leader in career education, we offer accredited degrees in business, hospitality, culinary arts, technology and education. With a diverse student body of more than 16,000 graduate and undergraduate students, representing all 50 states and 90 countries, JWu prepares students for personal and professional success by integrating rigorous academics and professional skills, community leadership opportunities and our unique career education model. the university is committed to urban revitalization and thoughtful historic renovation. through active civic participation and by offering unique learning opportunities, JWU improves the quality of life in its campus communities in Providence, RI, north Miami, FL, Denver, CO, and Charlotte, NC. For more information visit