From Sake School to Sake Professional: The Journey of a Sake Sommelier

Sake is one of the most popular hard beverages in both Japan and America. The global industry is expected to be worth $10.47 billion by 2026. This makes becoming a sake specialist an in-demand job for those passionate about sake tasting, production, and distribution.

Here, we’re going to talk about what a sake scholar does, what the benefits of this career are, and how you can become get certified. Read on to learn the ins and outs of how to serve sake drinks with all the necessary qualifications.

What Does a Sake Specialist Do?

A sake specialist is also known as a sake sommelier. In Japanese, these professionals are called ‘kikisake-shi.’

Their role is to provide and sell sake to consumers for their enjoyment. Many of them do so in restaurants and bars. Others sell sake in specialty stores.

Becoming a sake scholar is a necessary seller qualification in Japan. It’s also a requirement for many Japanese restaurants and liquor establishments in the US.

In some places, you’ll need to take sake courses to be hired by specialty venues. In other locations, it will simply make you a more competitive hire. Regardless, it will make you better at your job.

If you have a passion for sake, becoming a sake specialist is a great way to nurture that interest. You’ll learn how to serve sake the right way, brewing techniques, portfolio management, and more.

Why Become a Sake Tasting and Distribution Professional?

There are many reasons to become a sake sommelier. For one thing, you get to engage with your passion and become more knowledgeable about your interests. You also will:

  • Have a rewarding experience working with other sake enthusiasts
  • Get tons of different career options including tasting, critiquing, distribution, restaurant ownership/management, and entrepreneur opportunities
  • Make money in a competitive industry
  • Be internationally recognized as having a unique skill

You’ll learn how to make sake the right way so that you can share your passion with others.

Becoming a Sake Scholar

To become a sake specialist, you’ll need to get appropriate certification from the Sake Service Institute (SSI) and Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET). This means taking an approved course at the Sake School of America.

There are several courses that you can take to obtain international certification. You can choose to take them in English or in Japanese. Your decision should be based both on the language you best speak and the nation that you intend to become a sake sommelier in.

You also can choose between online, hybrid, and in-person courses. It’s easy to get certified from the comfort of your own home without the need to commute. However, for those who prefer a more hands-on approach, in-person and hybrid courses can help you learn in the way that you best understand new information.

Available Courses

There are multiple course levels available from the Sake School of America. Each of them serves those looking for a different level of education. They aim to teach sake recipes, sake history, and more.

Courses that can help you meet career goals include:

  • Sake adviser courses for those looking to become experts in brewed alcohol
  • Shochu adviser courses for those looking to become experts in distilled liquor
  • Sake sommelier courses for those who are already certified sake advisers but want to take their knowledge to new heights
  • WSET Level 1 Award in Sake, a beginner-level course for those looking to pursue a career
  • WSET Level 3 Award in Sake, an advanced course for those looking to expand their knowledge

Adviser courses are the first step for those looking to become experts in sake. WSET courses provide you with the certification needed to become a sake specialist. They give you a certificate, a lapel pin, and a greater understanding of assessing and recommending sake.

What Do Courses Look Like?

The first step is to pay for your course via Paypal or credit card. You can also pay with a check, but it will need to arrive at our facility at least 2 weeks before your course starts.

The specific amount that you pay depends on the course you’re taking. Costs range between $60 and $1050, so it’s important that you do your research and figure out what you can afford. It’s only when we get your payment that we can register you and ship out course materials.

At this point, you’ll begin your coursework. You’ll need to purchase a textbook and/or begin attending courses. You’ll likely put in about 10-20 hours of independent study before it’s time to take the exam.

During this timeframe, you’ll get tailored feedback about your coursework and progress. This can help you figure out what you need to do to best prepare for the exam. You’ll get all the information you need to succeed after completing the coursework so that you can get certification seamlessly.

The courses move extremely quickly, so read through the course materials at least twice before the course date. You’ll want to become familiar with the tasting vocabulary and try some of the sake types that you read about. This is especially important in more advanced courses that contain blind-tasting exams.

Exams are not open book, so you need to study hard! Note, though, that you can retake the exam if you don’t pass.

After you pass your exam, you’ll get a diploma with an SSI certification number within 6-8 weeks. This will prove to both potential employers and consumers that you have passed the course. You can start to work toward your career goals with no roadblocks ASAP.

Kickstart Your Sake Career Today

Now that you know the basics of becoming a sake specialist, it’s time to begin taking courses that will help you get certified. There are courses available to everyone whether you’re looking to meet industry qualifications or expand your knowledge about a subject that you’re passionate about.

The Sake School of America is committed to helping sake enthusiasts succeed with expert instruction, tips, and knowledge. Register for one of our courses to begin your journey toward becoming a sake scholar.