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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I love wine and everything that relates to it. I am seriously starting to think about a career change and was wondering how difficult it would be to obtain a sommelier degree.

—Kate, San Diego, Calif.

Dear Kate,

It depends on how far you want to go. Many sommeliers learned on the job, starting out in other restaurant positions. Master sommelier Larry Stone says the road to becoming a sommelier involves reading as many books and tasting as many wines—preferably with a group—as possible, both things you can organize on your own. (Online subscribers can see his guest blog on how to become a sommelier.)

For a more formal structure, there are many courses you can take to hone your knowledge of wine, including some specifically targeted at sommeliers, such as those offered around the country by the American chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers (www.mastersommeliers.org) and the Sommelier Society of America's 20-week certificate course in New York (www.sommeliersocietyofamerica.org). Check our Wine Course Directory for classes available near you. Wine Spectator School also offers an online course called Understanding Professional Wine Sales and Service.

Good luck!

—Dr. Vinny

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