Wine Industry Career Series: Experience vs. Credentials

Experience vs. Credentials

By Karen Wetzel, WSET L3, NVWE, AWE

November 25, 2020

At the Napa Valley Wine Academy, we are all about knowledge. As the largest WSET provider outside of London, we’ve helped thousands of students obtain their credentials, many hoping it will help them break into the wine industry. As a career coach, I’m often asked the “chicken or the egg” question:

“Which is more important, industry experience or wine credentials?”


As we discussed in our last article, there are a lot of wine industry jobs that don’t require any wine experience or knowledge, such as finance, logistics, or maintenance. But if you want a more wine-centric position, like distributor sales, wine buyer, wine educator, or hospitality manager at a winery, experience and credentials are both important. The problem is, first you need to get hired to gain experience, and, in most cases, to get hired, you need experience. Therein lies the rub. You are dependent on someone else to help give you the experience you need. But, when it comes to credentials, you have control of your own destiny.


Investing in yourself not only shows a prospective employer that you have the skills you need to fill the position, it also demonstrates your discipline, commitment, and self-motivation—all great attributes for employment in any field. Well-respected credentials, such as WSET and Society of Wine Educators, can help offset your lack of industry experience and give you a competitive edge, moving your resume to the top of the pile.  


There are plenty of courses and credentials to choose from.  Jill Barth of Wine Enthusiast outlines the top programs HERE. And, there are other ways to overcome lack of experience and get your foot in the door.   Click here for some great ideas from Julie Burke, wine writer and educator.  


Experience matters but, when it comes to credentials, you get to drive the bus. There are a lot of great wine schools to choose from. Of course, we hope you’ll trust us with this important endeavor, but whatever course you choose or school you attend, know that you are one step closer to your dream job.  


Next up in our Wine Industry Career Coaching Series, we’ll give your resume a total make-over to help get you noticed. Until then, check out our credentialed courses at Napa Valley Wine Academy.   

For personal, one-on-one career coaching visit us at to schedule a session with one of our experienced mentors.  To book a session with Karen Wetzel directly click here 

The views expressed by the author are hers alone and may not reflect the views of the Napa Valley Wine Academy.




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