How much does it cost to become a Certified Cicerone?Oct 17, 2023
I'm often asked - what is the total cost of doing the Certified Cicerone exam?
First, let's talk priorities. If you're in the beer industry, you can't afford NOT to become a CC. There are ~9,500 breweries in the USA alone and only ~4,500 Cert Cicerones in the world. Every brewery, taproom, distributor, importer, sales team, etc would love to have several CCs on staff, but most have none.
Being a CC adds rocket fuel to your beer career by communicating to potential employers that you have a very high level of beer knowledge, you have a strong passion for beer and the industry, you're smart and driven, you can train others, and you have potential to be a leader. Whatever you spend to get "Certified Cicerone" on your resume will come back to you immediately thanks to promotions and better new jobs (the longer term career benefits are enormous). All that said, let's talk cost.
The best way to keep the cost of becoming a Certified Cicerone under control is to guarantee you pass the exam on your first attempt. Your best bet for that is to do what the majority of CCs before you have done - enroll in the Beer Scholar Course for the Certified Cicerone Exam. The majority of CCs used Beer Scholar to help them pass, that's a fact. Ask one and see. For some info on the CC exam and the Beer Scholar program, here's a free workshop you should check out: How to crush the Certified Cicerone® exam without wasting a minute of study time.
Here are the expenses you will have to work out on your path to becoming a Certified Cicerone:
• You must first pass the $79 Certified Beer Server exam in order to be able to take the level 2 Certified Cicerone exam. The full Beer Scholar course for the level 1 CBS exam comes as a free bonus when you purchase the level 2 Beer Scholar Course for the Certified Cicerone exam (or the level 1 Beer Scholar course is available separately for $80).
• The Beer Scholar Course for the Certified Cicerone Exam is $499 (if you check out the workshop & grab the discount) and includes everything you need to know crush the exam in short video lessons that track the syllabus, plus you get amazing comprehensive flashcards, live weekly Q&As with a level 3 Advanced Cicerone (that's me!), 4 full practice exams, and much much more. I even offer all my students a "Become a Certified Cicerone or Your Money Back" guarantee...that's how good the program is.
• The Certified Cicerone exam consists of two parts, a written exam that is taken online from any location and an in-person tasting exam. The Certified Cicerone exam schedule can be found here, but keep in mind that new dates are constantly added. Signing up to take the written portion of the Certified Cicerone exam is $225.00, the tasting portion is $175.00. They do not need to be purchased at the same time. The total price is $400.
• The primary financial difficulty for many people is the need to travel to take the tasting exam. Don't hesitate to reach out to the Cicerone Program to let them know if you don't see a tasting exam near you. If they know there is demand in a certain region, they may schedule a tasting exam there in the future.
• You'll want to do a couple off flavor tasting kits in preparation for the tasting exam in order to get familiar with the aromas/flavors of the compounds you'll be tested on. Depending which kits you get (Aroxa or Siebel are the two main options), they can cost ~$60 for individual kits or more for kits that will spike ~1L of beer for larger groups. Split the cost of larger kits with several people who are interested in learning about beer flavors!
• Outside resources aren't required if you enroll in the Beer Scholar course, but I recommend you purchase a few books to aid in your studying by reinforcing the material - you don't want to have to take the exam twice! Especially important is Tasting Beer, 2nd Edition (~$15). Other helpful books include How To Brew (~$17) and Cellarmanship (~$22).
• Beer. Yep, you'll have to drink some beer...this is not usually an element of the expense that troubles folks. That said, ideally you can get some classic commercial examples of the beer styles you need to know, as listed in the BJCP Style Guidelines. If this is difficult because many of those BJCP listed beers are not available in your region, do not despair, you can still pass the exam. Just do your best to find the styles or to have someone send you some beermail so you can get to know those flavor profiles.
As you can see, the math isn't that simple, it largely depends on whether you have to travel for the tasting exam. Here's the breakdown:
- The Certified Cicerone exam: $400
- The Beer Scholar Course for the CC Exam: $500
- Two off flavor tasting kits: $120
- A few optional books to reinforce the material: ~$50
- TOTAL: ~$1,070 spread out over a year or so. Be sure to ask your employer to support you by helping with the expenses! It's an investment in their business, too.
Does that seem crazy to you? Are you still wondering if the Certified Cicerone is worth it? Getting "Certified Cicerone" on your resume WILL rapidly result in raises, promotions, and better new job options at companies you want to work for.
If you simply get a $1 an hour raise for becoming a CC, you'd make the entire cost back in around 6 months...that's the worse case scenario. The likely case is that you quickly move up the ladder and get a big bump in salary and benefits. The longer term benefit is obvious - a much more successful beer career, better options to do what you're actually interested in, more money, better benefits, and greater overall freedom and opportunity. The combo of experience plus being a Certified Cicerone adds rocket fuel on your beer career.
Heck, I did the Certified Cicerone exam for fun because I wanted to learn more about beer, look at me now! We've only been talking numbers here, but a major bonus is that I enjoy and appreciate beer much much more now that I know all about it. TOTALLY WORTH IT!