WSU V&E certificate programs boon for working professionals

WSU V&E certificate program boon for working professionals

As Washington’s wine industry continues to grow, the need for a skilled, knowledgeable workforce grows along with it. Although some are able to take the time to pursue a four-year degree, others are already working full or part time and can’t afford to be a full-time student, leaving them with few options to sharpen their skills in a competitive market.

Meeting this and similar needs, WSU offers certificate programs in both viticulture and enology specifically geared toward the working professional. Based out of the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center on the WSU Tri-Cities campus and the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) campus in Prosser, the 18-20 month certificate programs offer vital courses in each track to those requiring a flexible schedule.

Students and faculty sorting grapes on stainless-steel conveyer bed.
Enology certificate students get hands-on experience at a weekend wine camp.

Because a majority of these courses are available online, working professionals can make the certificate program fit their individual schedules. The online platform, flexibility, and the program’s reputation make it an attractive option for people in the state of Washington and beyond.

“We have students in the certificate program from all over the country and the world,” said Cody Thompson, coordinator for the program.

 A unique feature

While other institutions offer similar certificates, WSU’s programs are unique in that they offer a hands-on camp component in the curriculum. Grape and wine camps entail three mandatory weekend visits to the WSU campuses, where students experience demonstrations, lab practices, interactive lectures, and field trips.

This feature is what attracted Jaime M. Brown, a California resident, to the viticulture certificate program.

“There are a lot of online programs offered in California, but the hands-on element is really lacking, unless you pursue a full-time program,” Brown said.

But as a parent who works full time and already holds a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, Brown knew that a four-year program didn’t make sense for her.

“There were several criteria that I was looking for in a viticulture program, and WSU checked all the boxes.  I wanted a program where the coursework was online, but that made me get out in my vineyard for observations and experiments,” Brown added.

“Being able to literally and figuratively ‘get my hands dirty’ with the Grape Camps, meet the professors, and get to know other vintners was really important to me.”

Brown wants to use her “hobby vineyard” as a proving ground for larger projects, and WSU’s certificate program is helping her meet that goal.

 New knowledge brings results

Students in vineyard gathered around a pressure chamber instrument.
Certificate students use a pressure chamber instrument during a hands-on camp.

“We have applied nearly every element of the program to our own vineyard—from rehabilitating soil to attracting beneficial insects to creating a better spray program for powdery mildew,” she said. “Being able to recognize the early signs of mildew really saved us this last year!”

Brown is seeing the benefits of WSU’s certificate program in other ways, too.

“Our yields have increased since enrolling in the program, and I believe that this is in part because of applying the additional knowledge I gained through the program.”

For more information about WSU’s certificate program in viticulture and enology, including costs, course schedules, requirements,  and more, please visit: