SCAA Professional Development Programs Bring World Class Education to the Coffee Marketplace

By Lily Kubota, Content & Communications Manager, SCAA

The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) is a membership organization that, for the past quarter of a century, has provided its members with resources, education, training, networking opportunities, and business services that allow coffee professionals to do what they do to the best of their ability. For those that seek to improve their skills, SCAA offers a world-class suite of educational and certificate programs in various essential aspects of coffee production and preparation. After all, isn’t that what specialty coffee has always been about? Pushing boundaries, testing the limits of standards and norms, finding another way to do something and finding that it actually works quite well? Specialty coffee encourages the creative, the innovative, and the eager.

The lasting success, and recent surge in popularity, of specialty coffee is certainly indicative of an active and engaged community that shares a common goal: to make coffee taste delicious. This community is made up of many moving parts, from the farm level to the café, and although we go to great lengths to improve and innovate our product all along the way, ultimately the customer will decide whether we’ve done our job well.

Doing a good job is sort of essential to what we’re all about here in specialty coffee. This is where professional development and certificate programs become very valuable to those who seek to provide a superior product. Living in a bubble may feel like a safe place to be, but if you are not innovating, you are staying the same. In an ever-evolving industry like coffee, staying the same can be quite risky.

There are many folks doing excellent work in the industry providing training to coffee professionals. The nature of our work calls for intense periods of learning to master the skills of the job, whether it be a position as a barista, roaster, green coffee buyer or quality control professional, or any number of other roles in the industry. In all cases, training and education are essential to running a successful business in coffee. However, when deciding on what type of training program to invest in, it is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of various types of educational offerings. Whether one hires a consultant, employs an in-house trainer or manager, or explores other coffee education offerings, business owners must weigh the investment against the return and evaluate the best way to invest in their employees’ education that will be sustainable for the company.

Alongside private companies who offer coffee training, SCAA provides education and training for those in the coffee industry who seek to grow and learn, as well as offering opportunities for those who wish to give back by sharing their knowledge and skills as an SCAA Instructor. One of the most popular SCAA programs, the Instructor Development Program (IDP) is a one-day course that focuses on ways in which instructors and trainers can be more effective in delivering coffee education to industry professionals. All SCAA courses are taught by SCAA Certified Lead Instructors who have completed this training course.

“Professional certification through SCAA helps individuals to maintain a competitive advantage and demonstrate skills and knowledge in the industry,” says Ellie Matuszak, SCAA’s Director of Professional Development. “SCAA certificates are often cited in industry qualifications for seeking employment or promotion, or for companies seeking to recruit a candidate with specific knowledge and skills. Many classes can be applied toward professional certificates or credentials, which provide international recognition along with personal accomplishment.”

Over the past several years, SCAA has made significant improvements to the quality and availability of its educational programs. In addition to expanding its offerings in the U.S. through the SCAA Certified Laboratory Program and by offering regional training events throughout the country, SCAA has also been able to extend its reach across the world. Coffee is a global enterprise and the addition of the SCAA International Education Partnership License has made possible the dissemination of technical information and standards across continents. Our global coffee community has overwhelmingly embraced SCAA education is happy to share their experiences with SCAA every chance they get.

Crucial to the success of any specialty coffee business is its ability to effectively train their employees, create a culture of learning and opportunities for growth, and invest in improving the skills and knowledge of every person who is responsible for crafting a quality product at each point in the supply chain, and ultimately those who are charged with communicating the message of specialty coffee at all levels.

Learn about SCAA Professional Development Programs

Roaster Certificate | The Roasters Guild Certificate Program recognizes specialty roasters who achieve a high degree of skill and excellence in roasting, across three levels: Level 1, Level 2 and Master Level. Roasters Guild educational courses focus on a variety of topics and issues relevant to today’s marketplace and business demands. Course subjects range from the practical (identifying defects, plant safety, green coffee processing) to the scientific (sensory science, heat transfer & thermodynamics, Particle Size Analysis).

Barista Certificate | The Barista Guild of America Certificate Program provides an organized framework of continuing educational classes and tests to create opportunity for growth for the working barista. Currently, there are three levels of professional certification designed to meet the needs of café owners, managers, and the working barista. This program provides both content and testing to prove a distinguishable skill set needed for baristas to demonstrate the need for specialty coffee in a café environment.

Golden Cup Technician Certificate | The Golden Cup Technician certificate demonstrates an expert understanding of the SCAA Brewing Standards and the five points of quality for brewed coffee. SCAA Certified Golden Cup Technician are authorized to conduct on-site inspections as part of the Golden Cup Award program.

Instructor Development Program  | The SCAA Instructor Development Program is one of our most popular professional development programs. Specialty Coffee Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) can advance their training and education skills through workshops on adult learning principles in the workplace, instructional design, testing, evaluation and class management. Upon completion of the one-day program, students earn the SCAA Lead Instructor Credential and are eligible to volunteer as a Lead Instructor or Station Instructor at SCAA events, through vetting by the SCAA Professional Development Committee. Furthermore, the Lead Instructor Credential is an extremely useful skill set for those professionals with training responsibilities in their companies.


Lily Kubota began her career in coffee at age 15 with her first job as a barista and became increasingly interested in coffee and café culture over the years. As Content & Communications Manager for the SCAA, she has been privileged to observe and reflect on the intricacies and nuances of the coffee industry on both the consuming and producing side of the supply chain and gain a deeper understanding of this exciting community.