How to Become a Bartender
Bartender Careers & Degrees

Deciding to become a bartender is a great move if you’re looking for a career that lets you interact with people, express your creativity, and have plenty of opportunities to earn tips.

To be successful as a bartender you will need to be great with people, and genuinely enjoy interacting with them.

You’ll also need great coordination, be quick on your feet, have the ability to multitask, and a head for figures won’t go astray either.

Being able to keep calm in a crisis will help too, especially when you have to deal with the odd unruly customer.

Bartending can be a demanding job, busy periods can leave you tired physically, while listening to the life stories of your clients can burn you out mentally.

However, if you love people and have a great manner, then this is a role your excel at.

Education Requirements to Become a Bartender

The first requirement to become a bartender is that you be over 21 years of age.

Depending on which state you live in, you might also need to complete a certificate in the responsible serving of alcohol.

If you work in a facility with gambling, you may need a certificate to do this as well.

While it’s not essential to get a job, attending bartending school can help your employment chances and also improve your skills on the job.

You can complete a short course at a specialized bartending school, or complete a course at a vocational school or community college.

These courses will teach you the basics of how to run a bar, prepare a wide range of drinks, and work a till.

Bartender Job Description

  • Serving food and drinks to customer
  • Preparing drinks for wait staff to serve
  • Keeping an inventory of stock
  • Settling down unruly customers
  • Checking customers for ID
  • Working a register
  • Communicating with customers
  • Communicating with colleagues

There are also several unofficial duties that a bartender undertakes.

The main one is chatting with customers.

You may need to listen to your customers problems, and even come up with solutions.

Of course, you don’t have to do this, but you will do better business and make more tips if you do.

A sympathetic ear will not go astray.

Being a good judge of character can also help you in your role as a bartender.

Being able to spot trouble before it happens can make your life a lot easier, and your bar a happier place to be.

Bartender Salary and Career Path

Working as a bartender, you won’t earn a very high hourly wage.

You will however, receive some good tips.

If you’re good at your job and can keep your customers happy, then you can do well as a bartender.

It also helps if you are a good listener as well.

Your base salary as a bartender will be between $5.00 and $8.00 an hour.

You can expect to earn 2-4 times as much as this in tips.

Good bartenders can make as much as $30 an hour, including their tips.

A bar manager will between $15 and $30 an hour, plus tips.

In an exclusive establishment like a five star hotel, a bar manager could make as much as $75,000 a year.

Many people work as bartenders while they are studying, or pursuing other interests during the day.

For some, it’s an attractive role because you don’t need to do a lot of study, and there is potential to earn money from tips.

Many people choose to make bartending their career.

They go on to managerial roles, or even open their own bars.

Exclusive hotels and restaurants look for these kinds of people to employ and many times offer higher salaries.

Employment prospects for bartenders is good.

There are many jobs available, and also a high turnover in the industry.

Bartending is referred to as a recession-proof career.

Even when times get tough, people still find money to go out and have a good time, or to go and drown their sorrows.

Bartending is often thought of as a temporary job, however with a bit of training and experience behind you, it can provide a lucrative income.

If you consider yourself to be a people person, and like to work in an environment where people are enjoying themselves, then becoming a bartender may be the career for you.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$28,000
$17K
$19K
$28K
$31K
$46K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$21,360
Alaska$27,420
Arizona$38,240
Arkansas$21,200
California$32,040
Colorado$30,470
Connecticut$30,410
Delaware$26,540
District of Columbia$48,290
Florida$26,460
Georgia$22,270
Hawaii$58,830
Idaho$24,940
Illinois$24,480
Indiana$23,000
Iowa$21,860
Kansas$21,630
Kentucky$20,380
Louisiana$19,780
Maine$30,370
Maryland$26,310
Massachusetts$31,690
Michigan$26,750
Minnesota$25,950
Mississippi$23,010
Missouri$28,440
Montana$21,950
Nebraska$22,380
Nevada$27,770
New Hampshire$26,130
New Jersey$30,260
New Mexico$20,780
New York$37,770
North Carolina$26,530
North Dakota$22,700
Ohio$22,590
Oklahoma$22,570
Oregon$29,630
Pennsylvania$24,360
Rhode Island- NA -
South Carolina$22,460
South Dakota$22,230
Tennessee$22,240
Texas$25,700
Utah$25,150
Vermont$35,590
Virginia$26,160
Washington$39,180
West Virginia$23,340
Wisconsin$22,570
Wyoming$24,120
Guam$22,670
Puerto Rico$18,710
Virgin Islands$26,570

The top earning state in the field is Hawaii, where the average salary is $58,830.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Hawaii - $58,830
District of Columbia - $48,290
Washington - $39,180
Arizona - $38,240
New York - $37,770
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Bartenders, OCC Code 35-3011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a bartender do?

Bartenders mix drinks and serve them to customers.

Their job responsibilities also include checking the identification of customers to ensure that they are of legal drinking age, cleaning work areas, and collecting payments.

Bartenders may also prepare garnishes for drinks and work with waiters and other kitchen staff to ensure that the customers are served promptly.

Bartenders need dexterity, communication skills but also physical stamina and strength.

QuestionHow much does a bartender make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for bartenders was $10.84, as of May 2018.

How much a bartender makes depends on a variety of factors, including the place where they work and their experience.

A bartender’s earnings are a combination of hourly wages and customers’ tips; this is what makes earnings vary widely depending on the establishment.

Bartenders who work in upscale, popular restaurants and bars can make more in tips than from their paychecks.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a bartender?

Although there are no formal educational requirements for this profession, bartenders who work at upscale restaurants usually have completed a training program at a trade school.

Usually bartending classes cost around $200-$400, but the exact fees vary depending on the school you choose.

Many states require bartenders to complete a responsible-server course and to pass an exam; the examination fee usually is less than $50.

QuestionWhat is the demand for bartenders?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for bartenders is expected to grow 8 percent from 2018 to 2028.

This is explained, in part, by population and income growth.

Additional jobs may also stem from the need of replacing workers who leave the occupation each year.

However, if you want to work at an upscale restaurant or bar you should be ready to face strong competition; graduating from a bartending school or having previous experience will give you an advantage over the other candidates.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a bartender?

There are no formal educational requirements for this profession and most bartenders learn through on-the-job training.

The training period usually lasts a few weeks.

Bartenders who work at upscale restaurants have attended bartending classes or have previous work experience.

Classes in this field are offered at many vocational and trade schools and the length varies depending on the program you choose.

Many of the programs can be completed in just a few weeks and cover topics such as cocktail recipes, bar setup, and customer service.

In order to work as a bartender, you must be at least 21 and, in order to serve alcohol, you must be familiar with local and state laws in the field.

Many states require bartenders to complete a responsible-server course that covers state and local alcohol laws, conflict management and responsible serving.

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