15 Pros and Cons of Being a Bartender

Bartender

Did you know that there are more than 726,000 bartenders in the United States?

Working as a bartender is an exciting and rewarding career for many people.

The job is fast-paced, with no two days looking the same.

Bartending is also a great way to meet and interact with a variety of different people, all while earning a respectable income.

Have you ever considered a career in bartending?

If so, it would be beneficial to learn more about the position first.

Understanding the pros and cons of working as a bartender will help you determine if the job is a good fit for your personality. 

Pros of Being a Bartender

1. No Formal Education Is Required

Unlike many jobs, no formal education is required to become a bartender.

While bartender schools can teach you a lot about mixing drinks, attending one is not required.

Most of the skills needed to be a successful bartender are learned on the job.

Do you know what this means?

No student loan debt!

2. Potential to Earn a Sizable Income

The earning potential is one of the main reasons why bartenders stay in the industry.

According to recent reports, the average mean annual wage for bartenders in the U.S. is $30,340.

This does not sound like much, does it?

It is important to remember that bartenders earn the bulk of their income through tips.

In many cases, cash tips go unreported, making it difficult to get an accurate salary number. 

3. Excellent Opportunities for Networking & Building Skills 

Bartending is not just about making drinks.

There is a whole other side to it that many people are not aware of. 

To find success in this line of work, you will need strong people skills.

You are constantly interacting with people from different backgrounds and professions.

Being able to communicate with them helps you build a loyal customer base.

This not only improves your earning potential but is also a great way to network for future career moves. 

4. Reliable Job Market 

If you scour the internet, you will find there is some debate on this subject.

At 73%, the turnover rate is quite high in this profession.

It is important to remember, though, that there will always be restaurants, bars, and nightclubs in need of bartenders. 

Are you planning on relocating?

Unless you are moving to a deserted island, bartending offers great relocation opportunities.

A bonus – bartending makes it easier to meet people wherever you go. 

5. Opportunity to Get Those Creative Juices Flowing 

The mid-2000s brought about the return of mixology.

First introduced in 1856, mixology is the study of the chemistry of drinks.

It is an art that entails using unique ingredients to craft innovative cocktails. 

Sure, you will serve plenty of rum and cokes as a bartender.

But, there is a whole other side to this career that allows you to be creative and experimental. 

6. It Is More Than Just Making Drinks

Being a successful bartender requires much more than making drinks.

Earlier, we mentioned the variety of people you will interact with on any given day.

These folks are not just coming for a drink. 

More often than not, bar customers are there for the company.

Bartenders are like hairstylists in that they often play the role of therapists.

Customers belly up to the bar to unwind after a long day at work.

They vent about the day’s events and seek advice about their current problems. 

Barkeepers are there for their customers, talking them through big life events.

This is one of the more rewarding aspects, yet can also be a downside, of this career. 

7. There Is Never a Dull Moment

Do you enjoy working in a fast-paced work environment, where no two days look alike?

When you clock in as a barkeeper, you never know what excitement will unfold that day. 

Listening to your customers’ problems.

Monitoring their alcohol consumption.

Mediating arguments between customers.

These are just a few of the many hats you will wear as a bartender.

Cons of Being a Bartender

1. There Is Some Legal Exposure

Driving while drunk can lead to serious consequences.

The drunk driver could end up in jail or seriously injure other drivers on the road.

Barkeepers are expected to do their part to ensure this does not happen.

As a bartender, you will have a legal responsibility to monitor your customers’ alcohol consumption.

This starts with checking the customers’ I.D. and does not end until they have walked out the door.

Over-serving or serving someone who’s already drunk can alter the course of your life, and your customers. 

2. Late-Night Schedule 

Are you a night owl who does their best work late at night?

If so, bartending might be a great career choice.

Bartenders keep unusual schedules.

The hours are long, with many shifts ending after the bars close at 2 a.m. 

Many people enter this field because of the flexible hours.

It is easy to pick up extra shifts, work a second job, or earn an income while attending school.

Nights, weekends, and holidays are a great opportunity to make extra cash. 

3. Pay Is Not Always Consistent

While most bartenders make a good living, the pay is not always consistent.

Most establishments pay a very low hourly wage.

Servers and barkeeps rely on tips to pay their bills. 

Unfortunately, this can lead to inconsistent pay.

When the restaurant is slow, you do not make as much.

If your employer becomes unpopular, your bank account will suffer. 

4. The Atmosphere Is Not Always Pleasant

The work environment in this field changes depending upon the type of establishment.

Loud music, customers in an altered state, cigarette smoke, and unruly people.

These are just a few of the negative elements of working in this industry.

5. Physically Demanding

The average age of bartenders in the United States is 33 years old.

This is because the job is physically demanding. 

You are on your feet for long hours and work until the wee hours of the night.

Bartending is fast-paced, meaning you never stop moving until your shift is over.

The busier your bar gets, the more stressful things become. 

While many people thrive in this work environment, it is not for everyone.

Make sure you can meet the physical and mental demands before embarking on this career path.

6. Not a Lot of Upward Mobility

In addition to the physical demands, many folks leave the industry due to a lack of upward mobility.

Hard work and a good attitude can lead to payment raises.

It can sometimes even lead to management opportunities.

However, once you have reached the ceiling, there is nowhere else to go. 

Remember that high turnover we discussed earlier?

Many barkeepers jump from one job to the next.

Once you have reached that ceiling, it is time to move on to the next job.

In a sense, you are on a constant quest to find the next big opportunity.

7. No Benefits

Unlike the common 8-5 jobs, bartenders rarely receive employee benefits.

Most people working in the Hospitality industry have no retirement plan, pension, or health insurance. 

Some larger chains do offer benefits.

More often than not, however, these benefits are stripped down to the bare bones.

The employer contributes very little, leaving you stuck holding the bill.

8. Not Always a Respected Position

Your job is to serve drinks to customers.

As the drinks start flowing, their inhibitions will fall.

Before you know it, you are being insulted, berated, or yelled at. 

Even though many people treat their bartenders like therapists, it is not always a respected profession.

Phrases like “not a real job” are often thrown around.

Bartenders often find themselves being made fun of by friends, family, and customers. 

If you are considering this career path, you will need to develop a thick skin.

Remember, you are the only one that has to live with your choice in profession.

What others think should have no bearing on how you live your life.

Pros and Cons of Being a Bartender – Summary Table

Pros of Being a BartenderCons of Being a Bartender
1. No Formal Education Is Required1. There Is Some Legal Exposure
2. Potential to Earn a Sizable Income2. Late-Night Schedule 
3. Excellent Opportunities for Networking & Building Skills 3. Pay Is Not Always Consistent
4. Reliable Job Market 4. The Atmosphere Is Not Always Pleasant
5. Opportunity to Get Those Creative Juices Flowing 5. Physically Demanding
6. It Is More Than Just Making Drinks6. Not a Lot of Upward Mobility
7. There Is Never a Dull Moment7. No Benefits
8. Not Always a Respected Position

Should I Become a Bartender?

Now that you have heard the pros and cons of being a bartender, what do you think?

Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?

Can you see yourself doing it long-term?

Every profession has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

No matter what path you take, there are times you will wish you would have chosen something else.

The most important thing is that you remain true to yourself.

Do the work that you find fulfilling and rewarding, as this is a true measure of success.

Jamie Willis