Bartenders

Career, Salary and Education Information

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a bartender with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Bartender Jobs

  • Beertender and Bartender - Uber Tavern - Seattle, WA

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  • Servers and Bartenders - Barrington Golf Club - Aurora, OH

    Apply online or in person. Please visit www.barringtongolf.org and click on the 'About Us' section followed by 'Employment' to fill out an

  • Busser - FH - Jack Stack Barbecue - Kansas City, MO

    ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS • Responsible for the complete bussing, cleaning and resetting of the tables. • Communicates guests’ needs and requests to the

See all Bartender jobs

What Bartenders Do[About this section] [To Top]

Bartenders mix drinks and serve them directly to customers or through wait staff.

Duties of Bartenders

Bartenders typically do the following:

  • Greet customers, give them menus, and inform them about daily specials
  • Take drink orders from customers
  • Pour and serve wine, beer, and other drinks and beverages
  • Mix drinks according to recipes
  • Check the identification of customers to ensure that they are of legal drinking age
  • Clean bars, tables, and work areas
  • Collect payments from customers and return change
  • Manage the operation of the bar, and order and maintain liquor and bar supplies
  • Monitor the level of intoxication of customers

Bartenders fill drink orders either directly from customers at the bar or through waiters and waitresses who place drink orders for dining room customers. Bartenders must know a wide range of drink recipes and be able to mix drinks correctly and quickly. When measuring and pouring beverages, they must avoid spillage or overpouring. They also must work well with waiters and waitresses and other kitchen staff to ensure that customers receive prompt service.

Some establishments, especially busy establishments with many customers, use equipment that automatically measures and pours drinks at the push of a button. Bartenders who use this equipment, however, still must become familiar with the ingredients for special drink requests and be able to work quickly to handle numerous drink orders.

In addition to mixing and serving drinks, bartenders stock and prepare garnishes for drinks and maintain an adequate supply of ice, glasses, and other bar supplies. They also wash glassware and utensils and serve food to customers who eat at the bar. Bartenders are usually responsible for ordering and maintaining an inventory of liquor, mixers, and other bar supplies.

Work Environment for Bartenders[About this section] [To Top]

Bartenders hold about 611,200 jobs. The largest employers of bartenders are as follows:

Restaurants and other eating places 45%
Drinking places (alcoholic beverages) 28
Civic and social organizations 7
Traveler accommodation 7
Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries 6

Bartenders typically work indoors, some work outdoors at pool or beach bars or at catered events.

During busy hours, bartenders are under pressure to serve customers quickly and efficiently while ensuring that no alcohol is served to minors or overly intoxicated customers.

Bartenders perform repetitive tasks, and sometimes they lift heavy kegs of beer and cases of liquor. In addition, the work can be stressful, particularly when they deal with intoxicated customers to whom they must deny service.

Because bartenders often are on the front lines of customer service in bars and restaurants, a neat appearance may be important. This is especially in upscale restaurants and bars, where they may be required to wear uniforms.

Bartender Work Schedules

Bartenders often work late evenings, on weekends, and on holidays. About 2 in 5 work part time.

How to Become a Bartender[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Bartenders near you!

Most bartenders learn their skills through short-term on-the-job training usually lasting a few weeks. No formal education is required.

Many bartenders are promoted from other jobs at the establishments in which they work. Bartenders at upscale establishments usually have attended bartending classes or have previous work experience.

Most states require workers who serve alcoholic beverages to be at least 18 years old. Bartenders must be familiar with state and local laws concerning the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Education for Bartenders

No formal education is required for anyone to become a bartender. However, some aspiring bartenders acquire their skills by attending a school for bartending or by attending bartending classes at a vocational or technical school. Programs in these schools often include instruction on state and local laws and regulations concerning the sale of alcohol, cocktail recipes, proper attire and conduct, and stocking a bar. The length of each program varies, but most courses last a few weeks. Some schools help their graduates find jobs.

Bartender Training

Most bartenders receive on-the-job training, usually lasting a few weeks, under the guidance of an experienced bartender. Training focuses on cocktail recipes, bar-setup procedures, and customer service, including how to handle unruly customers and other challenging situations. In establishments where bartenders serve food, the training may cover teamwork and proper food-handling procedures.

Some employers teach bartending skills to new workers by providing self-study programs, online programs, videos, and instructional booklets that explain service skills. Such programs communicate the philosophy of the establishment, help new bartenders build rapport with other staff, and instill a desire to work as part of a team.

Many states and localities require bartenders to complete a responsible-server course. The course is related to state and local alcohol laws, responsible serving practices, and conflict management. Courses may be available both in person and online. Depending on the state and locality, the server, owner, manager, or business may maintain a license to sell alcohol.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation for Bartenders

Some bartenders qualify through related work experience. They may start as bartender helpers and progress into full-fledged bartenders as they learn basic mixing procedures and recipes. Some bartenders may start as waiters and waitresses or food and beverage serving and related workers.

Important Qualities for Bartenders

Communication skills. Bartenders must listen carefully to their customers' orders, explain drink and food items, and make menu recommendations. They also should be able to converse with customers on a variety of subjects and create a friendly and welcoming environment.

Customer-service skills. Bartenders must have good customer-service skills to ensure repeat business.

Decisionmaking skills. Bartenders must be able to make good decisions. For example, they should be able to detect intoxicated and underage customers and deny service to those individuals.

Physical stamina. Bartenders spend hours on their feet walking and standing while preparing drinks and serving customers.

Physical strength. Bartenders should be able to lift and carry heavy cases of liquor, beer, and other bar supplies—cases that often weigh up to 50 pounds.

Bartender Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median hourly wage for bartenders is $10.00. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.32, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $19.34.

The median hourly wages for bartenders in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Traveler accommodation $11.09
Restaurants and other eating places 10.41
Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries 9.70
Drinking places (alcoholic beverages) 9.59
Civic and social organizations 9.34

Bartenders' earnings often come from a combination of hourly wages and customers' tips. Earnings vary greatly with the type of establishment. For example, in some upscale, popular, or busy restaurants, bars, and casinos, bartenders make more in tips than in wages.

Tipped employees earn at least the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour, as of July 24, 2009), which may be paid as a combination of direct wages and tips, depending on the state. Direct wages may be as low as $2.13 per hour, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Also according to the FLSA, tipped employees are employees who regularly receive more than $30 a month in tips. The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor maintains a website listing minimum wages for tipped employees, by state, although some localities have enacted minimum wages higher than their state requires.

Bartenders often work late evenings, on weekends, and on holidays. About 2 in 5 work part time.

Job Outlook for Bartenders[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of bartenders is projected to grow 2 percent over the next ten years, slower than the average for all occupations.

Population and income growth are expected to result in more demand for food, drinks, and entertainment. This increased demand is expected to be met with increased bartender employment in full-service restaurants, which is projected to increase 7 percent. Bartender employment in drinking places, on the other hand, is projected to decrease 8 percent over the next ten years, as customers increasingly obtain these services at full-service restaurants and some local bars close.

Job Prospects for Bartenders

Job prospects are expected to be very good because of the need to replace the many workers who leave the occupation each year.

Competition is expected for bartending jobs in popular restaurants and fine-dining establishments, in both of which tips are highest. Those who have graduated from bartending schools or those with previous work experience and excellent customer-service skills should have the best job prospects.

Employment projections data for Bartenders, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Bartenders 611,200 626,300 2 15,100


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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