Bartenders

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 bartender Jobs

  • Bartender - Prova California Table - Morgan Hill, CA

    Fresh, Hand Crafted cocktails. We like to promote from within, Bar Manager promotion possibility. Competetive pay plus great

  • Bartender/Server - Heritage Community of Kalamazoo - Kalamazoo, MI

    Knowledge of mixing, garnishing and serving drinks preferred -Serve Safe Alcohol is required within 30 days (training provided) -Prior experience

  • Bartender - Polpettina - Larchmont, NY

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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 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 bar operation and order and maintain liquor and bar supplies

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 over pouring. 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.

Bartenders in some establishments also use carbonated beverage dispensers, cocktail shakers, commercial strainers, trigger sprayers, and ice shaver machines.

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.

Some bartenders run their own bar or catering business. In addition to their standard bartending duties, these owners also are responsible for hiring, training, and supervising their staff; budgeting for and ordering supplies; and setting prices.

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

Bartenders hold about 580,900 jobs.

The industries that employ the most bartenders are as follows:

Restaurants and other eating places 46%
Drinking places (alcoholic beverages) 29
Civic and social organizations 8
Traveler accommodation 7

Bartenders work at restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels, and other food service and drinking establishments. Although bartenders typically work indoors, some bartenders 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 is important. Those who work in upscale restaurants and bars may be required to wear uniforms, including ties or aprons, which may be provided by their employers.

Bartender Work Schedules

Bartenders often work late evenings, weekends, and holidays. About 4 in 10 work part time.

Bartenders who run their own establishments often work many hours managing all business aspects to ensure bills and salaries are paid, supplies are ordered, and the business is profitable.

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.

Although most states require workers who serve alcoholic beverages to be at least 18 years old, most bartenders are 25 or older. Bartenders must be familiar with state and local laws concerning the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Bartender Education

No formal education is required 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. These programs 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 food service 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 a team.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

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 also may start as waiters and waitresses.

Advancement for Bartenders

Advancement for bartenders is usually limited to finding a job in a busier or more upscale restaurant or bar where prospects for earning tips are better. Some bartenders advance to supervisory jobs, such as dining room supervisor, maitre d', assistant manager, and restaurant general manager. A few bartenders open their own bars.

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.

Interpersonal skills. Bartenders should be friendly, tactful, and attentive when dealing with customers. For example, they should be able to tell a joke and laugh with a customer to build rapport.

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

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

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

The median hourly wage for bartenders is $9.39. 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 $8.16, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $18.26.

Bartenders’ earnings often come from a combination of hourly wages and tips from customers. Earnings vary greatly, depending on the type of establishment. For example, in some popular and 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).

According to the FLSA, tipped employees are those 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 with minimum wages for tipped employees, by state, although some localities have enacted minimum wages higher than their state requires.

Bartenders often work late evenings, weekends, and holidays. About 4 in 10 work part time.

Bartenders who run their own establishments often work many hours managing all business aspects to ensure that bills and salaries are paid, supplies are ordered, and that the business is profitable.

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

Employment of bartenders is projected to grow 10 percent through 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.

Population and income growth are expected to result in greater demand for food, drinks, and entertainment at a variety of food service and drinking places. In response, many new bars, taverns, clubs, and restaurants are expected to open and existing establishments are expected to expand to meet demand, resulting in more bartenders to serve drinks to customers.

Some hotels and motels are restructuring their food and alcohol service, thus moderating employment growth of bartenders in these industries. However, other restaurants are expected to open or expand their food and bar services in hotels to meet travelers’ demand for food and drinks.

Bartenders Job Prospects

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

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

Employment projections data for Bartenders, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Bartenders 580,900 640,900 10 60,100


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

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