Bartender Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a bartender. Learn about training requirements, job outlook, key skills and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Culinary Arts degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Bartender?

Bartenders mix and serve drinks to customers. As a bartender, you'll be responsible for the entire bar area, including keeping track of inventory and cash. Your job duties include greeting customers, taking orders, pouring and serving drinks, checking customer IDs, cleaning and managing bar operations. You may work at a variety of establishments, including restaurants and bars.

Review the table below to see what other skills are commonly needed, along with other career information.

Education Required None; vocational training programs are available
Training Required On-the-job training under experienced bartender
Key Skills Customer service, listening, physical stamina, interpersonal
Job Growth (2014-2024)10% growth*
Median Salary (2015) $19,530*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do As a Bartender?

Your primary duties would include mixing and serving cocktails and other beverages to patrons at restaurants, bars and events. However, you'd be responsible for the entire bar area, including inventory, cleaning, cash handling and customer service. You'll most likely work behind a bar, taking orders directly from customers or from wait staff. Depending on the location, you might also be required to provide food service to customers.

You'll need to be able to recognize different types of beers, spirits and wines and know how to make a variety of cocktails using different types of ingredients. The job can be fast-paced, requiring exceptional organization and critical-thinking skills. As a bartender, you'll be responsible for your customers, ensuring they're of drinking age, moderating their drinking and securing safe transportation if they've had too much to drink.

Where Could I Find Work?

You could opt to start your own business, contracting your services for special occasions or filling in for understaffed establishments. You could also find employment at fine or casual dining restaurants, taverns, hotels, resorts, sporting events or catered engagements. You might be required to travel for work.

What Training Will I Need?

If you have no previous experience, some establishments provide you with on-the-job training from a manager or a more seasoned bartender. If you decide to work for a well-known bar or fine dining restaurant, you might need some previous bartending experience. You could also start as a bartender's assistant or a member of the wait staff before becoming a bartender.

Formal education in bartending isn't usually required for an entry-level job, though some vocational schools and community colleges offer certificate programs in mixology and bartending. You can usually complete a program in a few weeks, and some schools offer convenient evening or online classes. You'll learn the responsibilities for serving alcoholic drinks, keeping your bar clean and monitoring stock and inventory. Hands-on or interactive courses teach you how to mix a number of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

What Salary Can I Expect to Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 589,000 individuals were employed as bartenders in the U.S. in 2015 (www.bls.gov). The median annual bartender's salary in that year was $19,530, per BLS data. The BLS also found that the establishment and location in which a bartender worked determined wages.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Other careers in the food and dining industry that don't require any formal training credentials include those of waitresses and waiters, food and beverage serving workers and food preparation workers. Waitresses and waiters take orders and serve food and drinks. Food and beverage serving workers take and prepare orders, serve food and drinks and clean. Food preparation workers work in kitchens and restaurants and may perform similar duties to food and beverage serving workers, including preparing food and cleaning.

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