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Waitress: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a waitress. Learn about job skills, training requirements, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you.

What is a Waitress?

Waitresses serve meals to customers in dining establishments such as restaurants. As a waitress, your job duties will include taking food and beverage orders, answering customer questions, and preparing drinks. You'll also serve food and drinks, clean tables and prepare checks. You'll need to have good organizational, customer service and communication skills.

In the table below, you can learn more about the skills of waitresses and what to expect in this career.

Training Required On-the-job
Key Skills Organization, customer service, good memory, physical stamina, problem-solving, communication
Job Growth (2018-2028) 6%*
Median Salary (2018) $21,780*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will Be My Job Duties as a Waitress?

As a waitress, your main responsibility is to bring customers their food and drinks in a dining establishment. You act as the liaison between the customer and the cook. Other job responsibilities include greeting a table of customers, taking their drink orders, bringing them their drinks, telling them the daily specials and answering any questions about the menu. You also take and serve food orders expeditiously. You then clear empty plates from tables and bring customers their checks.

Your job duties might vary depending upon the establishment where you work. For example, in a fine dining establishment you may work with other servers, busboys, bartenders and hostesses. These individuals help you in clearing tables, pouring drinks and running plates to tables. In a smaller establishment, you'll often perform all of these tasks yourself. Depending upon the restaurant, you may need to adhere to a strict uniform or follow specific guidelines on interacting with customers.

What Training and Education Might I Need?

You don't typically need a formal education to apply for a waitress position. Some establishments may prefer to hire wait staff who've completed high school. Restaurants that serve liquor might only hire you if you're at least 18 years old.

In your first position as a waitress you'll typically learn the skills of the trade on-the-job from an experienced employee or supervisor. Many fine dining establishments prefer to hire wait staff that have some previous skill set. You might begin working as a hostess or busboy in such an establishment and then work your way up to a waitressing position.

What Could I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that waiters and waitresses together held more than 2.5 million jobs across the country in 2018 (www.bls.gov). The median annual wage in the field in 2018 was $21,780, according to the BLS. Most restaurants pay wait staff a minimum wage plus tips. Data from the BLS states that some of the top-paying organizations in the field in 2018 included travel arrangement and reservation services, grantmaking and giving services and management of companies.

What is the Employment?

According to the BLS, employment for waitresses and waiters was expected to rise by six percent between 2018 and 2028. As the population continues to grow, the need for servers and wait staff will continue to grow. There's also a high turnover in the profession, which increases job opportunities for new waitresses and waiters.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Other careers that don't require formal training include those of bartenders, cashiers, and food and beverage serving workers. Bartenders are responsible for mixing and serving drink orders, and can work at a variety of establishments, including restaurants and bars. Cashiers work at cash registers and process customer payments, returns and exchanges. Food and beverage serving workers work in drinking and dining establishments and perform job duties that include taking and preparing orders, serving food and drinks and cleaning.