Summary

bartenders image
Bartenders mix drinks and serve them to customers.
Quick Facts: Bartenders
2015 Median Pay $19,530 per year
$9.39 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education No formal educational credential
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 580,900
Job Outlook, 2014-24 10% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 60,100

What Bartenders Do

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

Work Environment

Bartenders work at restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels, and other food service and drinking establishments. During busy hours, they are under pressure to serve customers quickly and efficiently. They often work late evenings, weekends, and holidays. About 4 in 10 worked part time in 2014.

How to Become a Bartender

Most bartenders learn their skills on the job. No formal education is required. Although most states require workers who serve alcoholic beverages to be at least 18 years old, most bartenders are 25 or older.

Pay

The median hourly wage for bartenders was $9.39 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of bartenders is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. High turnover is expected to result in very good job opportunities. Strong competition is expected in popular restaurants and fine-dining establishments, where tips are highest.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for bartenders.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of bartenders with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about bartenders by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Bartenders Do About this section

Bartenders
Bartenders mix drinks according to recipes.

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

Duties

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 About this section

Bartenders
Bartenders usually work evenings and weekends.

Bartenders held about 580,900 jobs in 2014. 

The industries that employed the most bartenders in 2014 were 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.

Work Schedules

Bartenders often work late evenings, weekends, and holidays. About 4 in 10 worked part time in 2014. 

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

Bartenders
Bartenders should be friendly, tactful, and attentive when dealing with customers.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

Pay About this section

Bartenders

Median hourly wages, May 2015

Total, all occupations

$17.40

Bartenders

$9.39

Food and beverage serving workers

$9.19

 

The median hourly wage for bartenders was $9.39 in May 2015. 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 worked part time in 2014.

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 About this section

Bartenders

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Bartenders

10%

Food and beverage serving workers

8%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of bartenders is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 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.

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 SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Bartenders

35-3011 580,900 640,900 10 60,100 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of bartenders.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Cashiers

Cashiers

Cashiers process payments from customers purchasing goods and services.

No formal educational credential $19,310
Flight attendants

Flight Attendants

Flight attendants provide routine services and respond to emergencies to ensure the safety and comfort of airline passengers.

High school diploma or equivalent $44,860
Food and beverage serving and related workers

Food and Beverage Serving and Related Workers

Food and beverage serving and related workers perform a variety of customer service, food preparation, and cleaning duties in restaurants, cafeterias, and other eating and drinking establishments.

No formal educational credential $19,040
Food preparation workers

Food Preparation Workers

Food preparation workers perform many routine tasks under the direction of cooks, chefs, or food service managers. Food preparation workers prepare cold foods, slice meat, peel and cut vegetables, brew coffee or tea, and perform many other food service tasks.

No formal educational credential $20,180
Waiters and waitresses

Waiters and Waitresses

Waiters and waitresses take orders and serve food and beverages to customers in dining establishments.

No formal educational credential $19,250
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bartenders,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/bartenders.htm (visited June 26, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

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Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. This tab may also provide information on earnings in the major industries employing the occupation.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.