Summary

bartenders image
Bartenders mix and serve drinks to customers.
Quick Facts: Bartenders
2012 Median Pay $18,900 per year
$9.09 per hour
Entry-Level Education Less than high school
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012 551,100
Job Outlook, 2012-22 12% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 65,600

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 establishments. During busy hours, they are under pressure to serve customers quickly and efficiently. They often work late evenings, weekends, and holidays. Nearly half worked part time in 2012.

How to Become a Bartender

Most bartenders learn their skills through short-term on-the-job training. 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 (including tips) for bartenders was $9.09 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of bartenders is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. High turnover is expected to result in good job opportunities. Strong competition is expected in popular restaurants and fine-dining establishments, where tips are highest.

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 wine and serve draft and bottled 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
  • Operate cash registers, 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, quickly, and without waste. 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, pours, and mixes 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 and other accessories, commercial strainers, mist and 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 may 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, they 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 551,100 jobs in 2012. 

The industries that employed the most bartenders in 2012 were as follows:

Restaurants and other eating places43%
Drinking places (alcoholic beverages)29
Civic and social organizations8
Traveler accommodation7
Other amusement and recreation industries5

Bartenders work at restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels, and other food service establishments. Although most bartenders work indoors, some work outdoors at pool or beach bars or when tending a bar 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, because they often deal with heavily intoxicated customers to whom they must deny service.

Because bartenders often are in the front line 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 are typically provided by their employers.

Work Schedules

Bartenders often work late evenings, weekends, and holidays. Nearly half worked part time in 2012. 

Bartenders who run their own business often work long hours managing all aspects of the business 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. 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 short-term 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, which includes handling unruly customers and other unpleasant 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, audiovisual presentations, and instructional booklets that explain service skills. Such programs communicate the philosophy of the establishment, help new bartenders build rapports with other staff, and instill a desire to work as a team.

Other Experience

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.

Advancement

Advancement for bartenders is usually limited to finding a job in a busier or more expensive 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, to create a friendly and welcoming environment at a bar.

Customer-service skills. Because establishments that serve alcohol rely on retaining current customers and attracting new ones, bartenders should have good customer-service skills to ensure repeat business.

Decision-making skills. Because of the legal issues that come with serving alcohol, bartenders must be able to make good decisions. For example, they should be able to detect intoxicated customers and deny further 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, serving customers, and sometimes lifting and carrying heavy cases of liquor, beer, and other bar supplies.

Pay About this section

Bartenders

Median hourly wages, May 2012

Total, all occupations

$16.71

Bartenders

$9.09

Food and beverage serving workers

$8.88

 

The median hourly wage (including tips) for bartenders was $9.09 in May 2012. 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 $7.85 per hour, and the top 10 percent earned more than $15.49 per hour.

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

In some states, tipped employees are paid the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour as of July 24, 2009) in addition to tips. Others earn more per hour, because they work in states that set minimum wages higher than the federal minimum.

States may have exceptions to the minimum wage laws in specific circumstances for tipped employees. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, tipped employees are those who regularly receive more than $30 a month in tips. The employer may consider tips as part of wages, but the employer must pay at least $2.13 an hour in direct wages. The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor maintains a website with minimum wages for tipped employees, by state.

Bartenders often work late evenings, weekends, and holidays. Nearly half worked part time in 2012.                                

Bartenders who run their own business often work long hours managing all aspects of the business 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 2012-22

Bartenders

12%

Total, all occupations

11%

Food and beverage serving workers

10%

 

Employment of bartenders is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

As the population grows, more people will dine out and drink at a variety of food and drinking places. In response, many new bars, taverns, clubs, and restaurants are expected to open to meet demand. However, the growing popularity of take-out food and the growing number and variety of places that offer self-service or carryout options, including many full-service restaurants, may moderate employment growth.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities are expected to be 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 school and those with previous work experience and excellent customer-service skills should have the best job prospects.

Employment projections data for bartenders, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Bartenders

35-3011 551,100 616,700 12 65,600 [XLS]

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 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Cashiers

Cashiers

Cashiers handle payments from customers purchasing goods and services.

Less than high school $18,970
Flight attendants

Flight Attendants

Flight attendants provide personal services to ensure the safety and comfort of airline passengers.

High school diploma or equivalent $37,240
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.

Less than high school $18,400
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.

Less than high school $19,300
Waiters and waitresses

Waiters and Waitresses

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

Less than high school $18,540
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bartenders,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/bartenders.htm (visited September 03, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014