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Bartending Career

Career Description

Bartenders fill drink orders either taken directly from patrons at the bar or through waiters and waitresses who place drink orders for dining room customers. Bartenders check the identification of customers seated at the bar to ensure they meet the minimum age requirement for the purchase of alcohol and tobacco products. They prepare mixed drinks, serve bottled or draught beer, and pour wine or other beverages.

Common Work Tasks

  • Prepare drink orders
  • Stock and prepare garnishes for drinks
  • Maintain an adequate supply of ice, glasses, and other bar supplies
  • Keep the bar area clean for customers
  • Collect payment and operate the cash register
  • Wash glassware and utensils
  • Serve food to customers who dine at the bar
  • Order and maintain an inventory of liquor,  mixes, and other bar supplies
  • Check the identification of customers seated at the bar

Other Job Titles

Bartenders are also known by other titles, including:

  • Waiter/Waitress
  • Barmaid
  • Drink Server
  • Gaming Services Worker
  • Beverage Service Worker

Education, Training, and Experience

Education and Training
  There are no specific educational requirements for most bartending jobs, but most employers prefer to hire high school graduates. All new employees receive some training from their employer. They learn safe food handling procedures and sanitation practices, for example. Some employers teach new workers using self-study programs, on-line programs, audiovisual presentations, and instructional booklets that explain food preparation and service skills. But most bartenders pick up their skills by observing and working with more experienced workers.

Some bartenders also acquire their skills by attending a bartending or vocational and technical school.  These programs often include instruction on State and local laws and regulations, cocktail recipes, proper attire and conduct, and stocking a bar.  Some of these schools help their graduates find jobs. Although few employers require any minimum level of educational attainment, some specialized training is usually needed in food handling and legal issues surrounding serving alcoholic beverages. Employers are more likely to hire and promote based on people skills and personal qualities rather than education.

  All workers who serve alcoholic beverages must be at least 21 years of age in most jurisdictions and should be familiar with State and local laws concerning the sale of alcoholic beverages. For bartender jobs, many employers prefer to hire people who are 25 or older.


The median annual salary for a Bartender is $17,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $30,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $14,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of bartenders are:

  • Full-Service Restaurants - $20,430
  • Drinking Places - $18,350
  • Civic and Social Organizations - $17,440
  • Traveler Accommodation - $23,820
  • Other Amusement and Recreation Industries - $19,910

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  11%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 56,000
  • Employment 2006 : 495,000
  • Employment 2016:  551,000
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