All You Need To Know About Being A Bartender

You think about becoming a bartender but are not entirely sure whether this career path is right for you or not?

Great! This article is exactly for you since I will show you all you need to know about a bartender career in the following chapters.

Not only will I show you how much you can make as a bartender, but we will also talk about job security, job satisfaction, working hours, educational requirements and much more.

After reading this article, you will have a much better idea of what a bartender career will look like for you.

Moreover, at the end of this article, I will also provide you with a nice FAQ section where I answer all questions about being a bartender you should imagine.

Table of Contents

What does a Bartender do?

Bartenders serve cocktails, beers, wines or soft drinks from behind the bar.

They are crucial to keep bars running and the better the barkeeper, the more successful the respective bar will be in the long run.

Bartenders are not only responsible for mixing delicious drinks, but they also have to communicate with guests in a friendly manner so that guests feel well and will come back soon.

Duties of a Bartender

  • Serving alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to guests
  • Invention of new drinks
  • Communication with guests
  • Providing a cozy and entertaining atmosphere
  • Verifying a customers age
  • Processing payments
  • Cleaning used glasses
  • Promotion of the bar they work in
  • Making sure that no money is stolen from behind the bar
  • Gathering receipts for accounting purposes
  • Making sure that the bar looks tidy and welcoming

What a Typical Day of a Bartender looks like?

Since most bars just open in the evening or at nighttime, bartenders will usually not start their workday before 6 p.m.

Once they get to their workplace, they will get brief instructions from their boss regarding what to expect that night and what specials the bar will offer to customers.

After that, you will get straight to work and will mix delicious drinks all night long.

Depending on the opening hours of the bar you work in and also on the shift you have to do, you may finish your workday between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. in the morning.

Hence, if you want to work as a bartender, you should not be afraid to work long hours at nighttime on a regular basis.

Once you get home from work, you will usually fall asleep soon to regain power for the next stressful days yet to come.

Bartender Salary 2021

Bartender salary brackets 2021

Salary BracketsSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Top 10 %> $41,000> $20.31
Top 25 %$33,000 – $36,000$16.21 – $17.64
Bottom 25 %$22,000 – $26,000$10.82 – $12.39
Bottom 10 %$16,000 – $19,000$7.71 – $9.28
Range$16,000 – $44,000$7.71 – $21.81
Average$31,000$15.28

Bartender salary 2021 by expert level

Level of ExperienceSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Entry level$16,000 – $19,000$7.71 – $9.28
Junior$18,000 – $22,000$8.81 – $10.76
Professional$19,000 – $27,000$9.31 – $13.29
Senior Professional$24,000 – $32,000$11.72 – $15.76
Expert$28,000 – $37,000$13.81 – $18.28
Top Expert$33,000 – $44,000$16.32 – $21.81

Bartender salary by state 2021 (average)

StateSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Alabama$28,200$14.02
Alaska$27,300$13.51
Arizona$31,600$15.47
Arkansas$29,800$14.71
California$39,300$19.43
Colorado$32,600$16.18
Connecticut$29,600$14.61
Delaware$30,200$15.03
District of Columbia$34,800$17.27
Florida$32,900$16.29
Georgia$31,700$15.61
Guam$30,200$15.04
Hawaii$34,700$17.26
Idaho$31,500$15.62
Illinois$31,200$15.33
Indiana$33,500$16.48
Iowa$32,900$16.32
Kansas$29,300$14.49
Kentucky$28,700$14.27
Louisiana$32,800$16.31
Maine$33,100$16.42
Maryland$34,200$17.03
Massachusetts$36,100$17.82
Michigan$30,400$15.11
Minnesota$31,300$15.46
Mississippi$29,400$14.58
Missouri$28,700$14.29
Montana$29,300$14.58
Nebraska$31,200$15.42
Nevada$37,400$18.61
New Hampshire$31,300$15.52
New Jersey$34,200$17.06
New Mexico$29,800$14.71
New York$41,200$20.42
North Carolina$32,400$16.15
North Dakota$31,900$15.76
Ohio$33,200$16.41
Oklahoma$31,800$15.73
Oregon$34,200$17.07
Pennsylvania$35,600$17.62
Rhode Island$32,700$16.25
South Carolina$33,100$16.48
South Dakota$32,700$16.29
Tennessee$31,500$15.61
Texas$29,800$14.73
Utah$31,900$15.81
Vermont$33,200$16.52
Virginia$31,100$15.48
Washington$33,600$16.61
West Virginia$30,900$15.37
Wisconsin$29,700$14.63
Wyoming$30,400$15.14

Job Security for Bartenders

Bartenders have almost no job security at all.

Quite often, they don’t have long-term contracts and rather work on an hourly basis.

Moreover, bartenders are also pretty replaceable since almost everyone can do this job.

Hence, you will have to fear losing your job on a continuous basis and this can really be emotionally stressful in the long run since you will never know if you can pay your bills in future months.

Future Job Prospects of Barkeepers

Job prospects for barkeepers are not only pretty poor right now, but you should also not expect them to get better in the long run.

In fact, many people will be able to do this job in the future and you will therefore have to deal with fierce competition in this field.

Consequently, also wages will stay relatively low.

Working Hours of Bartenders

Bartenders often get to work between 6 and 9 p.m. and will usually quit their workday between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. in the morning.

Consequently, you should be willing to work at nighttime on a regular basis before you decide for becoming a barkeeper.

Job Satisfaction of Bartenders

Job satisfaction among barkeepers is rather low.

Since working as a mixologist can be exhausting and working hours are quite exotic, barkeepers come home tired from work on a regular basis and will still not make good money from what they are doing.

Consequently, many bartenders and barmaids think about quitting their jobs.

Promotion Opportunities of Bartenders

Promotion opportunities are almost non-existent for bartenders.

You will just do the same job for many years or even decades and this can be really frustrating since you can work as hard as possible but will still be on the same level as someone who just starts out with his barkeeper career.

Career Levels of Bartenders

  • Bartender intern
  • Junior barkeeper
  • Senior barkeeper
  • Bartender with personnel responsibilities
  • Bar owner

Fields and Types of Bartenders

  • Weekend bartender
  • Weekday bartender
  • Student bartender
  • Bartender who works at pubs
  • Barkeeper who works at restaurants
  • Barkeeper who works at events
  • Club bartender
  • Cocktail barkeeper
  • Beer barkeeper
  • Soft drink barkeeper
  • Club bartender

Educational Requirements for Bartenders

There are no strict educational requirements for becoming a bartender.

Rather than looking good on paper, it is much more important that you are willing to work hard and that you gather some experience in this field.

If you are able to make good cocktails and are also fast enough, many bars will be willing to employ you even if you don’t have a fancy degree or other forms of education.

How to become a Bartender

  1. Inform yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of being a bartender
  2. Work as an intern at a bar
  3. Work as a bartender during weekends
  4. Get decent grades in school
  5. Apply at many bars and clubs
  6. Make a good impression at job interviews
  7. Master your first days at work
  8. Become an important part of the bar team
  9. Invent new drinks to make guests happy in the long run
  10. Open your own bar (optional)

Character Traits you need for Working as a Bartender

  • Creativity helps to invent new drinks
  • Willingness to work in a physical manner
  • You should be willing to work at nighttime
  • You should be friendly and outgoing
  • You should be brave enough to work while many people look at you
  • Ability to deal with stress is important
  • You should be a team player
  • You should be empathetic
  • Good promotion skills help that guests will come back in the long run

Hard Skills for Being a Bartender

  • Good knowledge of drink recipes
  • Ability to process information fast
  • Knowledge of legal requirements and regulations
  • Math skills are important to give clients proper change
  • You have to work in a clean and hygienic manner
  • High fitness level
  • You need a good memory
  • Multitasking skills can help you remember what guests order

Soft Skills for Being a Bartender

  • Stress resistance
  • Ability to handle information in a proper manner
  • Composure
  • Empathy to solve conflicts among guests
  • Kindness
  • Flexibility regarding working hours
  • Good communication skills
  • Good organizational skills
  • Good time management skills
  • Efficiency is key

Exit Options for Bartenders

There are not many exit options for bartenders.

While bartenders are sometimes able to work as waiters, chances are that you will get stuck in this industry for quite a long time.

Hence, before you decide for a career as a bartender, make sure that this is what you really want to do for quite a long time or at least make sure to learn additional skills on the side to improve your chances in other fields of work.

Bartender – Similar Careers

  • Waiter
  • Chef
  • Caterer
  • Counter worker
  • Service worker
  • Cashier
  • Kitchen helper
  • Restaurant host
  • Bar owner

Bartender Career FAQs

Is working as a bartender physically demanding?

Since you will have to mix drinks all night long, working as a barkeeper can be physically demanding.

In fact, many barkeepers complain about exhausting working conditions and you should therefore not become a barkeeper if you are not willing to work in a hard physical manner.

Is working as a bartender mentally demanding?

Working as a barkeeper can also be mentally demanding.

Quite often, you have to remember many orders at the same time and if you don’t have a good short-term memory, chances are that you will forget or confuse orders and your workday may be quite chaotic.

Is it dangerous to work as a bartender?

It is not exceptionally dangerous to work as a bartender.

However, there will often be conflicts between guests in bars and clubs and chances are that you will also get involved in those unpleasant things sooner or later.

Consequently, working as a bartender will not be as safe as working a classical office job.

How long do bartenders stay in their jobs?

Bartenders often don’t stay in their jobs for a long time.

Due to the rather exotic working hours and the unpleasant working conditions, bartenders often just work in this field for a few months or years to make some extra money on the side to finance a degree that enables them to work in a better job.

Is it easy for bartenders to find a new job?

If you live in a big city, it will be pretty easy for you to find a new job as a bartender since there will be numerous bars and clubs around.

However, if you live in a rather rural region, your chances of finding a new job as a barkeeper may be much lower.

Is it hard to switch from being a bartender to another field of work?

It is pretty hard for barkeepers to switch to another field of work since barkeepers often don’t learn many skills that are important in the job market right now.

Hence, if you want to get out of this industry, you will have to get a degree in a different field.

Otherwise, you may get stuck in the barkeeping industry forever.

Do bartenders have a high social status?

Bartenders don’t have a high social status.

Since almost everyone can do this job, people may often belittle you when you tell them what you do for a living.

Some people may even make fun of you and you should therefore make sure to have a strong mental mindset so that you can deal with those comments in an emotionally healthy manner.

Can you help out your family and friends as a bartender?

While you can mix nice drinks for your family and friends, you will still not be able to help them with really important stuff.

For instance, while roofers can fix the roofs of their friends, you will only be able to do minor things for your friends and you may therefore not have a high standing in your circle of friends since you will just not provide that much value.

Can bartenders work remotely?

Bartenders are not able to work remotely.

Instead, you will have to be present at work in person.

Consequently, you will also not be able to enjoy the high level of flexibility other people who work in classical office jobs from home will have.

Is it easy to find a partner as a bartender?

While it is relatively easy to hook up with people as a bartender, it will still be hard to maintain those relationships.

In fact, due to the exotic working hours, many relationships of bartenders will not work out in the long run and if your goal is to have a classical family life, chances are you should not go for a bartender career.

Do bartenders have to work on weekends?

Bartenders often have to work on weekends.

Fridays and Saturdays are usually the busiest times in a bar and you as a bartender will have to work long hours during those days to make your customers happy.

Hence, don’t become a bartender if you are not willing to work on weekends.

Do bartenders have to work on holidays?

You will also have to work on holidays quite often as a bartender.

While you may not have to work during all holidays, chances are that you will have to work at least some of them and if you rather want to enjoy those days with your family, you should definitely go for a different career instead.

Do I have to work at nighttime as a bartender?

Bartenders often have to work in the evening or at nighttime.

In fact, you will often not start your shift before 6 p.m. and may come home from work in the middle of the night.

Consequently, you should not aspire to a barkeeper career unless you are willing to work those unpleasant hours.

Do you have to travel as a bartender?

There is no need to travel as a barkeeper.

You will just work at the same bar for quite a long time and will not have to go to conferences or attend important business meetings in other cities or countries as you would have to do in many other office jobs.

Are bartender pensions good?

Since bartenders don’t make good money from what they are doing, their pensions will also be relatively low.

Moreover, barkeepers are also often not able to save enough money for retirement and this means that you may get into serious financial problems once you get older.

Are bartender salaries going up?

Bartender salaries have not been going up that much over the past years.

Since many people can do this job, there is no shortage of barkeepers in most regions and this will likely lead to a state where wages will stay relatively low in this industry.

Can you have a positive effect on society as a bartender?

You will not be able to have a significant positive effect on society as a barkeeper.

While teachers can educate many young people and doctors are able to save lives, you will be rather unimportant as a barkeeper in the bigger picture.

How long does it take to become a bartender?

Since bartenders don’t need any formal education in most states, you will be able to start your barkeeper career pretty soon.

In fact, you just need to apply for jobs in this field and can make money within a few weeks.

Is it difficult to become a bartender?

Becoming a barkeeper is not difficult since you don’t need a fancy degree for working in this industry.

However, you will still need some knowledge regarding how to mix drinks and you should therefore learn about this early in your life so that you can gather some experience and have a higher chance of finding a job in this field.

Do you need to be smart to work as a bartender?

You don’t need a high IQ for working as a barkeeper.

However, you should still have a good memory and also good multitasking skills to process all the information and orders of your customers quickly so that you stay organized in the long run.

Do bartenders have a good work-life balance?

Since bartenders often have to work at nighttime for long hours, they don’t have a good work-life balance most of the time.

In fact, many bartenders complain about poor working conditions and also about health issues and sleeping problems related to their jobs and are therefore also not able to enjoy their leisure as much as other people who don’t have to worry about these issues.

Do bartenders have to work many extra hours?

Bartenders don’t have to work many extra hours since they only have to work during the opening hours of the bar they work in.

However, barkeeper shifts can still be quite long and you should not expect your life as a bar keeper to be relaxed by any means.

How to maximize your chances of becoming a bartender?

The sooner you gather experience in this field, the higher the chances that someone will be willing to employ you as a barkeeper.

Hence, you should start with doing barkeeping jobs at your friends’ parties early to have something to show on your resume and to get better at mixing drinks in general.

Can bartenders work part-time?

It is possible to work part-time as a barkeeper.

In fact, many bartenders work in their jobs on an hourly basis to finance their college degree or to get out of debt while still having a day job that pays for their other expenses.

Do bartenders work indoors or outdoors?

Bartenders work indoors most of the time.

While you will be protected from bad weather, you will still often have to work in an atmosphere where air quality is pretty poor and if you work in those locations all night long, this can become really exhausting in the long run.

What does the workplace of a bartender look like?

Bartenders work in bars or clubs most of the time.

Consequently, you will also have to work in a rather loud and crowded environment and if you are not willing to work under those conditions, chances are that you should go for a different job instead.

Do you have to look good for working as a bartender?

While you don’t urgently have to look good as a barkeeper, it still helps since you will have a higher chance of getting a job in this field and also tips will be much higher, especially if you are a female since guys often want to give you high tips to make a good impression in front of you.

Is a bartender career beneficial for your private life?

A barkeeping career will not be beneficial for your private life at all.

Not only will you have to work rather exotic hours and don’t make good money, but you will also often come home tired.

Moreover, your partner may mistrust you and this may lead to conflicts in your relationships quite often.

Do you need a college degree for becoming a bartender?

You don’t need a degree for working as a bartender.

Instead, you don’t have to look good on paper at all.

What matters is that you are friendly to guests and that you have a talent for mixing nice drinks so that guests have a good time and will come back to the bar you work in.

Do you need to be certified to work as a bartender?

You also don’t need any certificates for working as a bartender.

While attending a barkeeper course may help, it is not a necessity and you should rather practice as much as possible to impress people when you do trial work.

How much does it cost to become a bartender?

Since you don’t need to go to college or get any other fancy education, you can become a bartender at virtually no cost.

Hence, while many other people have to go into debt to finance their studies, you will have a rather relaxed time in this regard and can make money at a rather early age.

Is being a bartender a good career?

Since bartenders have to work during nighttime and will not make good money from what they are doing, many bartenders are not happy with their jobs.

Thus, it may be fair to say that working as a barkeeper cannot be considered a good career.

Is it easy to start your own business as a bartender?

It is not that easy to start your own business as a bartender.

While you could start your own bar, you would need to make a huge upfront investment and many bartenders will not be able to save enough money to start such a venture.

Can bartenders teach themselves?

Bartenders can teach themselves quite a lot.

In fact, thanks to the internet, there are many channels on which you can watch how to make delicious drinks in no time.

Those channels are often free to use and this means that you can learn everything you need for becoming a barkeeper at virtually no cost.

Do bartenders make good money?

Bartenders often don’t make good money from what they are doing.

Instead, many barkeepers need a second job to pay their bills and if money and luxury are really important to you, you should not become a bar keeper but rather go for a career where you can earn significantly more.

Is it ever too late to become a bartender?

While you can work as a bartender at every age, it is still easier to work as a barkeeper at a rather young age.

Not only will you be more employable when you are still young, but you will also be fitter and the older you get, the harder it will be for you to work during the nighttime in an exhausting environment.

Do bartenders have to quit their careers early?

Many bartenders have to quit their careers early since they are simply no longer able to do the exhausting work at an older age.

Moreover, since bars often search for attractive bartenders, your chances of staying in this field until your 50s and 60s will be quite low.

What is the most challenging thing about working as a bartender?

The most challenging thing about being a bartender is that you always have to stay friendly and focused to not forget the orders of your clients, even in the middle of the night when you might get tired and your level of motivation may drop significantly.

Can you provide for your family by working as a bartender?

Providing for your family is pretty difficult as a bartender.

Since you will not make good money from what you are doing, your salary will often barely be enough to finance your own life and if you have kids, chances are that you will need a second job to provide for them as well.

Will bartenders suffer from old-age poverty?

Since bartenders don’t make good money, their pensions are often pretty low.

Consequently, many barkeepers have to deal with old-age poverty and will no longer be able to pay their bills once they get to retirement age.

Can bartenders retire early?

Since barkeepers don’t make good money from their jobs, most of them will not be able to retire early.

Hence, while many barkeepers will work in a different field once they get older, they still have to work in their 60s or even 70s to maintain their living standard since pensions will be rather low.

Can you get rich as a bartender?

It is not possible to get rich as a bartender, at least if you work as an employed barkeeper and don’t own your own bar.

If you really want to get rich in this industry, you have to be the owner rather than the one who does the actual work.

Do you get continuous training as a bartender?

You will not get continuous training as a bartender.

Once your first days are over, you will often be on your own and have to figure out how to structure your working processes so that you can work in the most efficient manner and can make your guests happy in the long run.

Are bartenders organized in unions?

Bartenders are not organized in unions.

Instead, every bartender has to make sure that he or she gets a decent salary and that working conditions are acceptable.

While this may work out in some cases, many bartenders are still not happy with their overall working conditions.

Do you get paid when you are sick as a bartender?

Whether you get sick pay or not as a barkeeper greatly depends on the bar you work for.

However, many times, you will only get paid if you go to work and if you are a person who gets sick quite often, this can be really frustrating and also problematic from a financial perspective.

Do bartenders have a high level of responsibility?

While bartenders have to make sure to control IDs so that they don’t give away alcohol to underaged people, they still don’t have the same high level of responsibility compared to doctors whose mistakes could take away the lives of many people every day.

Can bartenders work abroad?

Bartenders are able to work abroad.

In fact, the job of bartenders is pretty similar across country borders and if you are no longer happy with your barkeeping job in one state or country, you may just decide to move to a different one.

Is it stressful to work as a bartender?

Working as a bartender can be stressful.

Especially during busy times, you will have to process lots of information at the same time and if you are not the type of person who has a good memory, chances are that you will get lost pretty quickly.

Is it boring to work as a bartender?

Working as a barkeeper will never get boring.

You will just have many different clients every day and will be challenged quite a lot.

Hence, while your job may be exhausting, chances are that you will not get bored with what you are doing as a barkeeper anytime soon.

Is being a bartender hard?

A barkeeper career can be hard from a mental as well as from a physical standpoint.

In fact, you will have to remember many things at the same time and you will also have to work with your hands for your entire shift.

Is burnout a problem for bartenders?

While burnout is not a main issue among barkeepers, it can become an issue for you if you are not used to working at night and to deal with periods of high stress.

In such a case, you may rather want to go for a more relaxed job instead.

Is there a dress code for bartenders?

While there is no fixed dress code for barkeepers, many bars will provide you with uniforms so that you look nice and will represent the bar you work for in a decent manner so that the reputation of the bar will not suffer.

What kind of bartenders are paid the most?

The higher prices in bars are, the higher will be your salary since tips will also be much lower in those fancy locations compared to a dodgy dive bar.

Hence, if possible, make sure to work in high-class locations to make the most money as a barkeeper.

What percentage of bartenders are women?

Around 63% of barkeepers are women and 37% are men.

However, this also greatly depends on the type of location you work in and also on the region.

Thus, both genders can make a decent career in this field if they are willing to work hard and smart.

Do I need a mentor to succeed as a bartender?

You don’t need a mentor in the bartender industry.

Just learn your craft as best as possible and be nice to clients.

This will be enough to succeed as a barkeeper in the long run and the more you learn yourself and don’t rely on a mentor, the more confident you will get.

Will you be personally liable for mistakes as a bartender?

If you work as an employed bartender, you will not be personally liable for mistakes most of the time.

However, if you are the bar owner, you may be liable quite often and you should therefore make sure to get proper insurance to be covered in case of emergency.

Do bartenders have a high life expectancy?

Bartenders have a rather low life expectancy.

Since they don’t make good money, they will often not be able to afford proper medical treatment.

Moreover, since they have to work at nighttime, many barkeepers suffer from sleeping issues and those may translate into serious health issues sooner or later.

Do bartenders suffer from sleeping problems?

Since many barkeepers have to work at nighttime, sleeping problems are quite common in this industry.

Consequently, bartenders will also be at a high risk of all sorts of health problems and will also not be able to enjoy their leisure that much.

What states are best for working as a bartender?

Since barkeepers don’t make good money, you should work in a state where living costs are relatively low but where people are still willing to spend lots of money in bars so that you can get decent tips and make a reasonable living from what you are doing.

Who do bartenders work with?

Your main clients will be people who come to the bar you work for to enjoy a nice drink.

However, you will not only have to get along with your guests, but also with your colleagues since only if you are a team player, you will be able to master the high workload in the long run.

Is working as a bartender cool?

Working as a bartender is considered cool by many people in society.

However, most of those people have never actually worked as a barkeeper before and if they knew how the life of a bartender usually looks like, they would not consider barkeeping a cool career anymore.

Do you have to be creative as a bartender?

Being creative as a barkeeper helps since you will have an easier time inventing new drinks for your clients.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t make it as a person who is not that creative.

In such a case, you just need to work harder and invest more time for the same result.

How employable are bartenders?

Since almost everyone can do this job, there is a huge number of people who want to work in this field.

Consequently, you may have a hard time finding a job in the bartender industry in the long run, especially once your looks fade and your competition will be more attractive than you.

Are bartenders happy with their jobs?

Many barkeepers complain about their jobs.

In fact, barely anyone who works in this field is completely happy and many bartenders think about quitting their jobs since they want to go for something stabler instead.

Is working as a bartender exciting?

Working as a barkeeper can be pretty exciting.

In fact, many things will happen every day in a rather unexpected manner.

Consequently, you will never know what happens during your shift and this can make your workday pretty interesting.

What are the pros and cons of working as a bartender?

If you want to learn even more about a bartender career, also make sure to check out the pros and cons of being a barkeeper.

Sources

https://www.statista.com/statistics/198513/percentile-wage-estimates-of-bartenders/

https://www.statista.com/statistics/218983/us-restaurant-industry-employment–bartenders/

Interviews and own research.

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people about the different career paths that are possible in our current state of the world. In my opinion, people often make the mistake to choose their profession solely based on how much money they can earn from it instead of doing what makes them really happy.

This is quite sad and I just want to give people a more objective picture of how a fulfilling career could look like. I did the same when I started working in consulting after finishing my Master’s degree in Economics. However, I’ve quit pretty soon after that since I haven’t found true meaning in my job.

Now I can do what I really love to do and I want to enable as many other people as well to go this exciting path towards happiness instead of money.

I conducted various interviews with employees to give you a good impression of what working in different fields will look like and that you can make the best possible decision regarding your future career choice.

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