How to Become a Bartender
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.
Most states require workers who serve alcoholic beverages to be at least 18 years old. Bartenders must be familiar with state and local laws concerning the sale of alcoholic beverages.
No formal education is required for anyone 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. Programs in these schools 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.
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 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 part of a team.
Many states and localities require bartenders to complete a responsible-server course. The course is related to state and local alcohol laws, responsible serving practices, and conflict management. Courses may be available both in person and online. Depending on the state and locality, the server, owner, manager, or business may maintain a license to sell alcohol.
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 may start as waiters and waitresses or food and beverage serving and related workers.
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.
Physical stamina. Bartenders spend hours on their feet walking and standing while preparing drinks and serving customers.
Physical strength. Bartenders should be able to lift and carry heavy cases of liquor, beer, and other bar supplies—cases that often weigh up to 50 pounds.