How to Become a Bartender
Bartenders should be friendly, tactful, and attentive when dealing with customers.
Bartenders typically do not need formal education credentials to enter the occupation, although some employers require or prefer for candidates to have a high school diploma. They typically learn their skills through on-the-job training that lasts a few weeks. Some bartenders gain experience in other jobs or occupations.
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.
Bartenders typically need no formal education to enter the occupation, although employers may prefer or require candidates to have a high school diploma. Some aspiring bartenders acquire their skills by attending a school for bartending or taking courses at a community college. These programs usually include instruction on mixing cocktails, serving customers, and setting up a bar. Some schools help their graduates find jobs.
Bartenders typically receive on-the-job training that lasts a few weeks. Under the guidance of an experienced bartender, trainees learn cocktail recipes, bar-setup procedures, and customer service, including how to handle unruly customers and other challenging situations. In establishments where bartenders serve food, training may cover teamwork and proper food-handling procedures.
Some employers teach bartending skills to new workers by providing self-study programs, which may include videos and instructional booklets, that explain service skills.
License and Certification
Depending on the state and locality, a server, owner, manager, or business may be required to maintain a license to sell alcohol. Most states require that bartenders be at least 18 years old.
Many states and localities require bartenders to complete a responsible-server course. This course typically covers topics such as laws related to the sale of alcoholic beverages, responsible serving practices, and conflict management.
Although optional, professional certification may demonstrate basic knowledge or competency in bartending practices. Certification is available upon successful completion of some courses or programs.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Bartenders typically do not need related work experience to enter the occupation. However, some employers prefer or require candidates to have food-service experience in occupations such as waiters and waitresses or food and beverage serving and related workers. Others start as bartender helpers and progress to become bartenders as they learn basic mixing procedures and recipes.
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.
Customer-service skills. By creating a friendly and welcoming environment, bartenders help to ensure repeat business.
Decision-making skills. Bartenders must observe customers, identify those who are intoxicated or underage, and deny them service.
Multitasking skills. Bartenders must make drinks for and take orders from multiple customers, monitor customers at the bar, and receive payments in a fast, efficient manner.
Physical stamina. Bartenders spend hours walking or standing while preparing drinks and serving customers.
Physical strength. Bartenders should be able to lift and carry cases of liquor, beer, and other bar supplies that may weigh up to 50 pounds.