6 Steps to become a bartender (without any experience)

Last updated: May 27, 2024
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6 Steps to become a bartender (without any experience)
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If you enjoy the art of mixing drinks and interacting with people, a career as a bartender might be ideal for you.

While bartending often involves late nights and a lot of work on your feet, it can be an extremely satisfying career, especially for night owls and people with extroverts.

But what exactly do bartenders do? How much can you expect to earn? And how can you go about pursuing a career as a bartender?

In this article, we’ll look at what bartenders do, the job outlook for this career, and how much you can expect to get paid. We’ll also give you a step-by-step guide to becoming a bartender and beyond.

What is a bartender?

Bartenders work in bars, restaurants, clubs, and other establishments, filling drink orders for customers either directly or through dining room servers. They can also work as freelancers; for instance, they can be hired as independent contractors at private parties.

Employment of bartenders is predicted to grow by 18% from 2021 to 2031, which is much faster than average.

This is because as population and income rates grow, a higher demand for food, drinks, and entertainment follows. As a result, restaurants and other food and hospitality establishments hire more bartenders and food service workers to fulfill customer demands.

This makes a bartending career an excellent choice regarding future job security.

What does a bartender do?

Bartenders have various responsibilities.

They must be familiar with a wide range of drink recipes and be able to mix each one quickly while avoiding spillage. Aside from this, they also have many other tasks. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Greeting customers and offering them menus

  • Handling payments from customers

  • Pouring and serving beer and wine

  • Checking customers’ identification to make sure they’re of legal drinking age

  • Following established regulations and rules regarding alcoholic beverages

Learn more about the job responsibilities of a bartender.

During busy hours, bartenders are often under a lot of pressure to serve customers quickly and efficiently. They perform many repetitive tasks and sometimes need to lift heavy cases of liquor. Their work may also be stressful while handling intoxicated and demanding customers.

Bartenders are often required to work late evenings, weekends, and holidays. Part-time work for them is typical. However, their schedules can differ based on their place of employment and work agreement.

Explore other part-time jobs.

How much do bartenders earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, bartenders earn an average salary of $26,350 per year or $12.67 per hour. The lowest 10% of earners earn around $8.50 per hour, while the top 10% earn about $23 per hour. However, their salaries can differ based on several factors, including their industry, tips, and location.

Industry

The top-paying industries for bartenders include restaurants, other eating establishments, and travel accommodations.

On the other hand, the amusement, gambling, and recreational industries, as well as drinking establishments such as bars, tend to pay their bartenders below average.

This wage data includes tips. Tipped bartenders earn at least the federal minimum wage, which differs from state to state, plus the tips they receive.

Location

Bartenders can also earn significantly more or less based on where they live — a factor that is largely determined by the cost of living. For example, bartenders in New York can earn up to 75% more than average, while those who live in Chicago can earn up to 21% less.

Here are some other locations that also pay far higher or lower wages than average:

  • Those in San Francisco earn 69% more than average.

  • Those in Seattle make 56% more than average.

  • Those in Las Vegas make 40% more than average.

  • Those in Orlando make 21% less than average.

  • Those in Atlanta make 22% less than average.

  • Those in Houston make 12% less than average.

Similar occupations and how much they earn

Here are some similar occupations and how much people in these professions earn:

Food preparation workers

Food preparation workers typically work in the kitchen and are, as their title indicates, responsible for preparing and cooking food. People in this profession earn an average of $28,780 per year or $13.84 per hour.

Food service managers

Food service managers are in charge of the day-to-day operations of restaurants or other establishments that prepare, cook, and serve food to customers.

Since this is a managerial position, food service managers earn a higher salary than food preparation servers. On average, food service managers earn $59,440 annually or $28.58 per hour.

Servers

Servers work in dining establishments. They take customers’ orders and serve food and drinks to them. On average, they earn $26,000 annually or $12.50 per hour.

Flight attendants

Flight attendants are responsible for ensuring airline passengers’ safety, comfort, and security. During longer flights, they’re required to bring customers food and beverages. On average, flight attendants earn $61,640 per year.

What skills do bartenders need?

You need several bartending skills to be good at your job. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Communication skills: Since you’ll frequently interact with customers and co-workers, you need strong verbal communication skills. An extroverted personality can also make you come across as more friendly and talkative.

  • Ability to work under pressure: During busy shifts, you’ll juggle many tasks at the same time. Even during these times, you’ll be expected to work fast and efficiently. Thus, you must be good at multitasking and work well under pressure.

  • Listening skills: Bars and restaurants are often filled with noise — laughter, chatter, and music. Since you’ll be taking orders directly from customers and servers, you need good listening skills to ensure you get the orders right.

  • Mixology skills: Besides knowing the recipes of popular drinks, such as blue lagoons and martinis, you need to be able to mix drinks as fast as possible without spilling them.

  • Math skills: As part of your job, you must handle cash and tips. Being good at math makes this much easier — especially during busy nights when you need to make quick calculations.

  • Bartending lingo: You need to know lingo such as “dirty,” which means a martini with olive juice, “neat,” which means no ice, and “on the rocks,” which means with ice.

  • Teamwork: You’ll be required to coordinate with wait staff, other bartenders, bussers, cooks, and managers. Thus, you’ll need to be able to work well in a team setting.

  • A strong memory: You won’t always have the time to write down drink orders. Therefore, it’s essential for you to have a good memory so you can remember orders — and therefore avoid unhappy customers.

Learn what hard skills are and how to highlight them on your resume to stand out.

Steps to become a bartender

If you’re considering a career as a bartender, there are steps you can take to succeed more quickly.

1. Earn a high school diploma and meet the age requirement

While an associate’s or bachelor’s degree isn’t required to become a bartender, you do need a high school diploma. If you don’t have one, you can get a GED instead — which takes about three months to complete.

You also need to be old enough to serve alcohol.

The minimum age requirements differ by state. Bartenders in some states must be at least 21 years old, whereas other states only require you to be 18 or even 16. However, if you’re under 21, you’ll need to be supervised if you bartend.

See what the requirements are in your state.

2. Get a bartending license

A bartending license isn’t required in all states. However, having a license could help you stand out above other candidates so you can land the job easier.

You need to be the minimum age for serving alcohol to get licensed. In addition to meeting state requirements, a bartending license will teach you:

  • Knowledge about drinking laws and penalties regarding minors

  • How to handle any disturbances, such as troublesome customers

  • How to identify intoxication in customers

A simple internet search will tell you where you can get your bartending license. But make sure the course you take is state-approved.

3. Gain experience

You can start gaining experience by working as a barback. This position doesn’t require any experience — just a willingness to work hard and learn.

As a barback, you’ll be expected to do a lot of the manual work and heavy lifting. This includes carrying beer kegs, restocking, and cleaning behind the bar.

Working as a barback isn’t easy, but it’ll teach you all about operations in the food service industry. To learn as much as possible, you need to pay attention to everything happening around you and look for as many opportunities to help the bartender and other staff as you can.

For example, start memorizing lingo and become familiar with different types of tarnishes and barware. You can also volunteer to help with customer requests to start gaining experience.

4. Learn and improve your skills

The most successful bartenders work on perfecting their skills. As you start gaining experience, you’ll need to continue practicing your skills both on and off duty.

For instance, you can:

  • Practice pouring drinks

  • Practice mixology

  • Study cocktail ingredients

  • Learn to work under pressure

  • Study bartender lingo

You can even take it a step further by doing additional research on new mixing techniques that could increase your efficiency.

5. Get a bartending job

Once you’ve gained enough bartending experience and improved your skills, you can work your way up to a bartending position. You may get a bartending job in the same establishment where you worked as a barback, or you may need to apply for a job at a different restaurant.

Creating a stellar resume that stands out from the crowd will help you land the position over others. Follow these tips to improve your resume.

6. Advance to a managerial position

Bartenders can work their way up the ladder.

Those with several years of experience have a good chance of gaining employment in busier, more successful establishments. They also have excellent advancement opportunities that can help them gain leadership roles.

For example, bartenders can be promoted to several management positions, including:

  • Restaurant manager

  • Bar manager

  • General manager

They can also open their own restaurant or bar when they’ve gained enough experience and funds.

Get your first bartending job

Are you ready to pursue a career as a bartender? If so, you can follow the steps outlined in this article.

Start by finishing your high school diploma and getting a bartender license. Then, gain experience by working as a barback, and work your way up until you get a bartender position.

You can apply for barback or bartender positions on our job board. Simply head over to the Jobcase Job Board and type the word “barback” or “bartender” into the search bar alongside your location. Browse the available jobs to find the ideal position for you.

Interested in exploring other jobs in the food industry? Discover high-paying food industry careers and tips to land the job easier.

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