Bartender Career Description


Bartenders mix drinks and serve them directly to customers or through wait staff.

What they do

Bartenders typically do the following:

  • Greet customers, give them menus, and inform them about daily specials
  • Take drink orders from customers
  • Pour and serve wine, beer, and other drinks and beverages
  • Mix drinks according to recipes
  • Check the identification of customers to ensure that they are of legal drinking age
  • Clean bars, tables, and work areas
  • Collect payments from customers and return change
  • Manage the operation of the bar, and order and maintain liquor and bar supplies
  • Monitor the level of intoxication of customers

Bartenders fill drink orders either directly from customers at the bar or through waiters and waitresses who place drink orders for dining room customers. Bartenders must know a wide range of drink recipes and be able to mix drinks correctly and quickly. When measuring and pouring beverages, they must avoid spillage or overpouring. They also must work well with waiters and waitresses and other kitchen staff to ensure that customers receive prompt service.

Some establishments, especially busy establishments with many customers, use equipment that automatically measures and pours drinks at the push of a button. Bartenders who use this equipment, however, still must become familiar with the ingredients for special drink requests and be able to work quickly to handle numerous drink orders.

In addition to mixing and serving drinks, bartenders stock and prepare garnishes for drinks and maintain an adequate supply of ice, glasses, and other bar supplies. They also wash glassware and utensils and serve food to customers who eat at the bar. Bartenders are usually responsible for ordering and maintaining an inventory of liquor, mixers, and other bar supplies.

Work Environment

Bartenders typically work indoors, some work outdoors at pool or beach bars or at catered events.

During busy hours, bartenders are under pressure to serve customers quickly and efficiently while ensuring that no alcohol is served to minors or overly intoxicated customers.

Bartenders perform repetitive tasks, and sometimes they lift heavy kegs of beer and cases of liquor. In addition, the work can be stressful, particularly when they deal with intoxicated customers to whom they must deny service.

Because bartenders often are on the front lines of customer service in bars and restaurants, a neat appearance may be important. This is especially true in upscale restaurants and bars, where they may be required to wear uniforms.

How to become a Bartender

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.


The median hourly wage for bartenders was $11.39 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.55, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $22.18.

Job Outlook

Employment of bartenders is projected to grow 6 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.

Population and income growth are expected to result in increased demand for food, drinks, and entertainment. More bartenders will be needed to meet this demand, especially in full-service restaurants and drinking places. Grocery stores and movie theaters are also adding bar services, which will create demand for bartenders in these businesses.

Similar Job Titles

Banquet Bartender, Bar Captain, Bar Manager, Bar Supervisor, Bartender, Mixologist

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More Information

The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field.  Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas.  As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.

  • Service Employees International Union - We are the Service Employees International Union, an organization of 2-million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide and dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society.
  • TIPS - TIPS (Training for Intervention ProcedureS) is the global leader in education and training for the responsible service, sale, and consumption of alcohol. Proven effective by third-party studies, TIPS is a skills-based training program designed to prevent intoxication, underage drinking, and drunk driving.
  • UNITE HERE - UNITE HERE is a labor union that represents 300,000 working people across Canada and the United States. Members work in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, transportation, and airport industries. Membership is diverse, predominantly women and people of color.
  • United States Bartenders' Guild - The goal of this organization is to empower bartenders to take charge of their careers. This is accomplished through working with committed partners to enrich the career advancement of members through peer-to-peer learning, expert instruction, service projects, and competition.

Magazines and Publications

Video Transcript

While many an amateur mixologist knows how to make an appealing drink, it requires a lot more knowledge and skill to become a professional bartender. Bartenders must know how to prepare a wide range of drink recipes— and the appropriate equipment to make them— and mix drinks quickly without waste. They serve drinks directly to customers, and work with wait staff and kitchen crews, often in busy conditions, to ensure that customers receive prompt, accurate service. Bartenders prepare garnishes for drinks, keep the bar stocked with supplies, and serve food to customers who sit at the bar. In addition to ensuring that customers are of legal drinking age, they converse with customers, and when necessary, they manage patrons’ unruly behavior. Bartenders also process payments from customers. Most bartenders work at restaurants, bars, clubs, and hotels. Full- and part-time schedules are both common, as is working late evenings, weekends, and holidays. Most bartenders learn their skills on the job, often starting as bartender helpers or wait staff. No formal education is required, although upscale establishments may prefer candidates with bartending experience or classes. Most states require workers who serve alcoholic beverages to be at least 18 years old.

Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH,
CareerOneStop, O*Net Online