Skip to content


How To Become A Bartender

How To Become A Bartender

Few things in this world match the buzzing atmosphere of a cocktail bar, wine bar, or restaurant. Aside from the dim lights, atmospheric music, and delicious drinks, hospitality industry workers bring these places to life. If you have a passion for people and well-crafted alcoholic beverages, you might have what it takes to become one. 

Successful bartenders can enjoy a fulfilling career on a good salary. Their work is fast-paced, creative, and always customer-centered. And, while there is a lot to know about the industry, aspiring bartenders shouldn’t have a problem breaking into it. There are several means by which you can do so, including attending bartending school or taking an online certification course. 

If you’re wondering how to become a bartender, this career guide contains crucial insights. From frequently asked questions about the job role to information on the best mixology courses for beginners, here’s what you need to know to get started. 

What does a bartender do? 


Far from just making drinks, you’ll find a wide range of responsibilities listed in a typical bartender job description. The skills they need include a mix of hard skills and soft skills. Many bartending courses teach hard skills as standard, but soft skills are more difficult to define. 

During a bartender certification, then, you will likely learn things like mixing drinks and taking stock. The other skills, such as social and multitasking skills, should be ones you already possess or want to improve. Here’s some more information on the tasks you’ll need to carry out as a bartender. 

1. IDing customers 

Professional bartenders should feel confident in asking for ID from people who look underage. Each bar manager (sometimes known as the beverage director or partner) may have additional guidelines for identifying under-21s. Other than that, though, it is up to you to adhere to the law while you’re serving. 

2. Pouring drinks 

Of course, you can’t be a bartender without knowing how to pour drinks. These could range from shots, mixers, and wines to beer and hard cider. There is a different skill involved in pouring each type of drink. As such, learning how to pour will be amongst the most valuable bartending skills you’ll learn. 

3. Craft cocktails 

All bartenders need to know how to craft cocktails. Eventually, your manager will expect you to use your cocktail shaker to make them without cocktail recipes. So it’s worth taking a cocktail class or mixology certification course to learn the ropes ahead of time. They will teach you all about the different classic cocktails and the bar tools you need to create them. 

4. Creating new menus 

Once you have good cocktail knowledge and experience, you may have to create new menus. Include popular drinks that you know people love or customize drinks to fit a seasonal theme. It’s a great skill to have if you aspire to one day be a leading bartender. 

5. Inventory management 

One of the less exciting jobs you will have to do is inventory management. It involves keeping track of the bar inventory to ensure there’s always enough of everything you need. Taking inventory also gives you a good sense of which drinks are most popular and what to avoid ordering in the future. 

6. Serving customers

Bartenders work in customer-facing roles. Part of this will entail using a point of sale or POS system to take orders and payments. You may also have to learn to use a kitchen display system or customer-facing display. 

The other key component of a customer-led role is building rapport. Rapport is one of those soft skills that you can’t teach. However, it is crucial if you want to keep customers coming back for more. A lot of people return to the same establishments for tasty drinks and good conversation. Offer both to customers and be the reason your bar brings in regular patrons.

How to be a good bartender? 

A good bartender needs to be proficient in a range of different areas. To reiterate, these include everything from drink-making to interpersonal skills. That’s not all, though. To understand what it takes to be great in this multifaceted role, you need to do more research.

Bartending blogs are an excellent place to start, and they can offer you a first-person insight into the job at hand. It might also be worth investing in a bartender manual or bartenders guide. However, while they will help you brush up on your bartender jargon, there are better ways to expand your bartending knowledge. 

You can learn so much more by taking a dedicated cocktail course or applying to online bartending schools. As such, they are the best way of immersing yourself in the industry before you get your first bar job. 

Do you need to be 21 to be a bartender? 

You don’t just need skills to be a bartender. You also need to meet the requirements of the state. After all, you will be selling alcohol which is a regulated substance. As such, in several states, you have to be 21 or older to serve. However, in others, the minimum age is 18 for bartenders who work in on-premises establishments. But, even in these states, bar owners may have their own requirements.  

What kinds of bars does a bartender work at? 

There are lots of different types of bars you can work in in the United States. These include: 

  • Cocktail bars. 

  • Wine bars. 

  • Restaurant bars. 

  • Fine dining bars. 

  • Sports bars. 

  • Piano bars.

  • Singles bars. 

  • Business bars. 

  • Music bars. 

  • LGBT bars. 

  • Hotel lounges. 

Don’t worry if you don’t know which type would suit you best. Before applying for bartending jobs, try and frequent several establishments to see how they operate. That way you can start to understand whether you’d prefer to work at a lounge, restaurant or bar. You may also get the chance to do a trial shift in one or more places. Doing so will help you to narrow down your choices. 

How much do bartenders make? 

The typical entry-level bartender salary starts at minimum wage, and however, average bartender salaries vary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median pay is $24,960, and however, that can shoot up as high as $50,600 per year for an experienced bartender or bar manager. And that’s without mentioning tips. 

The earning potential for a bartender is, therefore, impressive. To help you hit a higher pay grade sooner, consider taking a bartending class before applying for jobs. It will look great on your bartending resume and cover letter and help you get a better-paid job more quickly.  

Do bartenders need experience? 

You don’t necessarily need bartending experience to get a good job. However, it does help. Most establishments don’t want to offer bartending training when there are plenty of other qualified candidates out there. So, consider getting work as a barback or server first. Alternatively, ask around and see if anywhere will offer you a job placement. 

Another way to get your foot in the door is to do a course. While you may still have to gain experience, a course will prepare you well for the hiring process and interview questions. So, you might be able to apply for more advanced jobs once you know the ropes. 

How long is bartending school? 


There are lots of different bartending courses out there. Generally speaking, you are required to complete around 40 hours of class time with bartending schools that give practical and theoretical instruction. During this time, you will learn all the bartending basics. 

However, if you don’t have the time to dedicate to an in-person course, consider online mixology courses. With a virtual cocktail online course, you will learn all about the equipment you get in bar kits and how to mix drinks. So, when you have a course under your belt, you’re sure to have a solid bartender resume. 

If you were wondering, “is bartending school worth it?” the answer is that it isn’t a strict requirement. You could sign up for an online short course instead, which you can take at your own pace and in your own time. 

How to get a bartending license? 

Some local laws stipulate that a bartender must have a permit or certificate to serve alcohol. In such places, hiring managers won’t even give you a bartending interview without the appropriate documentation for serving alcohol. Aside from that, bartenders in the United States do not require any bartending license. 

However, you can get a license by completing a bartending education. These licenses are not legally binding, and instead, they are what bartending schools often call the qualification you gain when you complete a course. As such, a bartending license is virtually the same as a bartending certification. 

How to get into bartending?

There are a few more essential points you’ll need to know for obtaining a career in bartending. Read on for answers to the most frequently asked questions. Or find out more by taking an online bartending course. 

What do bartenders wear?

Many bars in the United States issue their staff with uniforms, especially in themed bars. Uniforms may consist of a traditional white shirt with a bow tie, braces, and black trousers. 

Or, it could include a branded t-shirt. However, some bars have no dress code for staff. In such cases, you’re best off wearing a button-up shirt with a dark color that is unlikely to stain. In addition, opt for dress shoes that will be comfortable throughout long shifts. 

Can bartenders drink while working? 

Bartending isn’t all about drinking on the job. That said, it is one of the few professions in which a few drinks during your shift may be encouraged. If, for example, a customer buys you a drink, they will be happier with your service if you have it then and there. Managers may also expect you to sample new stock, so you know what will work well in a mixed drink. 

Still, there is an age requirement in place. So, if you’re under 21, there’s no chance you’ll be able to drink during your shift. Further, some states have outright banned bartenders from drinking while they work. Check out the laws for your state for a more definitive answer. 

How much do bartenders make in an hour? 

In addition to hourly wages, bartenders also earn tips. If you are a skilled bartender who works at a successful bar, your tips could supplement your income by 62% or more. 

But, to maximize your tips, you will need to know essential cocktails and popular drink recipes like the back of your hand. You will also need to be great with customers. A professional bartending course will allow you to gain the skills required to make great tips — more on this below. 

Before you embark on a bartender career path 

A bartending career can be fun, varied, and fulfilling. So, if you love serving from your home bar or have a fascination with cocktails, it’s worth considering a job in the industry. Once you decide it’s the proper role for you, it’s essential to take the correct steps to become a bartender. 

The best place to start is to find bartending courses. There are courses for beginners, including the Courses For Success mixology course. Throughout three comprehensive modules, you will have fun learning all there is to know about making cocktails and running a bar. 

Once you complete the course, you will earn a certificate. With that, you can prove to employers that you have in-depth knowledge of everything the course covers. From there, who knows? You might end up finding work in buzzing bars and restaurants, and you could even go on to specialize as a restaurant manager further down the line. 

Why Courses for Success?

Courses for Success offers over 10,000 online courses, all of which aim to help you in your personal development and career progression. Not only that, but you can also study them anywhere and at any time, and take them at your own pace, too.

You don’t need career diplomas or specific experience to get started. From our coding courses and trading courses to design courses and developer courses, every course we offer will help boost your prospects, no matter who you are.

Beyond just the education itself, students will be issued a certificate online after completing each of the learning courses they do. Our bartending courses are no exception, and industry leaders recognize our online bartending certificates. You could make a name for yourself by signing up for a Courses for Success short course.

Previous article What Is Self-Development?