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How to Become a Bartender

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Bartenders are often promoted to their jobs from other restaurant positions or they learn the trade by attending bartending school. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you must be at least 18 to serve alcohol to customers, but many employers prefer applicants who are at least 25. Training on the job ensures that you have what it takes to not only pour drinks, but also to check IDs, mop floors and keep the bar stocked.

Abilities and Knowledge

Bartenders must be quick, agile and coordinated. You spend most of the time on your feet while moving around the bar to retrieve cups or garnishes and occasionally running to stockrooms to replenish supplies. Bartenders need to understand the products they serve, including the proper amount of liquor for each drink and the flavor differences between red and white wines. They must be aware of safe food handling and sanitation procedures, such as how to appropriately deliver plates to customers and how long to sanitize glasses.

Rules and Schools

Most employers do not expect bartenders to meet strict educational requirements, but candidates who take bartending courses to learn the basics may be considered more qualified. Take classes at a technical or vocational school. Courses typically run for a few weeks and cover topics such as regulations for selling alcohol and drink recipes. Private schools may offer more in-depth classes. The National Bartenders Bartending School, for example, provides instruction on flair bartending, bar management and responsible beverage service.

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Recipes and Experience

Servers and bar helpers who aspire to be bartenders benefit from keen observation. Watch seasoned bartenders to learn drink-mixing techniques, such as shaking vs. stirring, and how to choose the right liquor to serve. Whether you're promoted from within or hired from the outside, expect a short training period to get comfortable in your new environment. Familiarize yourself with setting up and breaking down the bar, as you perfect your technique to make flavored margaritas and Long Island iced teas.

Customers and Growth

Bartenders earned an average hourly wage of $10.46, according to May 2013 statistics from the BLS. However, they also earn supplementary income from tips, which can be substantial when they provide top-notch service. The BLS notes that new jobs for bartenders should open at about the same rate as all occupations from 2012 to 2022. Candidates who have good communication skills and experience in related positions may have the best chances at securing these positions. Over time, bartenders may take jobs at busier locations, earn promotions to supervisory roles or open their own businesses.

2016 Salary Information for Bartenders

Bartenders earned a median annual salary of $20,800 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, bartenders earned a 25th percentile salary of $18,650, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $28,770, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 611,200 people were employed in the U.S. as bartenders.

About the Author

Based in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, Megan Torrance left her position as the general manager for five Subway restaurants to focus on her passion for writing. Torrance specializes in creating content for career-oriented, motivated individuals and small business owners. Her work has been published on such sites as Chron, GlobalPost and eHow.

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