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How Much Money Does an Average Waitress Make Per Month?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Can we blame Lisa Vanderpump and Anthony Bourdain for the current glamorous reputation of working in a restaurant? Despite what you see on Vanderpump Rules, most waitresses can't afford designer shoes and outfits, and wouldn't wear them at work if they could. It's time for a reality check.

The Average Waitress Salary Per Month

Tip

Including tips, the average full-time waitress earns $2,033.20 per month. Waiters make slightly more.

Waitressing is a hard job, and an average full-time waitress earns $11.73 an hour. So the average waitress salary per month is $2,033.20, which adds up to $24,410 per year. This includes tips, and tips are by far the largest portion of a waiter or waitress's income, about 70 percent in fact. Statistics show that, unfairly, men make more than women doing the same job, about $4,500 more per year, despite the fact there are about twice as many waitresses as waiters.

The field is growing at a slower than average rate, projected as a 7 percent growth over the next 10 years as more people order food delivery instead of going out. But because of high turnover, there are always jobs to be had for hard workers who want to be waitresses, regardless of the growth rate of the industry.

Tips, Taxes and Wage Stagnation

The federal minimum wage for a waitress is $2.13 per hour, and has been since 1991, according to an April 2013 article in Bloomberg News. The U.S. Department of Labor notes that each state has three options to pay tipped employees such as waitresses.

First, the state can pay only the minimum cash wage of $2.13. Second, a state can pay a salary above the minimum cash wage. Third, the state must pay the state minimum wage, which is higher in some states than the federal minimum wage. In a state that must pay only the federal minimum for waiters and waitresses, a full-time waitress might earn as little as $369 a month, exclusive of tips. Some states are increasing their minimum wages, but this change has not yet made it to the federal level, which still dictates $2.13 for a waitress or waiter salary.

The vast majority of a waiter or waitress salary is made as tips, which vary from nothing in some coffee shops, buffets and take-out places, to 20 percent, which is considered standard in most sit-down restaurants. Bartenders do essentially the same kind of job as baristas do, but bartenders get tips and baristas get pocket change, so keep that in mind when job hunting. Altogether, a bartender salary is going to be at least double a barista's for the same amount of work.

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Tips do have to be declared on your taxes, and the federal government is getting pretty good at estimating them, so don't be tempted to "forget" at tax time. The average waitress tips vary depending on where she works. Those who work in resort and tourist towns like Miami can receive an average of $13 per hour, while run-down areas like Detroit can average only about $7. At posh Vegas resorts, waiters and waitresses can pocket hundreds per night in tips.

How to Get Started

To land a job as waitstaff, you need to be physically fit and able to remain on your feet for long periods of time. Generally, schooling is irrelevant unless you're applying to be a fine dining waitress, where special training can give you an advantage. You don't even need a GED, and many waiters and waitresses start while they're still in high school. Being a people person is essential, and if you're good at up-selling you can substantially increase your income, because your tips are a percentage of the cost of a meal. Talk people into a bottle of wine and dessert, and that's about another $60 added to the bill and another $12 in your pocket.

If you're working somewhere serving alcoholic beverages, you may need to be of legal drinking age: This varies by state, so check your regulations if you're younger than that.

The hours can be long, or conversely there might be too few hours to go around. The more experienced you are, the more often you'll be scheduled, and the more power you have to pick and choose your shifts. And remember, you'll be working mealtimes, so that means working when most people are socializing. That can cut into your social life, and if you're not a natural night owl, you may have to work at brunch spots exclusively. Tips are better at expensive restaurants, but the serving standards are higher too, so you'll need to work your way up.

About the Author

Lorraine Murphy has been writing on business, self-employment, and marketing since the turn of the 21st century. Her credits include Vanity Fair, the Guardian, Slate, Salon, Occupational Pursuit Magazine, the Daily Download, and Business in Vancouver. She has been a judge and mentor at Vancouver Startup Weekend multiple times, and is an in-demand keynote speaker.

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