Bartender: Salary, Duties, Outlook and Requirements

A bartender's job consists of preparing and serving alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages to customers in bars, restaurants, nightclubs and other establishments and venues. Bartenders are responsible for collecting payment, ordering inventory and keeping their bar area clean for customers who want to drink and dine.

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Salary for a Bartender

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), salaries for bartenders vary, and much of their earnings can come from tips. Average annual salaries, including tips, were approximately $21,630 in May 2012 ( The top-paying employers for bartending in that year were the rail transportation industry, higher education institutions, and the traveler accommodation industry.


A bartender prepares, pours and usually serves a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to customers at public establishments or venues licensed to serve alcohol; bartenders may also work in private settings. Beverages usually include mixed drinks, bottled wine and beer. Bartenders must be able to prepare drinks quickly and efficiently by hand and by using machines that automatically measure and pour ingredients.

Bartenders accept payment from customers and must know how to operate a cash register. They must check customer identification so that alcoholic beverages aren't served to minors. Bartenders also watch for customers who are intoxicated and stop serving drinks to them. They often will arrange assistance to get an inebriated customer home by calling a cab or the customer's family or friends.

Bartenders may also serve food to customers. They order inventory such as liquor, drink mixes, straws and napkins. They wash glassware and maintain clean conditions in the bar area.

Career Outlook

The job outlook for bartending is good, in part because of a high job turnover rate. Below average job growth was anticipated for bartenders; the BLS estimated employment to escalate nine percent between 2010 and 2020.

Bartender jobs at fine hotels, country clubs and restaurants are more coveted because of higher salaries and greater earnings potential from tips. Overall, there are few growth opportunities in the bartending field. A small number of workers may be promoted to head bartenders or restaurant managers, while a handful may open their own establishment, according to the BLS.

Bartender Job Requirements

There are no degree requirements for bartenders, and training generally occurs on the job. Strong customer service skills are essential to a bartender's success. Trainees often work with experienced personnel for up to one year to gain knowledge of bartending procedures.

Students can receive formal training by attending bartending, technical or vocational schools. There they learn about appropriate conduct and attire, different drink recipes and local and state regulations regarding the serving of alcohol. In most areas of the country, bartenders must be at least 18 years of age. A large number of employers prefer applicants who are at least 25.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics