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


Bartenders typically do the following:

  • Greet customers, offer menus, and inform them of specials
  • Take customers’ food and drink orders
  • Pour and serve wine, beer, and other drinks
  • Mix drinks according to recipes
  • Check customers’ identification to ensure that they are of legal drinking age
  • Clean bars, tables, and work areas
  • Collect payment from customers and return change
  • Engage with customers
  • Manage the operation of the bar and restock liquor and bar supplies
  • Monitor the level of intoxication of customers

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

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

Bartenders may collect payment from customers after each drink is served or open a tab for a customer and collect payment when closing it at the end of service. They also must monitor customers for intoxication, determine when to deny service and, in some cases, arrange for safe transportation.

Work Environment

Bartenders held about 514,000 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of bartenders were as follows:

Restaurants and other eating places 44%
Drinking places (alcoholic beverages) 28
Civic and social organizations 6
Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries      6
Traveler accommodation 5

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 to overly intoxicated customers.

Bartenders do repetitive tasks, and sometimes they lift heavy kegs of beer and cases of liquor. In addition, the work may be stressful, particularly when they deal with intoxicated customers.

Work Schedules

Bartenders often work late evenings, on weekends, and on holidays. Part-time work is common, and schedules may vary.

Education and Training

Bartenders typically do not need formal education credentials to enter the occupation, although some employers require or prefer for candidates to have a high school diploma. They typically learn their skills through on-the-job training that lasts a few weeks. Some bartenders gain experience in other jobs or occupations.

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.


Bartenders typically need no formal education to enter the occupation, although employers may prefer or require candidates to have a high school diploma. Some aspiring bartenders acquire their skills by attending a school for bartending or taking courses at a community college. These programs usually include instruction on mixing cocktails, serving customers, and setting up a bar. Some schools help their graduates find jobs.


Bartenders typically receive on-the-job training that lasts a few weeks. Under the guidance of an experienced bartender, trainees learn cocktail recipes, bar-setup procedures, and customer service, including how to handle unruly customers and other challenging situations. In establishments where bartenders serve food, training may cover teamwork and proper food-handling procedures.

Some employers teach bartending skills to new workers by providing self-study programs, which may include videos and instructional booklets, that explain service skills.

License and Certification

Depending on the state and locality, a server, owner, manager, or business may be required to maintain a license to sell alcohol. Most states require that bartenders be at least 18 years old.

Many states and localities require bartenders to complete a responsible-server course. This course typically covers topics such as laws related to the sale of alcoholic beverages, responsible serving practices, and conflict management.  

Although optional, professional certification may demonstrate basic knowledge or competency in bartending practices. Certification is available upon successful completion of some courses or programs.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Bartenders typically do not need related work experience to enter the occupation. However, some employers prefer or require candidates to have food-service experience in occupations such as waiters and waitresses or food and beverage serving and related workers. Others start as bartender helpers and progress to become bartenders as they learn basic mixing procedures and recipes.

Personality and Interests

Bartenders typically have an interest in the Helping and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Helping or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as a bartender, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Bartenders should also possess the following specific qualities:

Communication skills. Bartenders must listen carefully to their customers’ orders, explain drink and food items, and make menu recommendations. They also should be able to converse with customers on a variety of subjects, to create a friendly and welcoming environment at a bar.

Customer-service skills. Because establishments that serve alcohol rely on retaining current customers and attracting new ones, bartenders should have good customer-service skills to ensure repeat business.

Decision-making skills. Because of the legal issues that come with serving alcohol, bartenders must be able to make good decisions. For example, they should be able to detect intoxicated customers and deny further service to those individuals.

Interpersonal skills. Bartenders should be friendly, tactful, and attentive when dealing with customers. For example, they should be able to tell a joke and laugh with a customer to build rapport.

Physical stamina. Bartenders spend hours on their feet preparing drinks, serving customers, and sometimes lifting and carrying heavy cases of liquor, beer, and other bar supplies.


The median hourly wage for bartenders was $12.67 in May 2021. 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 $8.59, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $22.94.

In May 2021, the median hourly wages for bartenders in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Restaurants and other eating places $13.61
Traveler accommodation 13.54
Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries      11.49
Drinking places (alcoholic beverages) 11.23
Civic and social organizations 10.93

These wage data include tips. Tipped employees earn at least the federal minimum wage, which may be paid as a combination of direct wages and tips, depending on the state. The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor maintains a website listing minimum wages for tipped employees, by state, although some localities have enacted minimum wages higher than their state requires.

Bartenders often work late evenings, on weekends, and on holidays. Part-time work is common, and schedules may vary.

Job Outlook

Employment of bartenders is projected to grow 18 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 105,300 openings for bartenders are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire. 


Much of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession of 2020.

Population and income growth are expected to result in increased demand for food, drinks, and entertainment. More bartenders are expected to be needed to meet this demand, especially in full-service restaurants and drinking places. Bartenders also will be needed in a wide variety of entertainment venues as services expand.

For More Information

For more information about bartenders, visit

United States Bartenders Guild




Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

I would like to cite this page for a report. Who is the author?

There is no published author for this page. Please use citation guidelines for webpages without an author available. 

I think I have found an error or inaccurate information on this page. Who should I contact?

This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at

I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. On this site, you can take the Career Personality Profiler assessment, the Holland Code assessment, or the Photo Career Quiz.

Get Our Newsletter