Job Duties

Bartenders fill drink orders for customers. They receive orders from customers seated at the bar or from waiters who have taken the orders in a dining area. Bartenders are required to check the identification of customers seated at the bar to determine if they are of legal drinking age. They prepare mixed drinks, pour draught beer, and serve wine. They have a special knowledge of drink recipes and use this knowledge to quickly prepare many different types of complex drinks. Bartenders also stock supplies such as garnishes, ice, and glasses. They may operate a cash register, serve food, or order inventory of liquor, mixes, and other supplies.

Some bartenders who work at service bars have much less contact with the public. These are small bars usually next to a restaurant's kitchen where bartenders only fill drink orders placed by waiters. Some service bars require bartenders to push buttons on an automatic drink-making machine. These bartenders must still be very quick in handling a large number of drink orders. Most bartending work is done by hand.

Job Skills

Those interested in bartender positions should have a good memory so they can remember customers' orders. They should have a neat and well-groomed appearance. They need to have a courteous and pleasant personality. Their customer relations skills must be of the highest caliber, and they should be able to function calmly in situations where stress is extremely high.


In 2002, bartenders earned a median hourly wage (including tips) of $7.21. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $5.76, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $11.96. Most bartenders earn more because they acquire higher tips, rather than a higher hourly wage. Because service bartenders do not usually receive tips, they are often paid a higher hourly wage.

Training and Education

There are no specific educational requirements for bartender positions, although many employer prefer applicants who have graduated from high school. They must usually be at least 21 years of age. Some acquire bartending skills through vocational or technical schools. Many employees acquire these jobs because they have an immediate need for income, rather than a long-term interest in the profession. Many are in their late teens or early twenties and have little or no job experience. Some are full-time college or high school students. Hotels and restaurants with higher-class standards prefer applicants who have experience in the occupation. These establishments also offer higher wages. Most waiters learn their skills by observing more experienced waiters. Some employers train their employees using audio/video materials, and some employees receive restaurant training from vocational schools, restaurant associations, and large restaurant chains.


In 2002, bartenders held about 463,000 jobs. Jobs are found throughout the country, but were most plentiful in large metropolitan areas.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of bartenders is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Some employment growth will result from new job openings, but the vast majority of job openings will be due to the extremely high turnover rate in this occupation. Keen competition is predicted for positions in fine dining establishments and popular restaurants.

To learn more about hospitality, retail, and travel related careers, please visit our section on Hospitality Schools for more information.

Bartender Training

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