Although most jurisdictions require workers who serve alcoholic beverages to be at least 19 years old (Canada) or 21 years old (USA), many employers prefer to hire people who are 25 or older.

Because establishments that serve alcohol rely on retaining old customers, and attracting new customers, bartenders should have good customer service skills to ensure repeat business. Because of the legal issues that come with serving alcohol, bartenders must make good decisions at all times. For example, they should be able to detect intoxicated customers and deny service to those customers. They also 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.

Bartenders work on their feet for long periods of time. Many lift heavy cases of liquor, beer, or other bar supplies. They often fill drink orders for waiters and waitresses who are serving dining room customers. As a result, bartenders must work well with their colleagues to ensure that customers receive prompt service.

Steps to becoming a Bartender

There aren't specific steps to becoming a bartender. Some bartenders qualify through work-related experience. They may start as bartender helpers and progress into full-fledged bartenders as they learn basic mixing procedures and recipes. New workers often learn by working with a more experienced bartender.

Some employers teach new workers using self-study programs, online programs, audiovisual presentations, or instructional booklets that explain service skills. Such programs communicate the philosophy of the establishment, help new bartenders build personal rapports with other staff, and instil a desire to work as a team.

Some bartenders learn their skills by attending a school for bartending or by attending bartending classes at a vocational or technical school. These programs include instruction on how to stock a bar, learning popular cocktail recipes, food safety procedures, basic customer service, teamwork, and learning about local laws and regulations. Programs also provide an opportunity to discuss proper ways to handle unruly customers and unpleasant situations. Most courses last a few weeks, with some schools helping their graduates to find jobs.

Advancement for bartenders is usually limited to finding a job in a busier or more expensive restaurant or bar where prospects of earning tips are better. Some bartenders advance to supervisory jobs, such as dining room supervisor, maitre d’, assistant manager, or restaurant general manager.

Should I become a Bartender?

Bartending can be a terrific job for some people, yet for others it can be a big mistake. The people who are successful in this career are driven to make their guests happy and take pride in being able to provide an experience for the patrons. Before you choose bartending as a career path (or even as a temporary job), you might want to take the following things into consideration:

It's Not Easy Work
Many people go into bartending thinking they will just hang out at the bar all day. While it’s definitely a social job and there are some fun aspects to it, it’s also very hard physical work. You’re constantly on the go, on your feet for hours on end, and constantly dealing with a lot of people.

Multi-Tasking Skills And Quick Memory Recall Is Needed
Bartenders need to be able to do everything at once. Most bartenders can multi-task, however good bartenders can multi-task while keeping the drinks to a very high standard. The best bartenders can do everything while keeping a smile on their face.

Being Nice To People
Sometimes, no matter how polite or fun you try to be there will be a small percentage of people that are going to be miserable. It's important to be as nice as possible, check your ego and keep smiling so as to not let these people bring down the energy of the space or the staff. If someone is having a bad day sometimes it's best to keep the interactions with them short and sweet, and not give the guest any more fuel to the fire.

Setting Boundaries
There will be times when people will hit on you, and in these situations there is a fine line between being nice and being too nice. Getting romantically involved with customers is usually a bad idea, and you'll need to get very adept at setting social boundaries.

Steady Income Depends On Area
A bartender's salary can range widely, depending on the shifts worked, the location, and the venue. Bartending can be very lucrative in big cities such as Las Vegas, Manhattan, Boston, Seattle, or Miami. In these cities, a bartender can make quite a bit of money working at a nightclub or a fine dining restaurant. Also, bartenders earn more in areas/states that have a more liberal-minded population, while in more conservative areas bartenders earn considerably less.

Risks To Bartending
Serving too many drinks to someone who is already drunk, or to an underaged individual, could potentially get you into legal trouble. You should definitely be aware that you’re taking on a lot of responsibility when you become a bartender and it could come back to haunt you.

Choosing A Venue
You can be a bartender at a variety of venues, such as restaurants, sports bars, night clubs, seedy bars, golf clubs, etc. Think carefully about where you apply for a bartending job so as to pick the place that best suits you.

Bartending Hours
On average, bartenders probably do ten to twelve hour shifts, sometimes with no break. There are hours of prep work, hours of clean-up, and hours of catering to the demands of people. Night club shifts are the most demanding (flashing lights, loud music, and almost a constant sense of urgency) - shifts start at approximately 9-10pm, and there is an expectation that you may still be there at 6-8am cleaning up.

Being Around A Lot Of Alcohol
Working as a bartender could be a really high-risk job if you have any sort of drinking problem or you tend to have trouble doing things in moderation. Bartenders constantly have opportunities to drink, and may be enticed by watching everyone else have fun and wanting to participate.

Free Drinks Expectations
Your friends will probably come visit you at the bar and expect free/cheap drinks. This can potentially cause problems with the venue you work at, and can also cost you some misunderstandings with your friends if you're not careful. It's good to know how you will deal with this from the get go.

Bartending Can Be A Superficial Job
There will be many people that you will end up meeting during your time as a bartender (both in front of and behind the bar). Most of these friendships are going to be quite superficial and many people end up feeling jaded about the industry after awhile.

You Need To Know All The Latest Drinks
If you’d like to be a good bartender, you need to make sure that you’ve got a good memory for a lot of different drinks (new and old). People tend to get irritated very quickly if you don’t know how to make certain drinks.

A Temporary Gig
Bartending can be a great job but it’s not necessarily the right career for a lot of people, especially long-term. You can bartend for a little while if you want to, and have a bigger goal to work towards as well. In fact, many people work two or three shifts a week while putting themselves through school.

What are Bartenders like?


Based on our pool of users, bartenders tend to be predominately artistic people. Take our career test to see what career interest category best describes you.

Bartenders by Strongest Interest Archetype

Based on sample of 3895 Sokanu users

Are Bartenders happy?


Bartenders rank among the least happy careers. Overall they rank in the 38th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores.

Bartender Career Satisfaction by Dimension

Percentile among all careers

Education History of Bartenders

The most common degree held by bartenders is Psychology. 3% of bartenders had a degree in psychology before becoming bartenders. That is over 0 times the average across all careers. Business Management And Administration graduates are the second most common among bartenders, representing 2% of bartenders in the Sokanu user base, which is 0.3 times the average.

Bartender Education History

This table shows which degrees people earn before becoming a Bartender, compared to how often those degrees are obtained by people who earn at least one post secondary degree.

Degree % of bartenders % of population Multiple
Psychology 3.3% 6.7% 0.5×
Business Management And Administration 2.0% 6.4% 0.3×
English Literature 1.9% 4.8% 0.4×
Fine Arts 1.4% 1.9% 0.7×
Communications 1.3% 3.3% 0.4×
History 1.3% 2.2% 0.6×
Drama 1.2% 1.0% 1.2×
Liberal Arts 1.2% 1.8% 0.6×
Political Science 1.1% 2.9% 0.4×
Hospitality Management 1.1% 0.9% 1.3×
Marketing And Marketing Research 1.1% 2.1% 0.5×
Biology 1.0% 3.5% 0.3×

Bartender Education Levels

43% of bartenders have a high school diploma. 37% of bartenders have a no education.

No education 37%
High school diploma 43%
Associate's degree 19%
Bachelor's degree 1%
Master's degree 0%
Doctorate degree 0%

How to Become a Bartender

  1. Take the Sokanu Career Test

    Would you make a good bartender? Sokanu's free assessment reveals how compatible you are with a career across 5 dimensions!

    Take the free career test
  2. Jobs in your area
    • Loading jobs...
    View all jobs →

Find your perfect career

Would you make a good bartender? Sokanu's free assessment reveals how compatible you are with a career across 5 dimensions!

80% Match?
Take the free career test