Professional Bartender Career Facts

Bartenders prepare beverages for consumption in bars, restaurants and leisure facilties that serve alcohol, and they are responsible for dispensing alcohol within legal guidelines, as well as handling cash, usually after bartender training and there are many bartender employment opportunities.

Education and Training

Most bartenders have at least a high school diploma. There are some states that require the person who is dispensing alcohol to have a server's license, which means attending classes and passing an exam. Many states will also limit or refuse the server application of a person who has been convicted of a felony, has committed a felony or had a misdemeanor charge for alcohol service or sales, a financial crime, possessing a controlled substance or a sex-related offence.

Bartending or mixology school usually consists of less than 50 hours of training that costs several hundred dollars to complete. Courses will cover alcohol handling and dispensing, mixing a wide variety of drinks, pulling draughts and serving different varieties of beer, as well as the responsible sale of alcohol to patrons. There is a great deal of studying and memorization prior to completing a course, so don't assume that the course will be easy.

Job Description

Bartenders are responsible for mixing and dispensing alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to customers. They are also responsible for handling cash and maintaining orders. Bartenders need to keep their work areas clean, both for public health and safety reasons, and because they may also serve food at the bar. They interact with colleagues and customers in a friendly manner, but they must also be willing to refuse service to persons who are too young or too intoxicated to receive alcohol.

Bartending can be a full or part-time career, but it is usually necessary to obtain a server's license, sometimes a food handling license, and to work in a facility which is conscientious about maintaining its own service licence. The integrity of the establishment that you work for can  affect your later employment opportunities or even the reissue of your own server's license.


Some bartenders will get their start as apprentice or relief bartenders, which means that they work under supervision or on a part-time or casual basis. Others will get their start working in a restaurant where the servers place their orders at a bar where most of the drinks are premixed and premeasured. This experience can help determine if bartending is a suitable career and lead to attending mixology/bartending school, which their current employer may be willing to pay for depending on the needs of the establishment.

Most people will think of bars first as an employment option, but there are opportunities in clubs, resorts and travel facilities, such as cruise ships, meaning that this career can offer opportunities to travel. Use a vertical search engine, such as, for all of these different job opportunities.

A few bartenders will also specialize as flair bartenders, as popularized in the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail. Flair bartenders use the service tools, such as shot glasses, serving glasses and bottles and choreograph performances around their service, with juggling and sleight of hand. In addition to bars that hire flair bartenders, there are competitions, national and international for these extreme bartenders.

Other bartenders teach mixology classes to laymen and write books or maintain websites about mixology, and because of the enormous interest in food preparation and parties, bartenders are able to generate a small second income in these areas.