Interested in becoming a bartender? Not sure where to start?
We are here to help!
Every state has different bartending requirements, so it is important to have up to date and easy to read information.
Use our convenient state selector below to check whether or not your state requires you to have a bartending license, and if so, where exactly to attend the bartender school.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
A bartender, at its most basic definition, is someone who develops and serves alcoholic beverages from behind a bar. But truly, a bartender’s duties go way beyond this. Whether it’s creating an experience, being a problem solver, or transforming a person’s night – a bartender’s job is one of the most important in the service and hospitality industry.
In the past, being a bartender was seen as a “side-occupation.” Recently though, bartenders have been seen as a highly sought out and respected occupation with competitive pay rates.
A day in the life of a bartender will depend on the type of establishment you are applying for.
Working in a pub will differ from working in a restaurant. And restaurant is different than a college bar.
The job typically consists of though:
- Mixing and pouring drinks
- Counting and handling money correctly
- Communicating and entertaining your guests
- Serving alcohol with care and awareness – recognizing when someone is over the limit
Is it easy to get a bartending job?
Bartending jobs are in high demand. If you follow your state’s requirements for receiving a license (again, please use our handy map above), learn a few basic cocktail recipes, and hone your service skills, you’ll have a job in no time.
There are hundreds of thousands of bartenders being hired every single year, so there are plenty of opportunities for every aspiring bartender to receive a job.
We suggest applying to bars and restaurants in your local area with A+ food safety ratings. It’s a great way to explore the job market and shows you which establishments pass annual health inspections.
How to become a bartender
As stated above, every state has different requirements for what is needed to become a bartender.
Some states, like Colorado, Michigan, and Kansas, don’t have any requirements to get started serving alcohol.
Other states, like California, Texas, and Pennsylvania though, require every individual who wishes to serve alcohol to become officially certified with a bartending license by a state-approved provider.
What is a bartending license?
A bartending license is simply a certification proving that an individual adequately understands their state or local municipalities’s laws regarding the serving of alcohol.
Think of it as a diploma that proves to the state or a potential employer that you understand the intricacies of serving customers alcohol from behind a bar.
Classes may include everything from how to mix drinks properly to understanding how to deal with people attempting to drive drunk, underage drinkers, and aggressive customers in a bar.
Are you required to have a bartending license?
The short answer: it depends.
First and foremost, you need to find out if the state you live in requires a bartending license. Different states have different laws, and it is necessary to do a little research. Luckily, you don’t have to go at it alone, we are here to help you along the way. Simply check your state’s bartending license requirements using the handy map above, and you’ll have your answer in no time at all.
Tip: Although not every state requires bartenders to be licensed, obtaining a license can prove to an employer that you are dedicated to becoming a bartender and give you a leg up on the competition.
How to get a bartending license?
Each and every state/municipality has different rules and regulations when it comes to becoming a certified bartender.
Some allow for simple online training, whereas others require students to attend in-person classes. Again, we suggest using our handy map above to choose your state and learn exactly what you need to do to receive a bartending license.
Can you get a bartending license online?
Yes! Almost every state in the United States allows individuals to receive a bartending license from the comfort of their own home. Just be careful to confirm that the licensing company is approved by the state or municipality governing board.
Most states will give you the option of either online or offline licensing, so it’s completely up to you.
Online vs offline bartending training
As with most online courses, online bartending schools give you the ability to complete or study most of the curriculum on your own, at your convenience.
So for those who already have a busy weekly schedule, online bartending training may be your best bet. Study at your own pace and earn a bartending certificate from the comfort of your own home. It’s that simple.
Another benefit of online bartending training? It usually costs less. That’s right, in-person bartending courses are known to cost $50-100 more.
On the other hand, online bartending training isn’t for everyone. Not everyone can efficiently conceptualize practices all on their own. From years of experience, we’ve noted that in-person bartending courses often teach the same exact material as online bartending with the addition of one thing: Hands-on experience.
In-person bartending schools often supply students with the real tools, glassware, and alcohol that they will come to experience on a job. This gives students the ability to practice preparing, mixing and serving drinks all under the guidance and supervision of a professional bartender.
So what’s the verdict?
Bartending school—either online or in the classroom—is highly recommended but we slightly lean toward the online direction. Online bartending training is often cheaper, easier, and much more time-efficient than finding a physical classroom-type course (if your town or city provides one).
Although you may not get hands-on experience while taking online bartending courses, you can still learn nearly everything offline bartending courses offer.
Want real-life, hands-on experience? Then we suggest practicing at home, or better yet, finding a bartending job and hitting the ground running in a real-life work environment. Nothing will top the combination of the two.
How much does a bartending license cost?
If your state/municipality requires you to receive a bartending license, the cost most likely will not run more than $10 – 20.
Note: Even if not required, there are hundreds of fake “courses” being sold online. These courses will often retail for hundreds of dollars and try to trick you into thinking that their course is required. We will admit that sometimes bartending courses are useful to a newcomer, but more often than not, they are a scam.
If you decide to take a bartending course or go to a bartending school, we suggest reading our post on whether bartending school is right for you.
How long does it take to get a bartending license?
Don’t let the thought of having to take a course dissuade you from becoming a bartender. Most courses take less than a day to complete. Ultimately though, it depends on your state’s requirements to determine the length of the bartending course.
For example, a TABC certification in Texas requires two hours to complete, whereas courses for the states of Michigan, Florida, and Illinois take less than 3 hours.