What Is Required to Be a Bartender?

by Rick Suttle

Bartenders contribute much to the fun and ambiance in nightclubs and bars, joking and interacting with customers. Their friendly personalities often have a positive impact on bar sales. They mix and serve drinks, receive and fill orders for waiting staff, operate cash registers and order liquor, beer and supplies when needed. If you want to work as a bartender, there are certain qualifications and skills that will help in making you successful.

Education and Certification

Bartenders have no minimal educational requirements, but many attend bartending schools -- or vocational schools with bartending classes -- to learn their trade. Training can take anywhere from one to six weeks, depending on the school and the frequency in which classes are held. During this time, trainees learn about state and local liquor laws, the many types of drinks and how to mix them, and proper ways to stock bars. As a bartender trainee, you also learn proper conduct in bars, such as not serving people who are drunk, and calling cabs for those who are too inebriated to drive. Many bartending schools offer certification to students who successfully complete their training.

Employer Training

A new bartender must also train for a week or two under an experienced bartender when he starts working at an establishment. The training is focused on customer service, teamwork and food safety, if the bar serves food. You may also learn how to handle unruly customers, such as notifying bouncers of disruptive behavior using a headset. Most bartender trainees work various shifts -- days, evenings and weekends -- to learn opening and closing procedures. But in this role, you might also use self-study courses or audiovisual and Internet training modules to increase your knowledge.

People Skills

Bartenders are usually outgoing and know how to work the crowd. They must learn to spot customers who need drinks and serve them immediately. Bartenders also joke with patrons, getting their liking, and often selling them more drinks. If you are gregarious and can communicate with bar patrons -- about sports, the weather or even their problems -- you can earn larger tips.

Strength and Stamina

Bartending isn't easy work. It requires lots of strength and stamina. You have to lift heavy trays of ice and boxes of liquor when stocking refrigerators or ice bins. You also stand for hours filling orders for patrons. Shifts can sometimes run up to 12 hours or more, which makes for an exhausting workday. In noisy bars with background music, you face the greater challenge of hearing customers' orders correctly and filling them accurately.

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