Lead Bartender Career Path

Are you thinking of becoming a Lead Bartender or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a Lead Bartender, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new Lead Bartender job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.
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How To Become a Bartender

Before pursuing a career as a bartender you should know what the role entails and commit to carrying out those duties. Ask yourself if you're ready for a job in the service industry. Whether you land a job in a restaurant, hotel, bar, or nightclub, bartending is typically a fast-paced job in a setting where pretty much anything can happen. Successful bartenders excel at interacting with all sorts of people, and they know how to sense when a customer might pose a problem. If you're ready to take on the responsibilities of mixing drinks, serving drinks, and managing customers, then you're prepared to take the following steps:


Consider attending bartending school

While most drinking establishments don't require potential bartender hires to attend bartending school, taking bartending classes ensures that you learn the basics of mixology. In bartending school, you'll have a chance to practice mixing drinks in a low-pressure, supportive setting. Additionally, constructive feedback from your instructors, who are often experienced bartenders, can help you hone your skills. Some schools even offer assistance with resume-building and offer job placement assistance.


Apply for barback jobs

Whether or not you attend bartending school, bar managers are unlikely to hire you if you don't have any real-world experience working in a bar. That's why you should apply for barback jobs. As a barback, you'll assist with cleaning, restocking, and other duties that don't involve mixing drinks. While you're working as a barback, take the time to get familiar with liquor brands, types of glassware, and bartending terms. Bartenders appreciate a barback who anticipates their needs and provides whatever support they can. An appreciative bartender can end up being a valuable mentor and instructor.


Practice pouring and mixology

Successful bartenders know how to balance liquor and mixers when making a cocktail. The trick to this balance is achieving the perfect pour, which only comes with practice. It's well worth it to invest in some basic bartending tools so you can practice at home, especially if you decide that bartending school isn't right for you. Once you've honed your pouring skills, practice mixing classic cocktails and creating cocktail recipes. Invite some friends over for drinks so you can get feedback.


Apply for a bartender certification

Every state has a liquor control board that regulates the serving of alcohol. Some liquor control boards require bartenders to complete an alcohol-serving class. Check with your state's liquor control board to see if you'll have to earn a bartending certification. If you do, you can find an online certification program. When you enroll, make sure that it's a state-approved program. The coursework typically includes state laws regarding minors, identifying stages of intoxication, and handling disturbances.


Apply for bartending jobs

After gaining experience as a barback, practicing your drink-pouring skills, and earning any necessary certifications, it's time to apply for bartender jobs. Be sure not to limit yourself to traditional bars when applying. You might land a great bartending job with a restaurant, hotel, or event venue.

Seniority Levels


Lead Bartender

5 - 7Years of Experience
$66,348 /yrTotal Pay
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Head Bartender

No Years of Experience Reports
$60,418 /yrTotal Pay
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Total Pay Trajectory

Lead Bartender Career Path

Seniority Levels

Related Careers in the Retail & Food Services Industry

Interested in other Retail & Food Services careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Lead Bartender skills. Discover some of the most common Lead Bartender career transitions, along with skills overlap.