Working the night life
Bartending, although often a part-time or side career, is actually a very lucrative industry, with the benefit of flexible hours and room for growth - it can be the first step on a path toward restaurant or hotel management, or perhaps owning your own nightclub or bar.
Whatever your goals in the industry or in your future overall, bartending programs at the community college level are a great way to get started in the working world.
It's worthwhile to go to bartending school before you start looking for work in the industry. A trained bartender will make much more than a regular bartender, in the same way that a chef makes more money than a cook. The advantages of enrolling in a bartending course include:
- A higher base pay.
- More leeway and more control over where you can work (e.g., the chance to get hired at elite establishments with patrons who have more appreciation for what you do).
- More tips (since you'll have a more advanced repertoire and can cater to patrons' specific orders).
There are many different bartending programs available from many different community colleges - if you're looking at a bartending program, keep a few things in mind before you decide to spend your time and money:
- How established is the program? Some of the more reputable bartending programs have been in business for over 20 years, for example. You can also gauge reputation by graduate success rates.
- Does the program offer job placement assistance? If the school is part of a restaurant association, this will help you, but is there also an in-house placement service?
- Testimonials from graduates. If you know someone who has graduated from the school and speaks well of it, that's great. Does the school also list testimonials from students on its website or in other literature?
In addition to community colleges, there are a number of online bartending training courses available. While these can certainly teach you the basics, they are generally inferior to on-campus classes. Bartending is a hands-on skill and most employers place a much greater value on a certificate earned at a campus location over one earned online.
The best schools offer a wide range of courses that cover all aspects of bartending. Look for a school that teaches not only about different beers, wines and liquors, but also about bar set-up, speed and flair serving, health and safety, customer service and health and safety.
Believe it or not, bartending is one of the highest paying jobs you can get without a diploma. Bartenders with diplomas, in high profile, high energy New York bars, can make up to $50 an hour on average - and that's in tips alone! Even in an average bar, you can still make an easy $300 per week in tips, on top of the salary.
Because of the fluctuating hours and nature of the hard work, bartending suffers from a high rate of turnover. That means that, at any given time, there are lots of jobs available for students fresh out of bartending school. If you're the type of person who likes working with the public and enjoys the nightlife, bartending can be a great fit.