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Is Bartending School Necessary?

Updated on December 15, 2010

Having thoughts of becoming a bartender? If so, you have most likely thought about attending bartending school first. But is bartending school really necessary? Do the benefits outweigh the costs (time and money)? It depends on a handful of factors. Whether you are planning on bartending as a full-time career, or just part-time to pay the bills through college, it can be a fun and lucrative job. Bartending school could well be the platform you need before diving into the world of getting people drunk, but is it necessary?

What will bartending school do for me?

Bartending school is an ideal way to gain the necessary knowledge about the world of bartending in one place, and at one time. A standard bartending/mixology course will provide the best training in the basics of bartending, preparing and certifying you for a job in the field. The training you receive in most bartending schools will cover certain areas such as:

  • Wine, liquor, and beer knowledge
  • Bartending tools and glassware knowledge
  • Opening and closing procedures of a bar
  • Liquor laws and bartender liability
  • How to mix a large variety of drinks
  • How to free pour
  • Keeping inventory
  • Recipe memorization techniques and pouring techniques
  • Customer service and money handling

Bartending school will ensure you know the essentials: how to open and close a bar, make drinks, and satisfy the customers. In the end, you will have the skills needed to feel comfortable behind the bar. More importantly, you will have a certification that proves you are able to do these things, which can come in handy when interviewing for a job.

Bartending school alternatives

There are two sides to everything right? Well, the same goes for bartending school. Of course, bartending school will cost you money; anywhere from $250 to $600 for a two week course. The truth is, if you are unemployed and looking for work, dishing out extra money on bartending school rather than groceries might not be an option.

Online bartending school is another available option, while these might cost less, they won't provide the necessary hands on experience that you would otherwise get in the classroom. In the end, while bartending school is very helpful in providing the knowledge you need to become a bartender, it doesn't gaurantee you a job bartending. Many schools will "gaurantee job placement," but speaking from experience, this is not necessarily true. While they may help with job guidance and interview tips, searching for jobs on craigslist will provide you with the same service (for free).

Many bars, whether it's a seedy biker bar or an upscale martini bar, typically won't hire anyone without bartending experience. While bartending school does provide a bit of hands-on experience, most bar owners will want someone with a substantial amount of real experience at a referable establishment.

If bartending school sounds like a waste of time and money, there are other options. You can learn the ins and outs of bartending on your own! There are thousands of how-to books or areas to research online in your spare time. When looking for a bartending job, ask around, either ask your friends in the industry or someone working at your favorite bar on how to get your foot in the door. It always helps to know someone in the field. At the least, working any position in the service industry (server, barback, host/hostess) can be a step towards getting the training you need and becoming a bartender in due time.

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Bartending wisdom

When shooting to become a bartender, it's important to remember that drink knowledge is still only a small part of the job. If you can make the world's best manhattans and light drinks on fire while balancing them on your chest, that is neat. But if you are a cold and hostile person towards the customer, finding a job bartending could be near impossible. While the money can be excellent, you must be friendly, and you must enjoy working with people. If you are a good, objective listener and sociable, then bartending could be the job for you. Whether or not bartending school is necessary beforehand, is a choice for you to make.

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