Bartending License

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 15, 2022  •  8 min read  •  Hospitality
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If you want to become a bartender, you might need a bartending license. This completely depends on the state you live in and your potential employer. Before you try to go into this career, it’s important to understand what you’ll need to become a bartender.

Sometimes, a bartending license will be called a bartending certification. While you might not need to be certified or licensed, it can still make you a better bartender. Let’s look at some of the things you should know about a bartending license if you want to become a bartender.


Understanding What a Bartending License is, Exactly

A bartending license is typically referred to as an alcohol seller/server certification or a bartending certification. The actual name depends on the state you live in. This license will allow you to serve alcohol within your state.

Typically, a bartending license requires you to understand the liquor laws in your state. In some states, you will need to take a class and pass an exam. It all depends on the regulations for serving alcohol in your state.

Alcohol Server Certification vs. Bartending Certification

There is a pretty big difference between a server certification compared to a bartending certification for alcohol. Bartenders may need to get an alcohol server certification, but this may not be enough. If you plan to work as a waiter at a bar or restaurant, you may also need a server certification.

How to Get Your Bartending License

Before you look into the steps to get a bartending license in your state, you want to learn the laws of your state. Some states don’t require a license, but many require at least some type of certification to serve alcohol. For example, the following is a look at what’s required in just a few states:

This is just a quick snapshot of what some states require. Most states require at least some type of certification to serve alcohol. In some states, such as Hawaii, it might even depend on the county you live in.

Steps to Get Your Bartending License

1. Know Your State Laws

You will need to learn your state laws. Not only will these laws tell you what’s required, but they are often necessary for certification. Make sure you take time to learn about the different liquor and alcohol laws within your state.

Many states require bartenders to pass a licensing exam, which will test you on the alcohol laws for the state. You may even need to pass this exam once every few years to keep your bartending license.

2. Use an Approved Online School

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to get your bartending license is through an accredited online school. This type of training is easy to get and very cheap. many different organizations offer state-approved courses online. Just about every state offers online training for bartenders.

3. Complete the Course

Once you find and select the right course for your needs, complete it. You will likely have a specific amount of time to complete the course and pass the final exam. Most courses will cover the following:

After you pass the exam, you will be certified to serve alcohol in your state. Usually, you will need to score at least a 70% on the final exam to pass.

Attend Online Bartending School

Another great way to get your bartending license, and even more, is to attend an online bartending school. There are several great schools to choose from. With an online bartending school, you can learn even more than just your state liquor laws.

Bartending jobs are filled by the most qualified person, typically. With an online bartending school, you can learn how to make the right drinks, how to use the necessary equipment, and how to truly work as a great bartender. Some schools even provide placement programs to help you find a job.

You can take just a bartending license course through a bartending school. However, you can also add on Bartender mixology, which is a great course for bartenders. Getting the right training can make a big difference when you’re trying to create a resume for bartending.

When you sign up for an online bartending school, you will gain access to bartending lessons with video demonstrations, practice exercises, and more. Interactive features also include things, such as flashcards and quizzes to help you learn faster.

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting a Bartending License

How much can I make as a bartender?

While bartenders may earn a salary or get paid per hour, the bulk of their income comes from tips. This makes it a bit harder to figure out exactly how much a bartender makes each year. While bartenders are supposed to claim all their tips, many don’t, so the statistics are not exactly accurate.

According to, the per hour rate for bartenders can range from $8.52 to $11.76, depending on your state. states that the per hour rate, on the low end will be around $12.30, while the higher end might be $19.34, once tips are included.

However, this doesn’t tell the story of what a bartender can make. Some make a very small amount in their actual paycheck, while others make a larger amount. Often, cash tips aren’t claimed by bartenders, or only a portion is claimed. This means, what you make can be much higher than the per hour rate above.

Depending on where you work, it’s possible for a good bartender to make $400 to $500 per night. Many bartenders also work part-time and might make $1,500 per week working just three- or four-night shifts at less than 8 hours per shift.

How old do I need to be to become a bartender?

The age you will need to be to become a bartender depends on the state you live in. You will need to be at least 18 years of age, and in many states, you will need to be 21 years of age.

States where you need to be 21 years of age to bartend include:

In the state of Kentucky, you only have to be 20 years of age to bartend. Some states allow you to be even younger including:

It’s always smart to check with your state to know the regulations for bartending.

Is the position of bartender growing?

Yes, this career is a growing one. It’s growing slightly faster than the average of all occupations at about 6% over the next ten years.

Which states are the best option for bartending?

Some states offer higher-paying bartending jobs and a higher number of opportunities. Bartending is a growing job and it’s growing even faster in some states.

Nevada is one of the best places for bartenders, specifically in Las Vegas. Florida is another great state for bartenders due to the high amount of tourism.

California, South Carolina, and New Jersey are also great places for bartenders.

Do I need to attend bartending school to become a bartender?

No. You will likely need some type of alcohol server training, based on your state. However, with the right bartending school training, you can open up many doors. With more job opportunities, you can make more money and enjoy a better career as a bartender.

If you want to become a bartender, you will likely need some type of certification. Depending on your state, this may be very easy to get or it might take a bit more time. Most states offer some type of online training and the exam online for serving alcohol.

Becoming a bartender can lead to a very lucrative career if you work in the right place. Make sure you understand the requirements in your state or the state where you want to work. Once you get a bartending license, you can build your resume with an online bartending school, as well.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.