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Do Bartenders Make Good Money? (Quick Facts)

Managing a bar takes a lot of skills and hard work and with many bartenders in the profession, there’s always a question of whether they earn well. For a fact, bartenders make good money, but how much of that depends on several factors.

For example, the popularity of the bar, the state of practice, and the number of tips impressed customers leave behind. At one time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics put the average salary of a bartender at just over $30,000 per year, plus up to $175 tips per shift.

Perhaps you’re an aspiring bartender that wants a clear idea of how rewarding the art is. You have to understand that what you make varies from country to country and state to state.

Further, the figure above is the average in the United States, and you’d have to put in a good shift to earn that much per year. Moreover, the job is exciting and can potentially make you a lot of money if you’re passionate about it.

Do Bartenders make Good Money?

It has been established that bartenders make good money. Another thing here is how high their figures go. Unfortunately, there’s no perfect answer or universal earning scale. As you’ve learned, bartender salaries can vary across the world, between cities in the United States, and within cities themselves.

One thing is clear, though, a bartender’s salary is a combination of two things – wages and tips. While the wages are somewhat easy to predict, the tips often vary greatly. In the United States, recent statistics show that the average base salary of a bartender is $15.55 and $150 tips per day. That translates to an average base salary of $46,000 per year.

With increasing expertise and experience levels, the figure above gets higher. For example, an experience level between three to five years commands an average of about $50,000. More than ten years of experience will see many bartenders earn up to $54,000. That’s good money for an underrated job!

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In New York City, the average base salary of a bartender is just over $51,000 plus $200 tips per day, up 9% above the national average. For those in Washington, the average base salary is $54,414 plus $225 tips per day, up 16% above the national average.

Are Tips a Major Source of Bartender’s Salaries?

If you’re wondering how important tips are to a bartender’s salary, consider this statistic: tips account for between 75% and 85% of their total earnings. That’s huge and makes tips the biggest factor in how much bartenders earn per year.

Further, this will vary from bar to bar. You would expect a well-laid-out and popular bar to have many returning visitors, thus leading to more tips.

People paying tips

At some low-class venues, the maximum tip you can expect can get to $250 for the best of nights. A middle-class venue will see a considerable increase to about $500 on the best nights.

In the same way, upper-class venues with big hitters visiting can see you earn up to $700 or more. With tips every day, it’s possible to go home with a lot of money using your skills, and working for a proper establishment.

You won’t find bartending as one of the leading millionaire jobs, but your earnings can outstrip the average minimum wage. Besides, tips could end up covering the lion’s share of your earnings or total salary. Some top-rated bartenders earn over $60,000 per year doing what they love – bartending. You can draw inspiration from that to start this rewarding career.

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Factors that Determine a Bartender’s Earning Potential

By now, you have come across glimpses of the factors that determine a bartender’s earning potential. Here’s a good look at the essential ones:


In the United States, New York, and Washington DC lead the way with the highest national average for bartender salaries. Cities in these two states make more money than most.

For more clarity, bartenders in Wyoming make an average of $37,674 per year, 20% below the national average. Compare that to $52,882 per year in New Jersey which is 13% above the national average.

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The arena or venue could be an all-bubbly place or one suffering from slow business days. Whatever the case, the venue can increase a bartender’s earning potential or negatively affect it. For example, upper-class venues attract richer individuals and often lead to better tips.


Shifting is another aspect to consider. When you work in some venues, things only start heating up at specific times. On the flip side, things could be slow. Most times, your earnings will depend on how busy your shift is.


Adding your skills to the mix is often the icing on the cake. If you’re so good, finding an upper-class venue will be easy. Drink-pouring skills and knowledge of the art boost your earning potential.

Traits of a Good Bartender

You need certain traits as a bartender. Remember, what you want is an avenue to boost your salary. Three traits you must have:

  1. Know your drinks: That’s why you’re in the venue. No matter what category the location falls under, it’s important you have adequate knowledge about the drinks being ordered. Imagine a customer saying they want “ice on the rocks” and you don’t know what that means.
  2. Maintain cleanliness: You’ve probably come across a bartender wiping off the surface of the bar or some bottles with a towel. Drinks can spill and dirt can accumulate. Good bartenders constantly maintain a clean bar to keep customers comfortable.
  3. Good customer service and situational awareness: Focus is an important part of the business. Good bartenders pay attention to their guests and patrons. They know who to give drinks to and how to read situations.

Tips to Help Bartenders Earn More

  • Get licensed: While this isn’t a requirement in most places, having a license boosts your profile as a bartender. Besides, some states make having one compulsory.
  • Learn to pour: If you’re going to last in this career, you must get the pour right. The right pour translates to delicious drinks and matches the order you receive. From the basic to the complex, getting orders to spot on.
  • Become a barback:  a barback doesn’t need any prior experience. Just pay close attention to details to gain much-needed experience working behind a bar. This is your first stop in bartending.
  • Learn more about mixology: Firstly, learn how to recreate and pour drinks others have mixed. Next, get inventive with your drinks after you’ve understood different flavors and combinations.
  • A mentor can help: Experienced bartenders can help you hone your craft. You can trust one to help you become a better bartender. They can put you through some processes and offer quality advice on how you can earn more money.
  • Have a good disposition: Far from being a prankster, you can be friendly and courteous to customers. What you want are customers comfortable enough to order drinks, speak to you, and hand you a great tip afterward. Go about your business dutifully.
  • Practice: According to Aristotle on success, “we are what we repeatedly do.” You’re only going to get the big bucks when you’re good at bartending. Dedicate yourself to learning everything about the craft to work better, and earn higher.
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So do bartenders make good money? Yes! Bartending can be a lucrative career, especially when you’ve developed the necessary skills and experience to make it worthwhile. If you’re interested in becoming a bartender that earns well, your location, venue, shift, and skills are essential.

You can start as a barback before going ahead to take charge of a bar yourself. Moreover, no one started as a professional. That’s why a mentor, enough practice, and a good disposition can help you make positive progress. This way, you get to make high sales and better tips leading to a good salary.

Whether you’re pouring beer or whiskey, charged with handling the cash, or menu engineering, there’s a lot to suggest that the pay is worth it.

About Martin Vernon

A lifelong learner, educator, and advocate for education as a means for individual and social change. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a great day!

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