Bartenders usually start out in other food service jobs and move up to the position by learning at work. However, expensive establishments usually hire bartenders with experience or who are graduates of vocational training programs. The job doesn’t have any specific educational requirement. Eighteen is the legal minimum age in most states, although some employers prefer bartenders at least 25 years old. Restaurants have the most jobs for bartenders, but not the highest average pay.
Hourly Restaurant Wages
The average hourly wage for a bartender in a full-service restaurant was $10.64 as of 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Full-service restaurants employed approximately 207,740 bartenders nationwide in 2011, or 40 percent of the total. Although most bartenders are full-time employees, approximately 40 percent worked part time in 2010, according to the BLS. Weekends, holidays and late-night work are typical for bartenders.
Annual Wage Comparison
The average annual pay of a full-time restaurant bartender was $22,130 as of 2011, according to the statistics bureau. The average bartender in all industries earned $21,550 annually, while the top 10 percent earned at least $31,860 per year. The second-largest employer of bartenders was bars, which had 153,870 employees earning an average of $20,230 per year. Among the top five employers of bartenders, traveler accommodation had the highest pay. This industry had 35,290 bartenders earning an average of $26,180 per year in 2011.
Bartenders’ total wages usually include a combination of hourly pay and tips, with the actual breakdown depending on the type of job. Bartenders in full-service restaurants often receive more from tips than from their employers. However, beginning bartenders sometimes receive only federal or state minimum wage. In some states, employers can pay a lower minimum wage to employees who also receive tips. For example, as of 2012, an Arizona employer must pay a tipped employee only $4.65 per hour toward the state minimum wage of $7.65.
Restaurant bartenders who receive part of their pay as tips must pay federal income taxes on both tips and other wages. The Internal Revenue Service considers tips as part of gross income for filing purposes. The IRS requirement includes tips received directly from a customer, pooled tips and those from charge slips. The IRS requires bartenders to keep a record of tips and recommends using Form 4070A to facilitate filing federal taxes.