The bartending profession is one that is both exciting and rewarding, with lots of opportunities to work all around the world in bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.
But depending on where you are in the world, a bartending license may be required to work legally, which brings up an interesting question: Is bartending school worth it?
Whilst some people believe that bartending school is a necessity that is required for success in the role, others believe it’s an expense that is not worth the time.
In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into whether a bartending school is worth it to help you make an informed decision on whether it is the right path for you.
Is Bartending School Worth it?
If you’re totally new to the world of bartending and have no prior experience working in a bar setting or serving alcohol, then YES, bartending school is worth it.
That said, if you have previous bartending experience and only require the specific certification to work as a bartender in your area, then it’s not worth it.
In that case, it’s best to find out exactly what certification you need to legally work as a bartender and get that without going to bartending school.
Bartending school often takes two weeks or more to complete, so it’s not something that can be done at the drop of a hat which makes it worth considering if you’re a busy person with other commitments.
Be sure to check the laws and regulations around bartending in your state, as some states such as Texas only require the TABC certification, which costs around $10 and only takes a few hours to do the coursework and take the exam.
If you’re really pushed for time and don’t want to complete a two-week plus in-person bartending course, taking an online bartending course may be best for you.
These can be completed in your own time in the comfort of your own home and can be done as quickly or as slowly as you like, so long as the course is completed in 1 year.
So whether or not bartending school is worth it depends on your experience and commitments, but I would say that if you’re completely new to bartending and are keen to get into the industry, it’s worthwhile.
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How Much Is Bartending School?
The price of bartending school can vary depending on a number of factors including the school you attend, the location, as well as the level of training provided.
Most bartending schools in the United States cost between $200 and $1000, with the median price being $600.
There are other programs that offer a more advanced level of training, including courses in mixology, bar management, and customer service which can cost upwards of $1000.
It’s also important to factor in other costs associated with bartending school, such as textbooks, equipment, and travel costs to the school.
The costs of attending bartending school can add up quickly, which is why it’s important to consider whether or not you actually NEED to attend and if it’s financially viable.
As mentioned earlier, some states don’t require you to attend bartending school at all, so if it’s not within budget and you can get away without it, then this may be more viable.
Any associated training programs will help you secure a job as a bartender, so whilst considering bartending school it may be wise to take online training courses on customer service, cocktails, and bar management.
Having some additional qualifications on your CV that relate to bartending roles will help significantly in securing you a role in the industry.
>>Read more: How long does it take to be a bartender?
How Long Is Bartending School?
The length of bartending school can vary, but most courses require a minimum of 40 hours of classroom time which is usually completed in the evenings over the course of a few weeks.
Bartending school can be completed in as little as two weeks, which is around the average time it takes most attendees to complete when attending full-time.
That said, some people take longer to complete bartending school and attend for 6 weeks or more, so it’s really about how much time you can devote to attending classes.
The more advanced the course the longer it will typically take to complete. If you’re attending a course that covers the fundamentals, you can expect to complete it within 2 – 3 weeks.
Whereas if the class is covering bar management, mixology, or flair bartending, this may take between 6 and 8 weeks to complete.
Be sure to research the bartending school and available classes beforehand as some offer a flexible timetable that can be completed on the weekends or online.
This may mean you can complete your certification sooner and allow you to secure a role in bartending quicker than expected.
My Experience With Bartender School
I attended bartending school in 2003 when I was first getting into the industry, and personally, I found it to be a fun and rewarding experience.
The instructors were super friendly and had decades of experience, whilst there was a lot of classroom time, I didn’t mind it too much as the learning was fun, engaging and was around a topic I was actually interested in.
I completed the course over a 3-week period whilst I was studying at college. It taught me how to use cocktail shakers, mixing glasses, bar maintenance, and MUCH more, which gave me a head start when starting my first role.
When I did land my first role as a bartender, I was full of confidence as I already knew exactly what I was doing and how to function behind the bar.
It can be daunting when you first start as a bartender, so having that prior experience made it much easier for me and I found I settled in very quickly.
There’s no doubt that bartending school was the right choice for me, not only was it a legal requirement for me to have but it gave me the confidence and reassurance that I was comfortable behind the bar.
Pros & Cons Of Bartending School
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of attending bartending school and what it helped me with during my time there.
- Structured Learning Environment: Bartending School offers a structured learning environment where I was able to learn the basics and the intricacies of the role, which helped me feel more confident behind the bar.
- Networking Opportunities: The school provided me with numerous opportunities to network with other aspiring bartenders and experienced professionals in the industry, which has been invaluable in my career progression.
- Practical Experience: The hands-on experience I gained was crucial. I learned to make a variety of cocktails in a simulated environment, which made transitioning to a real bar setting much smoother.
- Certification: Having a certification from a reputable bartending school can make you stand out to potential employers, especially when you have little to no experience in the field.
- Knowledge of Laws & Regulations: The school educated me on the local laws and regulations related to serving alcohol, which is essential for avoiding legal troubles and maintaining a safe environment for patrons.
- Cost: One of the major drawbacks is the cost involved. I had to pay a substantial fee for the course, which might not be feasible for everyone, especially those just starting out in the industry.
- Not a Substitute for Experience: While bartending school taught me a lot, nothing compares to the real-world experience. Some employers prioritize practical experience over formal education in bartending.
- Not Always Required: Many bars don’t require a bartending certificate, and some seasoned bartenders have never attended a bartending school, learning the ropes through on-the-job experience instead.
- Time Commitment: Balancing work, life, and school can be challenging. The time commitment required to complete the course can be a drawback for some.
To wrap up, bartending school is worth it for those who do not have any previous experience working behind a bar, but if you have prior experience or it’s not a legal requirement, then you may not want to enroll in a course.
It can be a costly experience that isn’t necessary for some states, but if you do have the budget and want to be ahead of the curve then it’s definitely worth doing.
Courses can typically be completed in 2 – 4 weeks depending on your availability, whilst it may seem boring and dull, it’s actually a very fun and worthwhile experience.
Having a bartending license can give you the upper hand when it comes to applying for roles in the industry, so if you’re looking to stay in the industry long-term or progress to management then I highly suggest you attend bartending school.
Catch you in the next one!
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