For those who have the money to invest into bartending classes, it’s by far your best option. A lot of people will say that it’s not worth it, that you can simply start as a barback and work your way up. While this is slightly true, if you’ve read our article about being a barback, then you know the challenges that come with taking that route. Much like the world once being flat, some advice you need to take with a grain of salt. Most professional bartenders either started with bartending schools, or they took part in one of the online bartending programs.
Common Misconceptions People Give You:
Whenever someone tells you that bartending schools are a waste of money, simply ask them, “How did you get started?” 99% of the time, they’ll give you one of the four following responses:
(1) They started in some small town bar, making small money, and they learned the craft in small increments.
This is a possibility for you IF you live in a small town or rural area. Generally these bars are slower in pace, and the money will be on the low end. However, you learn as you go, mistakes are no big deal, and after a year or two you’ll have a concrete block of work experience to take with you into larger venues. The only difficulty you may face is that for some small towns, going out to the bar is one of the major sources of entertainment. Many of those bartending positions will be filled already, turnover rates are low, and when a spot does open up someone with experience is still right around the corner.
(2) They lied about their work history to get the job.
Unfortunately, this is what a lot of people do, and then regret doing. If you haven’t put time into your education, then any bar manager will see you struggle. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to hide it. Almost every bar manager nowadays will also check your work references and call those bars directly. One of the biggest issues with bartenders is theft, and it’s become common place to verify not only that the bartender worked at a bar, but their reason for leaving and if it was malicious. If you try to lie to get yourself a job, you won’t even get a callback for an interview. You need to be trustworthy to get hired as a bartender, and you’re much better off just sucking it up and attending one of the bartending schools.
(3) They got lucky and walked right in off the street with no experience.
This is pretty much the equivalent to winning the lotto. There will be dozens to thousands of qualified bartenders living in your town or city. If a bar is hiring, they’ll turn to craigslist, monster, careerbuilder, and any other number of job finding websites. To take someone in off the street means one thing, they had a connection. Either they’ve visited that bar so often that they win over the management, or they have a friend or family member who works as a manager. Either way, more times than not, the bar will still hire someone who is more qualified, or they’ll put you on such a strict part time employment that you don’t make anything in the job. Try working a Wednesday morning shift and tell me how good your tips are.
(4) They have no bartending experience, and are only giving you rumors.
This is where the vast majority of answers come from. People who haven’t worked in the bar industry seem to think that bartending is an easy job to get into, and that starting as a barback/runner is a surefire way to start. Well, I hate to break it to you, but you’re listening to all the wrong people giving you the same wrong regurgitated rumors. Bartending takes a lot more than learning drinks. There’s countless microskills that you can only get through bartending schools and online programs. And working as a barback will leave you so bogged down from your own job duties that you’ll have no time to pick up bartending. A barback to a bartender is like a dish washer/fry cook to a chef. You’re in the right environment, but you’re not learning a thing about getting the job done.
Should I Look into Different Bartending Schools?
If you have the money and the time, then bartending schools are a solid option. You’ll leave there with all the bells and whistles needed to make up for a lack of work experience. If a bar has an opening, they’ll see that you were trained in drink mixing, bartender skills, and that you clearly have a desire to be in the profession. You aren’t just some Joe Shmoe off the street who wants to learn on the job, and potentially cost them time and money.
What About Online Bartending Classes?
If you don’t have a lot of money to throw around, then online bartending schools are a great way to go. You’ll gain all the skills from bartending classes, but it won’t break your back. It’s also great because you can learn on your own time. So if you already have part time or full time employment somewhere, you’re not having to stick to some school schedule to learn the trade.
What Are Some Good Bartending Schools?
Jason: It’s really hard to say because they’re all location dependent. Usually any of the ABC Bartending Schools are a good pick. A few of the people I work with went there and had good results both in the bartending classes as well as getting a job afterwards. My personal suggestion is to do one of the online bartending schools because they’re cheaper, but I know I already talk enough about this and I’ll save you the speech. If you’re set on a physical school location and you have the time/money, then give ABC a look.