Bartenders serve alcohol to patrons in restaurants, alcoholic bars and other types of establishments. About 512,230 bartenders worked in the United States as of 2011. About 40 percent of them worked in full-service restaurants, and about 30 percent were employed in bars. Typically, bartenders are required by law to be at least 18 years old.

Average and Median Earnings:

In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the average wage of a bartender was $10.36 an hour, and the average annual income of a bartender was $21,550. The median earnings of bartenders during this period were $9.06 an hour and $18,850 a year. Eighty percent of bartenders in the U.S. reported annual incomes of between $16,170 and $31,860.

Pay by Employment Setting:

Bartenders who worked in hotels and hotel restaurants generally reported the highest incomes in 2011, an average of $26,180 a year. Bartenders employed in full-service restaurants tended to earn somewhat less, averaging about $22,130 a year. Bartenders employed by bars earned an average of $20,230 per year, and bartenders who worked for civic and social organizations earned an average of $18,970 a year.

Pay by Region:

In general, bartenders in the West and Northeast reported the highest incomes in 2011. The very highest pay was reported in Hawaii, where bartenders averaged $29,560 per year. Washington ranked second with an average annual income of $28,030, followed by Vermont at $27,820, Utah at $27,200 and Massachusetts at $26,950. The lowest-paying states were located in the upper Midwest, and Montana reported the lowest average income of $18,230 per year.

Employment Outlook:

The BLS estimates that job growth among bartenders will occur at about 9 percent between 2010 and 2020, slower than the expected growth rate of 14 percent for all occupations. Because turnover is relatively high among bartenders, employment opportunities are favorable. Competition can be expected for bartending jobs at upscale restaurants, and experienced bartenders and those who have attended bartending school will experience the best job prospects.

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