How To Get Bartender License (Quick Guide)

Choosing to become a bartender is a great career choice! You can work flexible hours and have plenty of time to enjoy life outside work. Bartending is one of the careers that does not require a degree. But, you can make a good living out of the tips you get at every shift. The duties and responsibilities that come with being a bartender are straightforward. However, you need knowledge, experience, and soft skills to become a great bartender. In some cases, you might also need to get a license. So, how to get a bartender license, you ask?

It is easy and inexpensive to apply for a bartender license. People working in the restaurant and bar industry need to interact with their customers and co-workers. Some bartenders started as servers or barbacks before they took on the role of a bartender. And attending bartending school, taking short courses, and getting a bartending certificate or license is advantageous for the job.

Where to Get a Bartending License?

lady bartender

You should first attend a bartending course from a school authorized by the local authorities. These schools facilitate employment once you completed the requirements and got your license. You can explore lists of bartending schools with affordable rates and flexible schedules. Some of them also offer online courses for your convenience.


Before you can apply for a license and start serving alcohol, some states require that you attend some bartending courses. It should cover lectures and practical sessions. Generally, you will attend 40 hours of classes to learn the basics of bartending and responsible serving. It will include types of alcohol, juices, mixers, and mixing cocktails. The lectures are divided into modules, and once completed, you will proceed to the practical sessions. During this part, students are allowed to use a mock bar where they can mix drinks, memorize recipes, and test their speed in preparing beverages.

Students must attend the classes, pass all practical tests and prepare for the final examination. In most cases, class schedules are made flexible and convenient for students who are already working.


A bartender needs to complete the 40-hour classes before taking a written exam. It will cover all the things discussed in the ten chapters that they studied. Students will also participate in a practical examination to perform basic bartending skills behind the bar. The students need to complete drink orders within a specific time frame.

After the completion of the coursework and passing the two examinations, students will receive their licenses. Generally, it is mailed to the school where they attended after completing the requirements.

Can You Attend Bartending Classes While You Are Employed?

Bartender License course online

Bartending classes accommodate a variety of students. Some are just planning to take on a bartending career and those already working as bartenders, servers or barbacks. You can find a school that offers flexible class schedules to make attendance easier for you. Whether you work full-time or have a family, you can choose the program to work for your needs.  Thus, you can obtain your license in due time. More so, you may also explore online courses and bartending license applications online if it is convenient for you.

Individual Registration

You can apply for your license by completing a registration form from the local police or health department. Depending on your location, the license application forms may be provided by these offices. Likewise, the application fee varies from one state to the other.

Bartending License Vs Bartender Certification

Don’t get confused about a bartending license and a bartender certification. These two differ in several ways, including the coursework needed for each of them.

What is a Bartending License?

Typically, a bartender license will allow bartenders to serve beer and wine to customers in bars or restaurants. The licensing programs offered by bartending schools should be approved by the federal or state liquor regulation board. The programs will include state and federal liquor laws. In addition, it will cover principles and ethics in the responsible serving of alcohol.

Bartending licenses are issued to bartenders 18 years old and above. It is the minimum age requirement though it still varies from one state to another. Moreover, getting a bartending license does not have the same educational standard and conditions as getting a bartending certification.

What is a Bartending Certification?

If you intend to obtain a bartender certification for alcohol server, you will need additional training and other coursework on responsible alcohol serving and liquor laws. This is on top of your bartending course to get your license. It will also include mixology training and principles such as creative garnishes and background information about various liquor products.

Additionally, you will also discuss customer service skills, product inventory, and professional service atmosphere. Often, a bartending certification or alcohol server certification gives the bartender an edge and additional credentials, especially for places that serve hard liquor products outside wine and beer.

Getting a Bartending Certification

Bartending certification or an alcohol server certification is not a requirement if you intend to obtain a bartending license. On the other hand, attending an alcohol server certification course will help you prepare for various circumstances when you start working. There will also be a test that includes questions about the dangers of over-consumption and how to check ID before serving alcoholic beverages.

Ideally, you can get an alcohol server certification only when it is required in your jurisdiction. But completing the training will prepare you for future career development. In some states or cities, it is a requirement for bartenders to have an alcohol server before they are allowed to operate the bar.

How to Get a Bartending Certification

Bartender License Certification Sample

Getting a professional server certification is similar to attending a bartending school to obtain a bartending license. You will also complete mixology coursework with required training hours before you can get an alcohol server certification. After completing the required course hours, you need to take an alcohol seller-server certification course. Your course contents also depend upon the requirements of the state where you intend to work as a bartender. Here are some critical steps that will help you obtain your bartender certification:

Study Your State’s Bartending Requirements

Regulations associated with alcohol consumption differ from one state to another—research on your state’s requirements on serving alcohol and consuming alcoholic beverages. The minimum legal age to serve alcohol may also vary; thus, find out all the details you need to work as a bartender and search for schools that offer alcohol server certification courses or programs adhering to these requirements.

Research More About Bartending Program and Schools

Once you learn about the requirements of your state on alcohol seller-server, your next step is to find a school that offers a certification course that meets those requirements. Some institutions provide hands-on training on a mock bar to learn everything as an alcohol server from mixing cocktails to handling glassware. Apply for the alcohol server certification program once you find the perfect school that suits your budget and schedule.

Complete the Training and Gain Experience

happy bartender serving drinks

It will be advantageous for you to attend professional mixology courses. You will learn more than just mixing beverages; but you also learn about alcohol laws, excellent customer service, and responsible serving. Depending on the school, coursework, schedule and practical training, the certification program can last for up to two weeks or more.

Apply for the Certification Exam

After the completion of your training, you have to apply to take the alcohol server certification exam. Your bartender certification school will help you schedule the time and date of your examination.

Pass the written and practical examinations

Bartender certification programs also have a written exam and a practical test after you completed the coursework. The written exam portion will test your knowledge about safety procedures, liquor laws, responsible alcohol seller-server principles, and others.  Likewise, the practical exam will test your mixing beverages, proper product use, responsible serving and customer service skills.

Apply for Your State Certification

You need to fill in some paperwork and pay the required fees for your state bartender certification application. Depending on your state, your certification program instructor may also provide references on your behalf. Your application for state certification may take days or weeks to process. Once you receive your certificate, you can attach it to your applications for a bartender job in hotels, bars,s or restaurants.

At What Age Can You Apply for a Bartender Certification?

In most cases, people need to prove that they are 21 years old to be served alcoholic beverages. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait too long before you can start tending bars and serving alcohol. Some states allow bartenders to serve alcohol even if they are only 18 or 19 years old as long as they have an alcohol seller-server certification. A bartender license is a separate license from a business establishment.


So, do you need a bartender license to work as a bartender? Well, it largely depends on the requirements of a country, state, or city you are in. But in most cases, you will need one. Obtaining a bartender license and certification is advantageous for you, especially if you are new or planning to work at a bar. They are inexpensive programs, and they are worth it. Typically, bars and establishments will require bartenders to complete the serving license training regardless of state or city laws; thus, it’s best to have them ready in your credentials.