A Comprehensive Guide to Bartending Licenses: Requirements, Training, and Certification

  • By: BT Staff
  • Date: January 20, 2024
  • Time to read: 9 min.

Bartending licenses and certifications play a crucial role in the bartending industry, ensuring the safe and responsible service of alcohol.

This comprehensive guide to bartending certification will explore the requirements, training options, and certification processes associated with obtaining a bartending license. Whether you’re interested in pursuing a bartending career or enhancing your skills, this article will provide valuable insights and resources.

Table of Contents

Understanding Bartending Licenses and Certifications

Liquor License vs. Bartender Certification

While these are used interchangeably and mean that holder has completed the required training to serve alcoholic beverages in a jurisdiction.

A liquor license is something else; it’s a document issued by the state (or local authority) that allows the holder to serve alcohol at licensed premises, events or maybe off-premises consumption and deliver alcohol, depending on the license terms.

Getting a liquor license is usually more involved and can involve fees and background checks as well as conditions to maintain that license.

Researching State Requirements to Serve Alcoholic Beverages

To start your journey toward obtaining a bartending license, it is crucial to research the requirements set by your local city or state.

Some states mandate a bartending certification to sell alcohol, while others may have different state regulations. Understanding your state’s requirements ensures compliance and sets you on the right path.

Training and Education

State-Recommended Training Providers

Choosing reputable and state-recommended training providers is vital to receive comprehensive and recognized bartending education. These approved providers offer courses designed to equip aspiring bartenders with the necessary knowledge and skills required in the industry. If a jurisdiction has a list of approved providers, you can find them on the state’s alcoholic beverage control website.

Also, while some states have no state laws on being certified, cities in their state may have requirements, for instance, Nevada and Las Vegas. Even if the state does not have a requirement, many employers will want staff to have server training in responsible selling alcohol.

Completing the Alcohol Training Program

Completing an alcohol training program is crucial in obtaining a bartending license. These programs cover essential topics such as responsible alcohol service, identifying fake IDs, managing intoxicated customers, and understanding liquor laws. This program will give you the knowledge and awareness necessary to provide safe and responsible service.

Bartending License Training Topics

You can expect to cover a wide range of topics during bartending license training. These may include mixology techniques, drink recipes, customer service skills, responsible alcohol service, and bar operations. This comprehensive training program ensures you are well-prepared for the challenges and requirements of the bartending profession.

How to Prepare for a Bartender Certification Exam

Preparing for a bartender certification exam requires dedication and focused study. To increase your chances of success, utilize study resources such as textbooks, online courses, and practice exams. Implement effective study strategies and review key concepts regularly to build a strong foundation of knowledge.

Becoming a Licensed Bartender

How to Get a Bartending Certification Online

The convenience of online learning has made it possible to complete an alcohol server training program from the comfort of your home.

Online bartending schools provide comprehensive training programs covering all the course topics required for a bartending certification. These programs offer flexibility and accessibility, allowing you to learn at your own pace.

Find an Accredited Online School

When choosing an online bartending school, it is crucial to ensure its accreditation. Accreditation guarantees that the school meets certain quality standards and that employers will recognize your bartending certification. Look for online schools accredited by reputable organizations or industry associations.

Applying for Certification Exam

You must apply for a certification exam to obtain your bartender certification. The process typically involves submitting an application, providing necessary documentation, and paying the required fees. Be sure to carefully follow the instructions the certification board provides and meet all the deadlines.

Complete Training and Gain Experience

While obtaining a bartending certification is essential, gaining practical experience is equally valuable. Consider internships, part-time positions, or volunteering at local bars or restaurants to acquire hands-on experience and refine your skills. Practical experience enhances your employability and helps you become a well-rounded bartender.

Applying for a State Certification

Once you have completed the required training and gained sufficient experience, it’s time to apply for state certification. This step involves submitting your application to the appropriate state regulatory agency or licensing board. Along with the application, you may need to provide documentation such as proof of training completion, identification, and any additional forms required by your state.

Obtaining State Bartender Certification

Upon approval of your application, you will receive your state bartender certification. This certification proves your qualification and compliance with the state’s bartending regulations. Keep your bartending certification readily available, as employers may require proof of your credentials during the hiring process.

Remember that most need to be renewed after a few years – an expired “bar card” means you can’t serve drinks until it’s valid again.

Utilizing School Resources

Throughout your bartending journey, maximise the resources your chosen bartending school provides. These resources may include job placement assistance, networking opportunities, and ongoing support. Leveraging these resources can enhance your career prospects and help you make valuable connections within the industry.

Bartender License: State-Specific Considerations

Bartender Restrictions in New York

In New York, bartenders must adhere to specific restrictions and regulations. These may include age requirements, limits on serving or selling alcohol to intoxicated individuals, and regulations regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages. Familiarize yourself with the unique laws and regulations of the state where you plan to work to ensure compliance and responsible alcohol training.

For further information, see our article on certification requirements for bartending in New York.

Indiana Bartender License Application

If you want to serve alcohol in Indiana, the process typically involves completing the Indiana Alcohol Server Program Certification.

This alcohol server training program covers topics such as alcohol laws, responsible alcohol training practices, and recognizing signs of intoxication. Upon completion, you can apply for your Indiana bartender certification.

Exploring Bartending Schools and Programs

Top 3 Bartending Schools in New York

For aspiring bartenders in New York, several reputable bartending schools stand out. These schools provide comprehensive, hands-on training programs, experienced instructors, and learning opportunities.

The top three bartending schools in New York are ABC Bartending School, New York Bartending School, and Professional Bartending School.

See this article on New York bartending schools you might want to check.

Bartending Schools in Select States (New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, Alaska)

If you’re located in New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, or Alaska, reputable bartender training schools and programs are also available in these states.

Research local options and choose a school that aligns with your goals offers comprehensive training, and has a positive reputation within the industry.


Mastering the art of bartending requires more than just pouring and mixing drinks. Acquiring a bartending certification demonstrates your commitment to professionalism and ensures your customers’ safety and satisfaction.

By following the state-specific requirements, completing thorough training, and gaining practical experience, you’ll be well on your way to your bartending career.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How much does a bartending certification cost?

The cost of a bartending license varies from state to state. It is recommended to check with your state’s regulatory agency or licensing board to determine the exact fees associated with obtaining a server training and certification.

We’ve covered the requirements for the US, Canada and the UK here.

Do I need a bartending certification to work as a bartender?

In some states, as a minimum age requirement, a bartending certification is required by law to work as a bartender. However, some states do not have such a requirement. It’s important to research the regulations specific to your state to understand the licensing requirements.

We’ve covered the US, Canada and the UK requirements here.

Can I get a bartending license online?

Yes, it is possible to obtain certification online. Many reputable bartending schools offer online training programs covering the necessary certification curriculum. However, ensuring that the online school you choose is accredited and recognized by industry associations is essential.

How long does it take to get a bartending license?

The duration to obtain a bartending certification can vary depending on several factors, including the training program’s length, the state’s application processing time, and any additional requirements. Typically, it can be done in a few hours or a day, including the written exam part.

Is a bartender license valid in all states?

No, a bartender certification is typically valid only within the state where it was issued. If you plan to work in a different state, you may need to research and comply with that state’s specific requirements to obtain a license, permit or certification.

Can I bartend without a license?

The bartending license requirements vary by state. In some states, it is mandatory to have a license, while in others, it may not be a legal requirement. However, even in states where a bartender certification is not required, many establishments prefer to hire bartenders who have undergone server training and obtained certifications before they can start mixing drinks.

What are the advantages of attending a bartending school?

Attending a reputable bartending school offers several advantages. These schools provide comprehensive training programs that cover essential skills, alcohol awareness knowledge, and techniques.

They often offer hands-on practice at a mock bar and provide valuable networking opportunities within the industry.

Additionally, some schools offer job placement assistance to help graduates find employment opportunities after they’ve completed their bartending course.

Can I become a bartender without prior experience?

Yes, it is possible to become a bartender without prior experience. Many bartending schools and training programs are designed for individuals without experience.

You can develop the skills necessary to succeed as a bartender through comprehensive training, hands-on practice, and gaining practical experience.

How long is bartender certification valid?

The validity period of bartender certifications can vary. Some certificates may be valid indefinitely, while others may require renewal after a certain period, typically a 3-5 years.

It is important to check your certification’s specific requirements and expiration dates. Often when you receive your bartender certification, the expiration date will be on it. Check if you need to re-test after it expires or renew it.

Can I upgrade my bartender certification to a higher level?

Depending on the certification program, upgrading your bartender certification to a higher level may be possible. Some programs offer advanced courses or levels of certification for those who wish to further information and expand their knowledge and skills in the bartending profession.

What are the career opportunities for certified bartenders?

Certified bartenders have a wide range of career opportunities. They can work in various establishments such as bars, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, and resorts. Additionally, certified bartenders may have the chance to advance their careers to positions such as head bartender, bar manager or even open their establishments.

Are there minimum legal age requirements for obtaining a bartending license?

Yes, age requirements for obtaining a bartending license vary by state. In many US states and Canada, the legal age to serve alcohol is 18 or 21 years old, depending on the specific liquor laws in the state.

It is important to meet the age requirement set by your state to be eligible for a bartending license.

Can I obtain a bartending license if I have a criminal record?

The impact of a criminal record on obtaining a bartending license can vary. Some states may have restrictions or additional requirements for individuals with certain types of criminal records. It is advisable to research the regulations specific to your state and consult with the licensing authority to understand how a criminal record may affect your ability to obtain a license.

Can I transfer my bartending license to another state?

Bartending licenses are typically not transferable between other states. Each state has its licensing requirements and regulations. If you plan to move and work as a bartender in a different state, you will generally need to meet that state’s specific requirements and apply for a new license or certification.

Can I work as a bartender while attending bartending school?

Many individuals work part-time as bartenders while attending a bartending course or school. This allows them to gain practical experience while learning the necessary skills and knowledge in the classroom. Working in a bar or restaurant setting can provide valuable insights and enhance learning.