What was once a popular, high paying part-time job has now turned into a full-time profession. Bartenders from dive bars to cocktail lounges are seeing higher wages than ever before, and the demand for bartenders around the country continues to rise.
DATAUSA reports that there are currently over 450,000 bartenders in the United States, with an expected 10-year industry growth of about 3%. While the average salary for a bartender in America is $24,000 excluding tips, varying regulations and minimum wage requirements result in inconsistent salaries from one state to the next. This leads many bartenders to wonder, “Where are the best places to be a bartender in 2018?”
Is it Miami, known for its extravagant nightclubs and pricey cocktails? Could it be New York City, known around the world as the city that never sleeps? Or is the best place to be a bartender Wisconsin, known as one of the heaviest drinking states in the country.
We hope to put an end to your questions by creating this list of the top 5 best places to be a bartender in 2018. To make this list, we took a look at salary averages (not including tips), state laws, bartender requirements, and other important factors that go into determining what makes a great bartending city.
Who knows, one of these cities could be your next bartending career move.
Last Vegas, Nevada
World famous for its gambling industry and being one of the biggest tourist locations in America, is it any surprise that Sin City is number one on our list? Last Vegas not only surpasses all other cities by a large margin in terms of average wages, but also in terms of the number of jobs available in the industry.
In Vegas, it’s hard to walk 2 city blocks without finding another casino, bar, or restaurant serving alcohol at any hour of the day. Their relaxed liquor laws allow bartenders to work more hours, thus making more money. With its mean salary being $29,130, not many cities can compare to Vegas in this regard.
The cost of living in Las Vegas is actually quite affordable. One bedroom apartments typically cost considerably less than $1,000. This makes Vegas an appealing option to those looking to make bartending their full-time gig, while also enjoying the nightlife and party vibe that Vegas brings.
The state of Nevada, however, requires every alcohol server to be trained and certified, for which there are a high concentration of schools in the city. Fortunately, certification is quick, easy, and affordable.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
This beautiful city along the South Atlantic Coast of South Carolina are is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the United States during the summer. Not only that, but the cities amazing golf courses and seafood pull tourists sporadically throughout the remaining seasons. This creates a great environment to be a bartender.
One of the main pulls of bartending in Myrtle Beach is the amazing salary in comparison to the cost of living. Indeed reports that bartenders in Myrtle Beach make roughly $31,000 a year, 8% above the national average. In contrast, PayScale notes that the cost of living in Myrtle Beach is 7% below the national average.
For bartenders looking to earn enough to survive throughout the year while also being able to take in the amazing beach, food, and leisure the city has to offer, Myrtle Beach may be the place for you. Bartender certifications for South Carolina are also extremely affordable and easy to earn.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Known as the Vegas of the East Coast, Atlantic City makes the list for similar reasons. is bound to be one of the best cities for bartenders. Its endless sprawl of clubs, casinos, and bars open 24/7 provide bartenders with plenty of opportunities to make a living or earn extra cash over the summer. The number of tourists that flock to the Jersey Shore in the summer also bring in significant foot traffic to the establishments that operate within the city.
Bartenders in Atlantic City make an above-average salary, bringing it just shy of $27,000 per year. With that said, when casino-goers win big, they usually like to treat bartenders with some generous tips every now and then.
Not to mention, Atlantic City is literally located on the beach. Many of the casinos that make up this interesting town are located along the boardwalk, which separates the slots from the sand. Having a stressful time behind the bar? Just head over to the shore and forget about it.
While it’s not a requirement, almost all employers will require some type of training, experience, or combination of the two in order to receive employment. Taking the first steps and getting a general alcohol seller certification for less than $15 can do nothing but help.
Miami is known for being one of the country’s most vibrant cities. The endless nightlife, the energetic people, the unrivaled weather, and the beautiful beaches draw a consistent stream of tourists throughout the entire year. This results in more traffic to the bars, and more tips for the bartenders.
According to Indeed, the average salary for a bartender in Miami is about $30,000, roughly 6% over the national average. This would make it a more attractive location than most based on salary alone, but unfortunately the cost of living in Miami is significantly higher than most other cities, with the average one bedroom apartment costing around $2,000.
Miami’s iconic status as one of the most famous cities in the world may be enough to draw bartenders to South Beach to try their luck. Like New Jersey, Florida has yet to mandate any statewide bartender requirements, but it is heavily recommended by bar owners and industry pros to get ahead of the game and get certified.
Not only will a certification make you a more attractive candidate, but it will also make you a better bartender.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco is currently at the center of the world’s tech bloom. Companies like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Salesforce have transformed a city known for being the home to Tanner family on ‘Full House’ into a technology gold mine.
Individuals from over the world are flocking to claim their piece of the pie, leading to a constant stream of new residents throughout the year. To put it simply, more people means more bars. More bars mean more bartenders.
While San Francisco is notorious for its incredibly high cost of living, it compensates by paying bartenders almost 46% more than the national average. This coupled with the unique culture and progressive nature of the city is drawing professionals from across the nation, and making San Fran one of the best places to be a bartender in the U.S.
Interested in learning more about the certification requirements for California? Click here.
So that concludes our list for best places to be a bartender in 2018. With that said, there are many great cities around the nation to practice the art of bartending that offer competitive salaries. Keep in mind, over 54% of a bartenders earnings comes from tips, so in actuality, you have more control over your earnings than any city or establishment.