In many states, bartenders need nothing more than basic knowledge of drinks and customer service skills to start working behind a bar. However, many aspiring bartenders opt for formal training programs and certification.
Bartending education provides students with certification that they have studied mixology, customer service skills, safety and sanitation, and glassware. Courses can be as short as 40 hours or span several weeks. A fantastic bonus of bartending training is that many programs offer job placement assistance.
At the American Professional Bartending School in Chicago, Illinois, the program meets state standards for the Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training program (BASSET). While BASSET certified training is not required by the state, many municipalities require bartenders and alcohol-serving establishments to be BASSET certified.
In Pennsylvania, the Responsible Alcohol Management Program, or RAMP, offers similar voluntary certification for alcohol-serving establishments. This certification requires that 50% of the establishment's alcohol-serving staff hold certification by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
In Washington, however, certification is mandatory. The Washington State Liquor Control Board requires all alcohol servers to receive Mandatory Alcohol Serving Training (MAST). MAST offers two permits upon successful completion of the course: Class 13 for servers between the ages of 18 and 21, and Class 12 for those over 21. Permits must be renewed every five years.
Prospective bartenders should be sure to research the local and state laws regulating the serving of alcohol and be sure they meet all legal requirements before venturing into the industry.