What You Really Need to Know About Bartending Certifications and Licenses

Whenever we talk to folks who are just starting out in their bartending job (both with experience and without!), we always hear the same questions.

Some of the questions we receive all the time revolve around bartending licenses, bartender certifications, and bartending courses

“Do you really need a certificate or license?” or “How long does it take?”

Even if you’re a seasoned bartender, you might consider enrolling to earn your license or certificate and still have a burning list of questions.

No matter what brings you here, in this post you’ll learn the difference between a bartending license and bartender certification, find out where you can obtain either one and even we’ll even cover the most frequently asked questions asked by readers just like you.

So grab a drink in that fancy glassware you never get to use, and let’s get started!

What is a Bartender License?

Simply put, a bartender license is either what you receive after course completion or what’s required of you by law to bartend.

What is a Bartender Certification?

Usually, local ordinances are in effect that will ask you to obtain the correct documents to bartend. This term is sometimes used to describe the document (or certificate) you earn when you enroll and eventually graduate from bartending school.

Even if you’ve been behind the bar for a while and can do all sorts of impressive, cool tricks, you’ll still need to get the basic documentation that’s required of you by law.

What's the difference between a bartending license and a certificate?

I’m going to give you a little hint: there’s no difference! These two terms are used interchangeably. Why? Essentially, at a national level, there isn’t a standard document or training program required to be a bartender. It’s up to local laws and ordinances, which can make the terminology a little hard to pin down.

Just ask yourself what you need to legally bartend and you’ll be set! 

Your future employer might ensure you have your ducks in a row (and sometimes cover the cost of training), but don’t rely on them! If you’re in the process of job hunting and already have the skills necessary, you can start earning cash more quickly by having all the legal things already taken care of so you can start tending the bar right away.

Answering Your Bartending School Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get certified in bartending?

Quite easily, actually! Enroll in a bartending school, do the coursework, and viola–you’re certified. Another route is to identify exactly what your county or local laws are and follow those guidelines. Typically, it’s a responsible alcohol server permit but can be highly variable from place to place.

How long does it take to get a bartending certificate?

Anywhere from two to 40 hours! Just following local laws? You’re probably more toward the two-hour mark. For those of you going in-depth and taking the wise way of school, you’ll be looking at that 40 hours.

What do you need to get certified as a bartender?

You’ll usually need a government-issued ID, but make sure to triple-check local laws!

Can you get your bartending license only?

Now that we know that a bartender certificate is the same thing as a license, we know that we can get away with either one to serve alcoholic beverages! Just be sure to follow all local laws and that’s what’s required at a minimum.

How much does certification training cost?

Obtaining the documentation from a certification course that you need to serve alcohol can run you a bill that is highly variable and depends on where you’re located, where you’ll be attending, and how much experience you have.

We’ve ranked training courses from inexpensive to expensive. 

  • Inexpensive
    • Obtaining minimum local requirements
  • Somewhat Expensive
    • Online bartending school
    • Intermediate Skills
  • Expensive 
    • In-person
    • Bartending 101

Where You Can Get Your Alcohol Server Certification

The minimum age to become a bartender in New York is 18. However, state law requires drinkers to be 21.

The best part about being a bartender in NYC is the leniency in its alcoholic laws. Alcohol cannot be consumed only from 4:00 am to 8:00 am, but the rest of the day is all yours to visit any pub or bar you want. 

All you have to do is get the required training with the help of Local Bartending School and pass the exam to get your certificate. The exam usually only takes about 30 minutes!

Online New York Bartending Course Costs up to $8.99 – $399

Held once a month, the cost of this course is $149.00. Courses may be taken online. However, an in-person final exam will be followed by a proctor. 

But with LBS, things are a little different! This top-ranked certification is valid throughout California. California accepts our online certification. The control board does not require a proctored exam, which means you don’t have to sit in front of a person to take the test. The test will take about half an hour. Additional proctoring fees apply. These fees are not included in the cost of the course. 

Within California, the legal age to consume alcoholic beverages is 21. California state law requires all bars to close by 2:00 AM. (Some municipalities require an earlier closing.)

The cost for a course in Nevada ranges from $8.99 to $399.99. Even if you earn your certification with Local Bartending School, you’ll still need to take a proctored exam.

The test takes almost 30 minutes and there is a fee for this exam. The training is so extensive that the students actually get to sit at the bars where the qualified instructors show how to prepare all kinds of drinks and beverages so that they practically learn it.

To become a licensed bartender, you’ll need to be at least 18 years of age. 

All you have to do is register for your course, take the required training and pass the examination to get a certificate. LBS offers training online, in a class, and in-person according to what suits you the most. There is no restriction or rules except for the age criteria in Florida, plus LBS is the most authentic and state-accredited institution to get a license in the United States.

Our professionals can come to you at home (whether you’re in Michigan, New Jersey, or New Mexico!), or show can easily you the swing of things at one of our locations on-premise. Just click here to ask about what’s available near you, and when!

Timo Wielink via Unpsplash | Get certified anywhere with Local Bartending School!

The Main Difference Between In-Person Bartending Schools and Online Bartending Schools

Bartending school that’s held in person is typically way more expensive! You can get certified online and it’s usually cheaper. 

But be careful! There are some well-known risks to choosing the wrong bartending school.

First, you could miss out on a lot of hands-on experience. Plus, a cheap online bartending school typically means a cheap-looking certification. Don’t think your potential boss won’t notice! They will. 

So if you want a good place to learn the ins and outs of bartending (and I mean all of them), check out Local Bartending School! 

You’ll learn:

  • Over 200 drink recipes, ranging from basic to bougie
  • How to prepare and memorize several cocktails, quickly & easily
  • The best ways to cut fruit, garnishes, & decorations for specialty, hand-crafted crafted cocktails
  • How to set up and maintain a clean & efficient bar workstation

Not to mention, bar owners and hiring managers perceive Local Bartending School with high value! Once you’re done with your jam-packed course at LBS and have your certification in hand, you’ll be able to find your dream bar job in no time.

Did You Know? A Certification from Local Bartending School Works in All States!

Yup, you read that right. Local Bartending School is the only school that will certify you in all states. All through one, single hands-on course! 

Planning a move to a new place that’s out of state? No problem. The team at LBS will officially register your certification to your new state. Welcome home!

We should note, however, that some states may require you to pay a fee and even take a live proctored exam (looking at you, Nevada, Colorado, Rhode Island, Alaska, Maryland, and Tennesee). But looking on the bright side, you won’t need to retake the course all over again.

A Local Alcohol Server Training Program For You!

Whether you’re on your way to becoming a professional bartender or just here for the responsible serving of alcohol, our team at Local Bartending School is ready to be your trusted training provider. For more information or to just get ahold of someone, click here. You can easily reach one of our instructors who are ready to get you certified and earning money!

Carrie Jean Lipe

Carrie Lipe has been writing creatively since childhood but jump-started her professional writing after college. She's an Indiana native, Ball State Hospitality graduate, and a bartender with over 10+ years in the industry. You can find her making basil Moscow mules when she's not writing. Follow her professional journey on Instagram! @contentbycarriejean