Whether it’s a convenient part-time job or a transition gig, the majority of bartenders don’t necessarily plan on it being a life-long career. However, with the flexible work schedule, unique culture, and long-term career opportunities, for many this is what bartending leads to. Here are some of the career options available to bartenders who need a change and tips on successfully moving up the ladder.


The path to becoming a manager at a restaurant is an easy one if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, but it’s a hefty job as they are responsible for the day-to-day success of the restaurant. As such, managers must be familiar with every role they’re overseeing because if one needs to be covered, it’s the manager who will step in.

The basic steps to becoming a manager begin with success in whatever position you currently hold.

The basic steps to becoming a manager begin with success in whatever position you currently hold. As a bartender, you must be active, hard-working, and go above and beyond your job responsibilities. Showing your dedication to the job and the restaurant proves that you are willing to do whatever is in your power to ensure the success of your business.

Once you’ve proven yourself as a loyal and responsible employee, the next step is to make your presence known. When your effort is recognized, your attitude is positive and your work is consistent, managers will notice and at this point, it is up to you to inquire about moving up. A good manager makes their presence known, so don’t be shy.

While tenure and seniority play a huge role in this move, it is never too early to let your superiors know your interest. Taking this initiative will easily help you elevate to bigger and better things.

General Management

Typically, being a General Manager requires management experience and expertise, so you don’t jump straight from bartending into a GM position.

That comes from proving yourself as a manager and depends on your work ethic, management style, and ability to solve problems. Anyone can make a schedule or comp a drink that a guest didn’t like, but the keys to GM-worthy managers lie beyond the basics.

A manager looking to move up to GM doesn’t play favorites or get flustered on the floor. They are constantly working hard and, most importantly, they get their hands dirty. A bar manager who steps behind the bar to help and support their staff is the ideal candidate for General Management.

A bar manager who steps behind the bar to help and support their staff is the ideal candidate for General Management.

As the GM is essentially the manager of managers, they must be beyond competent in all facets of a restaurant (front and back of house). So, if you’re coming from a strictly bartending background, be ready to broaden your skill set to cooking, serving, and maintenance.

Again, tenure and seniority are crucial to locking in a GM position, however, without the aforementioned qualities, experience means nothing.

Liquor/Beer/Wine Representative

As you progress in your bartending career, not only will you thoroughly learn about alcohol itself, but also how the alcohol and restaurant industries work together and conduct business. If you’re interested and enjoy talking to people, especially about alcohol, this can be a great segway into alcohol sales, but you’ll have to work your way up just like you did behind the bar.

To begin a career as a sales representative for either liquor, beer, or wine, you must start from the bottom as a merchandiser. A merchandiser is responsible for setting up and delivering their brand’s beverages to stores and restaurants, setting up displays and filling orders. It’s not the most glamorous position by any means, but it is a necessary stepping stone in most cases.

Once you’ve paid your dues as a merchandiser (usually about 6-18 months), the next step is sales, as either an inside or outside sales rep. An inside rep conducts sales by phone while outside reps go to liquor stores and restaurants to sell their product.

Just like the food and beverage industry, alcohol sales is heavily influenced by seniority.

Just like the food and beverage industry, alcohol sales is heavily influenced by seniority. This means you may not get prime sales locations right from the get-go, but they’ll come in time. The more time you spend as a sales rep, the more likely you are to move up to higher positions in which the biggest deals are closed.


Many bartenders love the job because of the customers; they get the chance to provide guests with a unique and tailored experience. If this is the case for you, management or sales may not be your next step.

However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have options because you do, and becoming a sommelier is one of them. That is, of course, only if you have a love for wine. If you are, becoming a sommelier is a rigorous yet rewarding next move.

If you’re unfamiliar, a sommelier is a trained expert who specializes in wine service at fine dining restaurants and is responsible for its wine offerings, wine and food pairings, and, providing guests with customized wine recommendations based on preference and budget. As such, the position requires working closely with the culinary team as well as service staff and guests.

A sommelier must have a profound knowledge of how food and alcohol work in harmony and have both front and back of house skills.

Becoming a sommelier is no easy task. Before even starting the transition from bartender to sommelier, it would be smart to begin studying wine and tasting as much as you can. Become familiar with wine varietals (grape types), vintages (year produced) and vineyard (where the wine was produced) while also developing your pallet. Taking tasting notes is essential in order to learn how to decipher the different fruits and spices in a given wine. Once you feel competent in your wine knowledge, you’ll be in good shape to start working toward your first certification.

A sommelier certification requires the completion of a wine training course, which consist of in-depth classes on wine tastings, varietals, pairings and service. Then, at the end of the course is the test, which involves six wines (three white, three red) and requires you to blindly taste each wine and decipher the varietal, vintage and where the wine was made.

After passing the exam, you can call yourself a professional certified sommelier, making you a hot commodity! And, if you want to take it to the next level, you can go for the remaining two certifications, the last of which is Master Sommelier, one of the most prestigious titles a person in the restaurant industry can hold.


A cicerone is similar to a sommelier in terms of responsibilities, such as pairings and service, as well as training, but instead of wine, it’s beer.

A cicerone is required to have expertise in five areas: keeping and serving beer, beer styles, beer flavor, beer ingredients and brew processes, and food- beer pairing.

To be a legitimate cicerone, a certification is needed, of which there are four levels, that require extensive study of beer varieties, history, tasting notes and brewing. The four certifications for Cicerone include:

1. Certified Beer Server
2. Certified Cicerone
3. Advanced Cicerone
4. Master Cicerone

Depending on which level of Cicerone you choose, you will be tested through a written examination, a tasting portion and beer service. The written exam covers service, draft systems, beer styles, brewing and pairing while the tasting portion examines your knowledge of beer styles (by taste), flaws, and service with beer. Although the certification for a Cicerone is grueling and requires intense studying, if you are seriously passionate about beer and want to make this into a career, this is your ticket.

No matter what your interests are as a bartender, if you want something different (but kind of the same) there are many careers out there. After all, it’s understandable to want to grow and shift focus. Hopefully, some of these options open your eyes to the many opportunities available to you in the service industry!

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