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Bartending School: Should You Sign Up?

by thenimblebar on June 13, 2019

New Student in Bartending School

Before you decide whether bartending school is for you, ask yourself these important questions.

If you’re researching bartending schools, you’ll likely find that there are a lot of opinions out there about whether or not they are worthwhile.

 

Here are 3 great articles that most soundly make the argument to not go:

 

  1. Bartending School Scams: The Facts They Don’t Want You To Know
  2. Ask Your Bartender: Bartending Schools
  3. Should Aspiring Bartenders Go To Bartending School?

 

Go ahead and read those, and then let’s talk about why bartending school may – or may not – be a good fit for you.

 

While the above articles persuasively make their cases, they’re still ‘opinion pieces’ that look at the argument through a single lens — the lens of the writer.

 

This of course doesn’t represent reality – or you.

 

When it comes down to it, bartending school isn’t for everyone. But, depending on your personal situation, it might be a perfect fit for you.

 

One caveat before moving forward: many bartending schools are to be avoided. It’s actually the reason we created the Nimble Bar School. This article assumes that you’re considering a high-quality bartending school.

 

Like anything in life, it all comes down to the lens through which you see bartending – how will it fit into your life? In other words: we need to consider its context.

 

We get a ton of different inquiries from a wide range of people all looking at the same situation, but in a different context. The following questions are the ones that come up most frequently, and how we recommend moving forward.

 

Again – it all depends on your particular lens.

 

Lens #1: I desperately need a job and bartending school will help me get it.

Should you go to bartending school? No.

 

Go read this article, apply the lessons, and simply get a job. You don’t need bartending school to get a job – you just need a bit of strategy and persistence. 

 

Bartending school is for people who want to raise the bar (see what I did there?) in their profession. People who want to achieve a level of greatness that elevates them above the average.

 

At the Nimble Bar School, we ask our candidates if they seek to be excellent bartenders. We do this because of two universal truths:

 

  1. The way you show up to do one thing is how you show up to do all things
  2. The pursuit of excellence is what leads to fulfillment

 

If you just want a place to show up to that pays you enough to get by then ‘no’ – bartending school won’t get you any closer to your goals.

 

Lens #2: I’m already a bartender and I want to improve.

Should you go to bartending school? Yes.

 

A professionally-run bartending school will have instructors who have made it to the ‘next level’ of their craft. While they can definitely get a new bartender off to the races, the nuanced skills they can pass along will help elevate even very experienced bartenders to a high-performance level.

 

(It’s important that you let the bartending school know about your goals and experience before you sign up. Not all schools have the same programs – some focus on fundamentals, which may leave you retreading steps you’ve already learned. That’s not good for you or for your instructors.)

 

Lens #3: I’m a home bartender and want to improve.

Should you go to bartending school? Well, why not…?

 

If bartending is strictly a hobby for you, why not go somewhere that you can rub shoulders with other enthusiastic home bartenders? You know how fun it is to get a group of friends together and wow them with pro techniques and tips – imagine being in a room full of people who love doing the same thing.

 

It’s a great way to up your game with some healthy competition, and there’s a high chance you’ll find people – ie, ‘future friends’ – who share your interests and enthusiasm.

 

Lens #4: I have long-term financial goals, and I see bartending as a fun way to help me reach those goals.

Should you go to bartending school? Yes.

 

Focus goes a long way. If you have set financial goals in mind, bartending can be a great way to help you realize them – and if you learn the craft well, it can get you there quickly.

 

Fast-track your learning by getting one-on-one professional coaching. You could save a little money by starting at the bottom, and working your way up. But if you want to achieve your goals fast, a good bartending school is the way to go.

 

Remember: if you add just one bartending shift a week to your work-life, that’s an average of an extra $220.00 per week (or $11,440 per year). If you save and invested that for 4 years, you’d have approximately $50,000.00 saved — more than enough for a down payment on a house, startup capital, debt repayment, etc.

 

Lens #5: I’m already a student and I would like to bartend my way through school.

Should you go to bartending school? Yes

 

This is ‘probably’ a yes – unless you just want to cash a paycheck and not think too much about what you have to do to get it.

 

BUT – it’s ‘definitely’ a yes, if…

 

  • You’re drawn to the culture of bartending
  • You can see yourself enjoyably bartending for a number of years
  • You’re ready to apply yourself to bartending with as much drive and energy as your other studies.

 

The only reason why bartending school – and bartending in general – wouldn’t be a great fit for you, is if you already feel like it’s just ‘a means to an end.’ If you consider your role as a bartender ‘just a job’ you’ll get by cashing a paycheck and going through the motions, but if you want to really excel, you’ll need to be driven by more than just covering your bills.

 

If you’re a student, you already understand that sometimes you need to invest in yourself to make long-term gains. That same mentality makes you a perfect fit for a bartending school.

 

Lens #6: I’d like to go to bartending school to see if bartending is for me.

Should you go to bartending school? Yes.

 

Do you have what it takes to work the pine, as a pro? There are a few ways to find out. But some are more awkward than others.

 

Having an instructor offer personal and immediate feedback is a rapid-fire way to test yourself, and your skills, in a safer environment than the heat of the battle (like 7pm on a Friday with the lineup out the door.) You’ll get honest feedback without pissing off your employer, co-workers or guests.

 

Lens #7: Just by showing up to bartending school, I will automatically be a great bartender.

Should you go to bartending school? Yes, but not so fast…

 

You’ll learn a lot, and up your bartending game – and yes, there’s a chance you’ll develop the skills to become a great barkeep. But remember: a chance isn’t a guarantee. Even the best bartenders have honed their craft over time. And there’s nothing automatic about that.

 

On the flipside, if you do have the desire to be a great bartender, you’re already part of the way to becoming one. A professional instructor will be able to answer that burning question for you: Do I have what it takes to be one of the greats? You might end up surprising yourself with what you can accomplish in a short time.

 

Lens #8: Bartending school will entitle me to better jobs.

Should you go to bartending school? No.

 

Can bartending school prepare you for better jobs? Absolutely. Does it entitle you to better jobs? That’s a hard ‘no.’

 

Even the best of the best know, if you want to get ahead in the bartending world, you’ll need to check your ego. Not forget who you are, or hide your true personality – but the idea that you deserve something just for putting in a few hours and handing over a few bucks – that’s a bit of a stretch.

 

If you’re willing to use the tools given to you during your bartending course, to further your skills and improve your technique, then over time you’re far more likely to get your dream bartending gig – because you will have earned it. A great bartending school will put you on the right path, right out of the gate.

 

After you’ve decided which lens best describes your expectations of a bartending school, you can safely make up your mind about whether or not it’s going to be your best course of action.

 

(Spoiler alert: not all bartending schools are created equal. In fact, we only recommend two in the world: Nimble Bar School and European Bartender School)

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Bartending School: Should You Sign Up?