What Is the Difference Between a Bartender & a Barista?

Bartenders and baristas are both expert drink makers who are service industry and customer service pros. The main difference is that bartenders primarily work with alcohol while baristas work with coffee. Continue reading to learn more.

Comparing Bartenders to Baristas

When you grab a jolt of caffeine from your local coffee shop or stop by your local pub for a beer after work, you are dealing with baristas and bartenders. Both are knowledgeable servers and drink makers, with bartenders focusing on alcoholic beverages and baristas on coffee. Other similarities and differences are discussed below.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Bartender On-the-Job Training $21,690 (2017)* 2%
Barista On-the-Job Training $19,622 (2018)** 5% (for all coffee shop, cafeteria and food concession counter attendants)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

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Responsibilities of Bartenders vs. Baristas

The responsibilities of bartenders and baristas can be quite similar. Both craft drinks from memorized recipes and clearly describe flavors and products to their customers. Both handle almost all aspects of the customers' experience, from making sure the financial transactions are complete to serving orders. The biggest differences between the two are what they are serving and the environment they do it in. Baristas prepare and serve coffee products, primarily in the earlier parts of the day. Bartenders work with alcoholic drinks, generally later in the day, and to a crowd they must ensure is of legal drinking age and isn't becoming overly inebriated.


Bartenders are service workers who prepare and serve alcoholic drinks at bars and restaurants. Orders are taken directly from customers or from the wait staff. Bartenders must be comfortable in the social atmosphere of a bar and working on their feet for long hours. Most bartenders learn their trade through on-the-job training, although classes in drink making are available.

Job responsibilities of a bartender include:

  • Ensure that customers are not overserved
  • Clean and stock the bar area
  • Keep an eye inventory and reorder products when needed
  • Check IDs to prevent underage drinking


A barista is the worker who takes orders, prepares drinks, and serves customers in a coffee shop. They should be knowledgable on the store's coffee beans, such as whether they are organic, how they were roasted, and the part of the world they originate from. Baristas must be comfortable working on their feet, properly working coffee and espresso machines while dealing with long lines and complex order requests. There are no formal education requirements to become a barista, as most training is done on the job.

Job responsibilities of a barista include:

  • Follow store recipes and safety/cleanliness requirements
  • Provide customer service by answering questions, taking orders, and handling transactions
  • Stay up-to-date on new products by doing tastings
  • Restock and clean the back and front of house

Related Careers

If you are interested in serving people in a similar way to bartenders and baristas, you may want to learn more about becoming a waiter or waitress. Restaurant manager may be a good position for those who are interested in a supervisory role in the service industry.

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