Average Salary: $26,000
Expected Lifetime Earnings: $1,085,448
It's all about the tips in Bartendingland. Your base hourly pay will be a hop and/or a skip from minimum wage, but your tips can be huge. In a given evening at a hot bar, you can pour up to $5,000 worth of alcohol. If tips are an average of twelve to fifteen percent, that's $600 to $750. You'll have to split that dough with others at the bar, but it can be a good chunk of change when things go right.
Bartenders pool tips at the end of the night; they have to split it up and tip out the barbacks. Also, if you're a service bar, the servers actually tip you out too, which is a nice bonus. When all is said and done, if you're tending bar in a swanky urban bar, $350-$400 is a pretty good Saturday night. On the other side of the coin, if working in a dive bar in a suburb of Cleveland, you might be lucky to walk away with $100.
Don't let the allure of $100 or $400 in cash every night fool you, though. If you're working forty hours a week, that means working Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, probably Fridays and, well, you get the idea. Sure, you might have a killer weekend, but once you find yourself stuck with empty stools during the week, the average annual salary of only $26,000 a year will start to make more sense (source).