Waiters and waitresses
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Overview
Waiters and waitresses take orders and serve food and beverages to customers in dining establishments.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for waiters and waitresses are expected to grow by 7%, and should have about 522,900 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Waiters and waitresses are more likely to be automated than 83% of other careers.
Workforce size
Waiters and waitresses, with 2,600,500 workers, form a larger workforce than 99% of careers.
Education
Only 14% of waiters and waitresses have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by waiters and waitresses
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
Fewer waiters and waitresses have bachelor's degrees than 62% of other careeers.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for 100% of all other jobs is higher than the middle salary for waiters and waitresses. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most waiters and waitresses.
This job's median $22KAll jobs' median $39K$20K$38K20142015201620172018$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 65% of waiters and waitresses -- that's a larger percentage than 80% of other jobs.
Gender of waiters and waitresses
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For waiters and waitresses, the median men's salary was 23% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 21% of waiters and waitresses are minority, and 24% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of waiters and waitresses
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (24%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Waiters and Waitresses per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 16% of waiters and waitresses, and 24% have company-sponsored health insurance (18% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for waiters and waitresses
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of waiters and waitresses who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People (65%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (38%)
  • Time Pressure (35%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do waiters and waitresses earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for waiters and waitresses, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for waiters and waitresses compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for waiters and waitresses (BLS Salary Data)
$22K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$22K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. We first show the full salary distribution for all waiters and waitresses, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for waiters and waitresses compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for waiters and waitresses (ACS Salary Data)
$21K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$21K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where waiters and waitresses work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Waiters and waitresses (ACS)
Private for-profit (96.5%)
Private not-for-profit (1.5%)
Local government (0.4%)
State government (0.2%)
Federal government (0.2%)
Self-employed incorporated (0.4%)
Self-employed not incorporated (0.6%)
Working without pay (0.1%)
Distribution: Salaries of waiters and waitresses by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$21K$21K$23K$17K$21K$18K$17K$24K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000Self-employed not incorporatedSelf-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of waiters and waitresses by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$22K$22K$22K$20K$0$10,000$20,000$30,000$40,000$50,000State governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for waiters and waitresses

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$17K$24K$23K$23K$25K$23K$23K$25K$25K$0$20K$40K$60KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
050K100K150K200K250KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Waiters and waitresses and gender

With 65% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 80% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
65%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Waiters and waitresses
Men (35%)
Women (65%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median (middle) salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%, and the difference for waiters and waitresses tops that, with the median salary for men 23% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$20K$24K$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Waiters and waitresses have one of the higher percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase for the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job even higher than that for 67% of other jobs.

23%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of waiters and waitresses

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. The percentage of minority waiters and waitresses falls in about the middle of all careers' percentages. This career hires a larger percentage of foreign-born workers than most other careers.

Race/origin of waiters and waitresses
White (71% )
Black (9% )
Other (8% )
Asian (7% )
Multiracial (3% )
Hispanic (1% )
American Indian (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
21%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
24%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for waiters and waitresses by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$19K$19K$19K$21K$21K$22K$22K$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50KAmerican IndianBlackMultiracialHispanicWhiteOtherAsian
Distribution: Salaries for waiters and waitresses by nativity
$20K$22K$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50KAll native citizensAll foreign-born

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by waiters and waitresses

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), waiters and waitresses typically hold no formal educational credential.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as waiters and waitresses as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for waiters and waitresses.

Education attained by waiters and waitresses
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for waiters and waitresses

No formal education is required to become a waiter or waitress.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for waiters and waitresses? Below we see the distribution of waiters and waitresses salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as waiters and waitresses, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$19K$20K$21K$22K$26K$28K$0$20K$40K$60KNone (12%)High School (35%)Some College (32%)Associate's Degree (7%)Bachelor's Degree (12%)Master's Degree (1%)
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for waiters and waitresses

What jobs will most waiters and waitresses hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of waiters and waitresses reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Waiters and waitressesCashiersBartendersCooksFood service managersFood preparation workersCustomer service representativesRetail salespersonsNonrestaurant food servers
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for waiters and waitresses

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 8 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as waiters and waitresses as well as 1% of respondents after working as waiters and waitresses. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Lateral-move careers for waiters and waitresses
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Retail salespersons
676,200
$0$200K$31K
Cashiers
659,300
$0$200K$20K
Customer service representatives
373,800
$0$200K$32K
Cooks
358,700
$0$200K$21K
Food preparation workers
158,000
$0$200K$19K
Bartenders
102,500
$0$200K$27K
Nonrestaurant food servers
43,000
$0$200K$23K
Food service managers
37,100
$0$200K$37K
Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for waiters and waitresses: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as waiters and waitresses? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of waiters and waitresses surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Prior careers for waiters and waitresses
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Retail salespersons
676,200
$0$200K$31K
1.2%
Cashiers
659,300
$0$200K$20K
3.0%
Waiters and waitresses
522,900
$0$200K$21K
47.3%
Customer service representatives
373,800
$0$200K$32K
1.4%
Cooks
358,700
$0$200K$21K
2.8%
Food preparation workers
158,000
$0$200K$19K
1.2%
Bartenders
102,500
$0$200K$27K
1.6%
Restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop hosts and hostesses
97,900
$0$200K$17K
2.6%
Food preparation and serving workers
89,600
$0$200K$20K
1.2%
Nonrestaurant food servers
43,000
$0$200K$23K
1.2%
Food service managers
37,100
$0$200K$37K
1.8%
No occupation
15.0%
Read about waiters and waitresses
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Waiters and waitresses typically do the following:

  • Greet customers, present menus, and explain daily specials to customers
  • Answer questions related to the menu and offer item suggestions
  • Take food and beverage orders from customers
  • Relay food and beverage orders to the kitchen staff
  • Prepare drinks and food garnishes
  • Carry trays of food or drinks from the kitchen to the dining tables
  • Remove dirty dishes and glasses, and clean tables after customers finish meals
  • Prepare itemized checks and take payments from customers
  • Set up dining areas, refill condiments, and stock service areas

Waiters and waitresses, also called servers, are responsible for ensuring that customers have a satisfying dining experience. The specific duties of servers vary with the establishment in which they work.

In casual-dining restaurants that offer simple menu items, such as salads, soups, and sandwiches, servers provide fast, efficient, and courteous service. In fine-dining restaurants, where more complicated meals are typically prepared and served over several courses, waiters and waitresses emphasize personal, attentive treatment at a more leisurely pace. For example, they may offer a wine recommendation with certain foods.

Servers may meet with managers and chefs before each shift to discuss the menu or specials, review ingredients for potential food allergies, or talk about any food safety concerns. They also discuss coordination between the kitchen and the dining room and review any customer service issues from the previous day or shift.

In establishments where alcohol is served, waiters and waitresses verify the age of customers and ensure that they meet legal requirements for the purchase of alcohol.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of waiters and waitresses? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Communication skills
Waiters and waitresses must listen carefully to customers’ specific requests, ask questions, and relay the information to the kitchen staff, so that orders are prepared to the customers’ satisfaction.
Customer-service skills
Waiters and waitresses spend most of their work time serving customers. They should be friendly and polite and be able to develop a rapport with customers.
Detail oriented
Waiters and waitresses must record customers’ orders accurately. They need to be able to recall the details of each order and match the food or drink orders to the correct customers.
Physical stamina
Waiters and waitresses spend hours on their feet carrying trays, dishes, and drinks.
Physical strength
Waiters and waitresses need to be able to lift and carry trays or materials that can weigh up to 50 pounds.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for waiters and waitresses
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) for 100% of all other jobs were higher than the median (middle) salary for waiters and waitresses. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $22KAll jobs' median $39K$19K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$10K$20K$30K$40K$50K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for waiters and waitresses are anticipated to grow by 7% over the next decade; 51% of jobs are projected to grow more.

The projected employment for waiters and waitresses is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

200020102020203001,000,0002,000,0003,000,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most waiters and waitresses? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as waiters and waitresses. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Waiters and Waitresses per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.010.020.030.0
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where waiters and waitresses earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for waiters and waitresses compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for waiters and waitresses.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Median salary ratio: Waiters and Waitresses to all workers (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which waiters and waitresses earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.00.20.40.60.81.01.2
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Waiters and waitresses (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
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