How to become a barista: Zach's story

Meet Zach, 17, from east London. He works as a barista alongside going to college. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

Zach smiling at the camera.
"I did Drama – I feel like it helped because it gave me confidence."

What is your job?

I work in a coffee shop. I make coffee and sandwiches three or four days a week, alongside going to college. I’ve recently been given more responsibility, so I open the shop, clean the coffee machine, work on the till, serve customers and make food and drinks. I work three or four days a week and go to college three days a week.

What skills do you use in your work?

Making coffee is an art! You've got to make it look nice. I also have background knowledge about the beans we sell and what they’re best used for and I know how to use the till and use maths. A lot of teamwork, because we get really busy, so there needs to be trust within the team. We know when someone needs help. Leadership and time management are also important. Occasionally, I need to show new staff how to do things like close the shop. My communication skills have definitely developed.

What subjects did you study?

I did Drama – I feel like it helped because it gave me confidence. Now I can talk to people, I don’t even need to know the person and I can just start a conversation! I did Drama and Product Design at GCSE and a Music BTEC. I got full marks in Music, so I went to college instead of sixth form to study music production for a year. I’ve swapped courses and now I’m studying sound engineering and, by the end of it I’ll have the equivalent of four A-levels.

How did you get into your job?

I visited this shop with my CV, and my boss said that I just seemed cool, so she emailed me and I was working by the next Monday. I did my work experience in a coffee shop when I was in school, which I think helped on my CV. I had a bit of experience and they didn't mind training me up as they liked who I am as a person.

Is this the job you always knew you wanted to do?

For our Year Book I was voted most likely to be a barista! So I’ve always been told I was going to be a barista! I still don’t know what I want to do for the long term.

Zach pouring a drink in the coffee shop.
Zach working in the coffee shop.

Top tips

  • Coffee shops are the best places to work, because you’ll meet so many different people from different places, both colleagues and customers. You can talk to so many people, and you can hear what they’ve done and that can help you decide what you want to do

  • Get involved with anything. You get to know people, then you get other job opportunities.

What to expect if you want to be a barista

  • Barista salary: £8,000 to £20,000
  • Barista working hours: 40 to 42 hours
  • Typical entry requirements: You could do a college qualification like Level 1 Award in Introduction to Employment in the Hospitality Industry, Level 2 Award in Barista Skills or Level 2 Diploma in Food and Beverage Service. You'll usually need two or fewer GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 3 to 1 (D to G) for a Level 1 course or two or more GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) for a Level 2 course. You can also train through a hospitality team member intermediate apprenticeship. This will usually take 12 months to complete. You'll do on-the-job training and spend time at a college or training provider. You'll usually need some GCSEs (or equivalent), usually including English and Maths, for an intermediate apprenticeship. You can apply directly for jobs. Some employers may prefer you to have experience in customer service or catering.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI, National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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