So that means the jovial young man who passes your morning cup of coffee through the drive-up window is a barista. And you know that happy woman with steam on her glasses from the espresso machine? She's a barista, too. Baristas are included in the broader "counter attendant" occupation. In addition to coffee shops, counter attendants also work in cafeterias and food concessions.
Of the 9,600 counter attendants in Oregon, about 70 percent work directly in food services and drinking places. Another 10 percent work in grocery stores, movie theaters, hospitals, amusement parks, and on college campuses. The remaining workers are scattered among a variety of other industries.
Geographically, counter attendants are concentrated in urban areas (Figure 1). More than half (54.2%) work in the Portland area (Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties), and more than a third (37%) work in other regions containing metropolitan areas.
Does this mean urbanites have a higher demand for counter attendants? Perhaps they swing by coffee shops more often than people in rural counties? It's certainly possible. In 2010, there was one counter attendant for every 320 people in the Portland metro area. In other urban areas of Oregon, there was one counter attendant for every 440 people. In Oregon's rural counties, the ratio dropped significantly, with just one counter attendant for every 750 people.
There is typically no educational requirement for counter attendants, but individuals with at least a high school diploma or equivalent have a competitive advantage in the labor market. Once hired, counter attendants generally receive short-term on-the-job training.
It takes a variety of specific and general skills to be a successful counter attendant. Based on job listings posted with the Oregon Employment Department, employers most often seek job applicants with customer service skills (Table 1). Counter-attendant employers also desire workers who can follow food safety rules, maintain a clean work environment, and handle monetary transactions. Not listed in Table 1 but still of paramount importance to employers are coffee-specific skills, such as preparing beverages for customers, operating espresso machines, and grinding coffee beans.
Since the requirements to work in the occupation are minimal, the wages are correspondingly low. Statewide, the median wage for counter attendants is about $9.50 an hour, but ranges from $9.12 to $15.14 depending on location and experience. Full-time workers earn an average of $21,600 per year. Three-quarters of counter attendants, however, work only part-time.
Although data is not available on the age breakout of counter attendants, the majority of workers in the food service industry are younger. It's reasonable to assume that many counter attendants are younger workers, a significant portion of whom are likely students.
Counter Attendant Skills Most Often Requested
by Oregon Employers
|Employment Department Job Listings, 2011-2013|
|Skill Statement||Number of Listings|
|Provide customer service||297|
|Apply food handling rules||278|
|Receive payments and make change||252|
|Apply health and sanitation standards||246|
|Ability to work in a fast paced environment||228|
|Use cash registers||219|
|Receive customer orders for products or services||217|
|Serve food and beverages||209|
|Use basic mathematics||201|
|Measure or weigh ingredients||170|
The anticipated growth rate for counter attendants is about the same as the average statewide growth rate, but the number of projected job openings is much higher than the statewide average.
If you're interested in becoming a barista, or another type of counter attendant, you can learn more about this occupation through the Occupational Information Center on QualityInfo.org. The OIC displays current job openings, shows how the average pay varies across the state, links to resources for obtaining a food handler card, and much more.
And next time you swing by a coffee stand while you're out and about, just remember: that handsome fella brewing your cup of Joe? He's a barista, just like the lovely lady who took your drink order.