Is an Alcohol Handling Certificate the Same as an RSA Course?

Learn the differences to make sure you get the training you need.
July 27, 2022

Navigating the hospitality industry often involves getting familiar with a range of certifications and courses, especially if you plan to work in a role related to the service of alcohol. 

Two commonly mentioned terms in this context are the RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) and the Alcohol Handling Certificate. The differences between the two are significant, and this article aims to clarify those distinctions to guide your decision-making.

What is an RSA Course?

Firstly, it's crucial to understand what an RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) course is. This is mandatory training for anyone involved in selling, serving, or supplying alcohol in Australia. 

An RSA course covers various topics, such as:

  • Social impacts of alcohol consumption
  • Laws and regulations surrounding alcohol service
  • Techniques for checking identification
  • Strategies for responsible alcohol service

RSA certification is nationally recognised (with some variations by state). This is a legal requirement for anyone working in a role that involves serving alcohol.

What is an Alcohol Handling Certificate?

An Alcohol Handling Certificate is a less frequently used term, and its meaning can vary depending on the jurisdiction or even the establishment.

Students earning an Alcohol Handling Certificate will learn the basics of handling alcohol. This could include storage, pouring techniques, and general information about different types of alcohol.

However, this certificate does not typically meet the legal requirements for responsibly serving alcohol to the public. In most cases, the material is less comprehensive than that covered in an RSA course and doesn't delve into the legal responsibilities or societal impacts of alcohol service.

Key Differences Between the Two


  • RSA covers a broad range of topics, including legal responsibilities, identification checks, and responsible service techniques.
  • An Alcohol Handling Certificate usually focuses on the logistical aspects of handling alcohol, such as storage and pouring techniques.

Legal Recognition

  • RSA is legally recognised and often mandatory for anyone serving alcohol in Australia.
  • An Alcohol Handling Certificate is generally not legally recognised as fulfilling the requirements for responsible alcohol service.

Intended Audience

  • RSA applies to anyone serving, supplying, or selling alcohol.
  • An Alcohol Handling Certificate is usually aimed at people who handle alcohol but are not necessarily responsible for serving it to customers (e.g., stockists).

RSA is Best

While an Alcohol Handling Certificate might provide helpful insights into the logistics of handling alcoholic beverages, it is not a substitute for RSA regarding the legal requirements of serving alcohol in Australia. 

An RSA course is comprehensive, covering the societal, health, and legal implications of alcohol service. If you plan to work in a role that involves the service of alcohol, an RSA certification is not just recommended; it's often legally mandatory.

Recommended Course for Compliance & Excellence

For those focused on meeting legal requirements and industry standards, the Australian Institute of Food Safety's Responsible Service of Alcohol course comes highly recommended. This course provides the essential knowledge and skills needed to serve alcohol responsibly, in full compliance with Australian laws and guidelines.