Becoming a Minister: Job Description & Salary Information

About this article
What are the pros and cons of a career as a minister? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a minister is right for you.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of a Minister Career

A minister is responsible for church services and sermons, counseling congregation members, and overseeing church activities. Continue reading to learn about the pros and cons of a career as a minister so you can make a solid career decision.

Pros of a Minister's Career
Lead people to your faith****
Interact with many people****
Have many varied responsibilities****
Can bring comfort to the sick****
Job opportunities with many organizations (churches, nursing homes, hospitals)*****

Cons of a Minister's Career
May work long hours (more than 55 hours per week)**
Low starting salary ($21,000-$60,000 as of 2015)***
May suffer from depression due to fatigue and job responsibilities*
The job can be stressful*

Sources: *Schaeffer Institute, **The Christian Post, ***PayScale.com, ****O*Net OnLine,*****U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Many people think ministers simply preach a sermon on Sunday morning and spend the rest of the week praying and reading their Bible. The Occupational Information Network (O*Net) OnLine states that while they do those things, ministers - who are also called pastors, priests and clergy - visit people in the hospital, prison or their homes. You'll counsel members of your congregation or the community regarding spiritual, emotional or personal issues and officiate marriage ceremonies and funerals. As the spiritual and worship leader of a church, you'll share God's word and teach from the Bible. A 2008 survey from LifeWay Research reported that full-time ministers in senior positions work about 55 hours per week.

Career and Salary Info

Being a minister could take a toll on your marriage, your family life and your own spiritual ideology, according to the Schaeffer Institute, which published a report in 2007 based on 18 years of surveying pastors. The study indicated that 70% of pastors have considered leaving the ministry due to the stress and 35%-40% of them do leave it. The Institute also learned that nearly 40% of ministers had an extra-marital affair and 70% regularly fight depression.

Despite their many responsibilities, most ministers made from about $24,000 to $71,000 per year as of 2015, according to PayScale.com. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual salary for clergy was $44,000 as of May 2014.

Ministers often divide the responsibilities within the church. For instance, some ministers focus on children's ministry, while others focus on young adults or leading through music. The BLS estimated that the employment of clergy would increase by roughly 10% between 2012 and 2022, which is average for this decade. While most ministers are hired by churches, the BLS reported that the government, hospitals and nursing homes hire some.

Education and Training Requirements

To become a minister, the BLS states that a bachelor's degree is needed for entry-level work. However, many job postings call for at least a master's degree in divinity or theology. For admittance into one of these degree programs, you must have a bachelor's degree and most seminary schools require that you demonstrate your personal faith in God. These programs teach you about Biblical languages, ministry and ways to preach the gospel. You may also study missions, leadership and ethics. Most programs have clinical and practicum requirements, which will give you the opportunity to put your ministry skills to practice. Also, before you can start preaching, you may need to become an ordained or a licensed minister, depending on the requirements of your church and your state.

Through a Master in Divinity or a Master of Theology program, you'll acquire many skills that can help you as a minister. Aside from knowing how to interpret Biblical texts to make them applicable to your congregation, you'll need to take charge in ministry settings, live a Biblical lifestyle and help people who are struggling. As a minister, you'll also need to have compassion for others and provide spiritual and emotional support. A high level of oral and written communication skills is necessary, as are excellent listening skills.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Every church needs a leader, so opportunities for head, youth and music ministers abound across the United States. Most churches are looking for ministers who are friendly, living a Godly lifestyle and have pastoral training at the bachelor's or master's level. The following job posts include samples of academic requirements and career responsibilities for ministers as of May 2012:

  • A church in South Carolina wants to hire a minister of music and worship who could lead the congregation to worship God, put together a praise team and select music for church services and other events that take place in the church, including weddings and funerals. The employer requires that applicants lead a Biblical lifestyle, have at least three years of experience as a music minister and are able to teach music theology.
  • A hospice in Michigan is seeking a pastor who could provide spiritual counseling to patients and their families. The employer wants someone who graduated from seminary, had CEP certification, at least a year of pastoral experience and was known as a spiritual leader in the community.
  • A church in Missouri advertised for a seminary graduate to work full-time or part-time as a pastor. The best candidate would have an expository preaching style and be comfortable performing baptisms for infants and believers.
  • A lead pastor, or church planter, is needed in church in Kansas. This person would develop a team of people to establish and lead a church. The ideal individual would have a bachelor's degree and at least two years of experience.
  • A Los Angeles-based church advertised for a pastor who had a master's in divinity or theology. The candidate would sermonize and carry out worship service.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Experience is essential for a career as a minister, as is a firm spiritual walk. To stand out, get involved in your church by volunteering to lead different groups, activities and ministries. It will show your dedication to the church and will give you experience working with pastors, planning Bible studies and teaching others about the Bible. You could also complete an internship, which may provide the opportunity to prepare sermons and show you how to run a church.

You can also gain related skills. For instance, you could take courses in church administration or church finance, which will familiarize you with you how to manage funds and keep the church running smoothly. You could also complete a post-master's certificate in pastoral counseling, which could be useful since counseling is one of a minister's major responsibilities. This will train you in pastoral diagnosis, pastoral counseling, counseling theories and the psychology of religion, which can prepare you to aid to those who seek your advice.

Other Careers to Consider

Counselor

If being a minister isn't quite right for you, but you're interested in helping people overcome mental or emotional disorders or problems that are occurring in their life, becoming a counselor could be for you. For this job, you need to have a master's degree in counseling or marriage and family therapy. You must also earn a license, which requires completing at least 2,000 hours of supervised counseling under the supervision of a licensed counselor. The BLS projected that the employment of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists could increase by 37% between 2010 and 2020. As of May 2011, the median annual salary for marriage and family therapists was $46,000.

Social Worker

The employment outlook for social workers was 25% between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS, which could make this option appealing. Social workers identify people who need help and strive to improve their relationships and get them medical relief for physical, mental or emotional conditions. Similar to ministers, you can choose to specialize to work with children and families, in schools or in healthcare situations. The BLS reported that social workers made a median annual salary of $54,000 as of May 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Political Science
      • B.A. - Political Science
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Abilene Christian University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Christian Ministry
      • Master of Divinity
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Christian Ministry
    Master's
      • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with an Emphasis in Christian Ministry
      • M.A. in Christian Ministry
      • M.A. in Urban Ministry
      • M.A. in Youth and Family Ministry
      • Master of Divinity
      • Master in Christian Counseling
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Christian Studies - Youth Ministry
      • B.A. in Christian Studies - Biblical Studies
      • BA in Christian Studies
      • BA in Christian Studies - Worship Leadership
      • B.A. in Christian Studies with an Emphasis in Global Ministry
      • B.A. in Christian Studies with an Emphasis in Philosophy
  • Washington, DC

    Howard University

  • Online Programs Available
    6. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Ministry
    Master's
      • M.A. Ministry - Church Health and Revitalization
      • M.A. Ministry - Leadership
      • M.A. Ministry - No Specialization
      • M.A. Ministry - Pastoral Ministry
      • M.A. Ministry - Spiritual Formation
      • M.A. Ministry - Children, Youth and Family
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. General Studies - Religious Studies
      • B.S. Biblical Studies
      • B.S. General Studies - Liberal Arts
    Associate's
      • A.S. Christian Ministries
      • A.S. General Studies - Religious Studies
      • A.S. General Studies - Liberal Arts
    Certificate
      • Undergraduate Certificate - Religious Studies
      • Undergraduate Certificate - Pastoral Care and Counseling
      • Undergraduate Certificate - General Studies
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Central Christian College of Kansas

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts
  • Online Programs Available
    8. View High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • High School Diploma
      • High School Credit Recovery
      • High School for Homeschoolers
      • High School for Adult Learners
      • GED Equivalency

Featured Schools

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Political Science

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

What is your age?

Abilene Christian University

  • Master of Arts in Christian Ministry
  • Master of Divinity

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Christian Ministry
  • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with an Emphasis in Christian Ministry
  • Bachelor: Christian Studies - Youth Ministry

What is your highest level of education?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • Doctor of Ministry
  • M.A. Ministry - Church Health and Revitalization
  • B.S. General Studies - Religious Studies
  • A.S. Christian Ministries
  • Undergraduate Certificate - Religious Studies

What is your highest level of education?

Central Christian College of Kansas

  • Associate of Arts

What is your highest level of education completed?

View High School

  • High School Diploma
  • High School Credit Recovery
  • High School for Homeschoolers

What is your age?