Pros and Cons of a Career as a Pastor
Pastors are members of the clergy who lead churches and faith-based activities. Consider the pros and cons of this career below.
|Pros of Becoming a Pastor|
|Satisfaction of helping people grow in their faith*|
|Get to perform joyous rituals and ceremonies (baptisms, marriages, etc.)*|
|Jobs in every state, with a variety of geographical options**|
|Housing is often provided***|
|Cons of Becoming a Pastor|
|Irregular hours and may be on call 24/7***|
|Extensive theological education may be required*|
|Potentially stressful work environment (may deal with congregants in crisis)*|
|Some churches require vows or promises that may be difficult to follow****|
Sources: *O*NetOnLine.org, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church, ****The Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona and Johnstown.
Essential Career Information
Job Description and Duties
The primary duty of a pastor is to care for the spiritual well-being of his or her congregation. This can include performing religious rites, such as baptisms, confirmations and funerals. Pastors also counsel parish members in times of confusion and emotional distress.
Pastors provide the administrative oversight to their church. They may develop church policies, supervise church employees and provide training for ministers. In some denominations, the pastor may be in charge of church finances. An associate or assistant pastor may be in charge of one part of the congregation. For example, a youth pastor may develop programs and oversee religious education for youth in the church.
Salary and Career Outlook
Clergy members in general are predicted to see an employment opportunity increase of 8%-14% between 2012 and 2022, according to O*NetOnLine.org. This is considered to be about average. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted in May 2014 that the annual median salary for clergy was $43,950. Pastors, however, tend to make more than the general clergy.
Salary.com reported in 2015 that the median salary for a typical pastor in the U.S. was $89,682 annually. Although pastors' salaries can be higher than average, your salary will be dependent on your location and the size of your congregation.
The BLS reported the state of New York had the largest amount of clergy with 8,760 members, and California ranked second with 4,800 clergy members. The states that paid the highest wages to clergy were Nevada, the District of Columbia, and Washington in May 2014.
Education and Traits
Most jobs advertisements state that pastors are required to have a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Theology. Churches also look for ministers with strong faith, empathy and patience. Honesty and personal integrity are vital to ministry positions. Leadership skills are also crucial since pastors are congregation leaders.
Job Postings from Real Employers
Employers don't always post job offers in public venues and many churches, such as the Catholic Church, appoint personnel to work in specific locations once they've become ordained. Summaries of some of the job postings located in May 2012 are listed below.
- A church in Peoria is seeking an associate pastor to perform the basic spiritual and ritual functions of the church. The pastor must be ordained Roman Catholic, and if the candidate does not yet have a M.A. degree, the church will cover tuition towards that goal.
- A small, rural church in Missouri is looking for a friendly pastor with good speaking skills. Candidates should personally subscribe to the ideals of 1 Timothy 3. Housing is provided.
- In California, a church would like to hire a youth pastor to administer youth worship programs and activities, including summer camps. A bachelor's degree is required, but a master's is preferred.
Standing Out in the Field
Pastors perform a variety of duties, and most pastor job descriptions include counseling. To stand out among other pastor candidates, you may want to take additional classes in psychology and behavioral sciences to be better prepared for and to demonstrate your commitment to that part of the job. Also, some faith colleges offer specific programs in pastor leadership. Participating in a pastor scholar program or completing a course or certificate in leadership may help you stand out.
Another way to stand out from the crowd is to gain experience specific to the type work you would like to do. For example, if you would like to be a youth pastor, you could gain experience by teaching in a Sunday school program or summer Bible camp. If your goal is to be a lead pastor, you may want to join a church council to learn about the business of running a church.
Alternative Career Options
There may be aspects of becoming a pastor that don't quite meet your calling. Some religions may also have pastor requirements that you aren't prepared to meet. There are alternatives available that will allow you to work within your faith community in other ways.
Private Elementary School Teacher
If you enjoy working with children, you might consider working in a position that will help them build a foundation of faith during their formative years. Private religious schools often don't have the same teacher education requirements found in public schools, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), they still look for applicants with at least a bachelor's degree. If you teach in a private school, you may not need teaching certification or license.
The BLS predicted that these teachers would see a 17% increase in job opportunities through the 2010-2012 decade. As of May 2011, elementary school teachers, both public and private, earned a median annual wage of about $53,000, according to the BLS.
Christian Counseling Psychologist
Perhaps you find you have the desire to help people within your faith, but aren't prepared to accept a pastor's lifestyle. As a layperson, you can become a beacon of hope to those in need of emotional and spiritual help by becoming a counseling psychologist.
The education requirements for this job are extensive and you'll need to earn a doctoral degree and participate in an internship program. Most states also require counseling psychologists to be either certified or licensed. The BLS noted that the annual median wages for counseling psychologists were nearly $68,000 in May 2011. The BLS predicted that psychologists would enjoy a 22% job growth between 2010 and 2020.