Becoming a Pastor: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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A pastor serves an important role in a community and in the lives of others. Read the pros and cons of this calling to see if a career as a pastor is right for you.
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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.

Job Requirements

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

Education

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.

Get Experience

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.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Christian Ministry
      • 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
      • Master in Christian Counseling
      • Master in Christian Counseling of Substance Use & Addictive Disorders
      • Master of Divinity with an Emphasis in Global Ministry
      • M.A. in Christian Leadership
    Bachelor's
      • 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
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Ministry - Clinical Pastoral Education
      • Doctor of Ministry
      • Doctor of Ministry - Christian Leadership & Renewal
      • Doctor of Ministry - Community Transformation
      • Doctor of Ministry - Military Ministry
      • Doctor of Ministry - Ministry Leadership Coaching
    Master's
      • Master of Theology - Pastoral Theology
      • Master of Arts in Practical Theology - Church and Ministry
      • Master of Divinity - Church and Ministry
      • Master of Divinity - History of Christianity
      • Master of Theological Studies - History of Christianity
      • Master of Theology - Church and Ministry
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies
      • Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies - Theological and Historical Studies
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      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Christian Ministry
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      • Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies - Biblical Studies
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Ministry
    Master's
      • M.A. Ministry - Pastoral Ministry
      • Master in Theological Studies
      • M.A. Ministry - Children, Youth and Family
      • M.A. Ministry - Church Health and Revitalization
      • M.A. Ministry - Leadership
      • M.A. Ministry - No Specialization
    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
      • Seminary Certificate - Children, Youth and Family
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  • Online Programs Available
    4. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
      • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Political Science
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA General Studies
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      • AA in Liberal Arts
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Dayton, OH

    University of Dayton

  • Online Programs Available
    9. Thomas Edison State University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA in Liberal Studies

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Christian Ministry
  • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with an Emphasis in Christian Ministry
  • B.A. in Christian Studies - Biblical Studies

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Doctor of Ministry - Clinical Pastoral Education
  • Master of Theology - Pastoral Theology
  • Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies

What is your highest level of education completed?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • Doctor of Ministry
  • M.A. Ministry - Pastoral Ministry
  • B.S. General Studies - Religious Studies
  • A.S. Christian Ministries
  • Undergraduate Certificate - Religious Studies

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Bachelor: Liberal Studies
  • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership

Which subject are you interested in?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Political Science

What is your highest level of education?

Southern New Hampshire University

  • BA General Studies
  • AA in Liberal Arts

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

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

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