Youth Minister Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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Learn about a youth minister's job description, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a youth minister's career.
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The Pros and Cons of a Career as a Youth Minister

If you like helping junior high and high school students understand and apply their faith, you might enjoy becoming a youth minister. Read below about the pros and cons of becoming a youth minister:

Pros of a Youth Minister Career
A good career if you enjoy teenagers*
A degree is not required, though many pursue bachelor's degrees**
Job satisfaction is often very high*
Opportunities are available in churches, camps and parachurch organizations***

Cons of a Youth Minister Career
May need to help youth through stressful situations*
Experience is often a requirement**
Need to agree with the religious beliefs of your employer***
The hours can be long and irregular*

Sources: *The Princeton Review, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***Various Job Boards from May 2012.

Career Information

Job Description

As a youth minister, your responsibilities include planning and coordinating programs directed at the religious education and development of junior and senior high students. This involves building relationships, planning activities, teaching, public speaking, counseling and offering individual guidance to the students in your youth ministry. Other activities may include reporting statistical and budgeting activity, managing other youth workers and promoting youth ministry programs.

A potential challenge for this career is that you typically need to be a member of the religious organization where you plan to minister and to ascribe to the religious beliefs of that denomination. Also, an expectation placed on many ministers is that they're always available, which can lead to long and abnormal hours. However, like other clergy, youth ministers often view their roles as more than just a job and usually feel a sense of 'calling from God.' This attitude can help them deal with low pay, long hours and less than ideal support from students.

Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that career opportunities for directors of religious activities and education, such as youth ministers, were anticipated to increase 8% from 2012-2022, which is about average growth. In May 2014, directors of religious activities and education earned a mean annual salary of about $45,000. According to PayScale.com, the median salary for youth ministers was about $34,000 as of 2015.

Education Requirements

Many organizations prefer that you have a bachelor's degree in youth ministry. A youth ministry program usually combines interdisciplinary coursework in theology, philosophy and psychology. Degree programs in youth ministry are offered at many Christian colleges and universities. Some specific classes could include adolescent development and needs, cultural trends and issues, management of youth ministry organizations, urban youth ministry and how to teach Christian doctrine to students.

As a youth minister, you should have a passion for teenagers and communicating your faith to them. Some other skills useful for this career include:

  • Excellent teaching skills
  • Patience
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Knowledge about cultural issues and concerns affecting teens
  • Ability to counsel and advise students

Jobs Posted by Real Employers

Organizations that hire youth ministers range from churches to nonprofit religious organizations. Most of them want to hire people who have a bachelor's degree in youth ministry, or a related field, as well as some experience. Employers also want you to have an enthusiasm for your faith and for working with youth. Read some samples below from May 2012 job postings:

  • A district of churches in New York is looking for a youth minister to work with pastors and other staff to teach church doctrine, perform church services for youth, and develop recreational and social activities, retreats and outreach programs. You must be able to enlist and train youth workers and serve on various committees. Ideal candidates should have a degree in theology or a related field, and you must be skilled in computers and social networking.
  • A denomination with a location in Alaska is seeking a youth minister to work with churches in the Fairbanks area. The person hired could be responsible for developing programs for youth and young adults. You must be a member of the church's denomination, have youth ministry experience and leadership abilities. You could have a bachelor's degree in religious education or a related field, but a master's degree is ideal.
  • A youth pastor is needed at a church near Rockford, IL. Ideal candidates should have at least two years of Bible training and 3-5 years of youth ministry experience. You must agree with the church's statements of doctrine and become a member of the church. Some responsibilities include goal-setting, facilitating spiritual growth in students, planning events, overseeing children and youth curriculum, managing a budget, and at times, preaching during Sunday services.
  • Youth camp services directors are needed in Seattle, WA, to oversee the operations of two church summer camps. The camps help to cultivate faith in youth, so you should be passionate about your faith and also be able to work year-round. The candidates must have a bachelor's degree, youth ministry experience and be certified in first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

How to Get the Edge

Experience is critical to getting an entry-level job in this field. Unpaid internships, volunteering in your church's youth ministry or working at a summer youth camp can all be valuable experiences for your first role as a youth minister.

While the teens themselves are the focus of most youth ministry degree programs, many don't prepare future youth ministers for the administrative and supervisory skills usually needed for this career. Being trained and experienced in these areas could be helpful, even if you didn't learn them in a youth ministry role.

Other Careers to Consider

High School Teacher

If you want to educate high school students, but would prefer an occupation with a bit more income potential, you could become a high school teacher. In May 2011, the BLS indicated that secondary school teachers earned an average salary of about $57,000 a year.

You might opt to teach at a private, faith-based school, and still have the opportunity to mix your faith into instruction. If you teach at a private institution, you don't need to have a state teaching license, but you should have a bachelor's degree in education or in the field you plan to teach. Unfortunately, job opportunities for high school teachers were predicted to be slower than average, at about seven percent from 2010-2020.

School Psychologist

One of the responsibilities of youth ministers is to counsel teens. If you become a school psychologist, you can help youth deal with social, behavioral and learning issues. According to the BLS, career opportunities were anticipated to increase 22% from 2010-2020. In May 2011, school psychologists - along with clinical and counseling psychologists - received a mean salary of $73,000 annually.

The downside of becoming a school psychologist is that the educational requirements are more extensive. At minimum, you need a master's degree in school psychology. In addition, you must be licensed in your state to practice as a school psychologist.

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