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Church Pastor: Job Description & Career Requirements

Read on to discover what church pastors do. Discover the education and training required for this career. Keep reading to see what the career prospects are, and decide if this is the right job for you.

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Career Definition for a Church Pastor

A church pastor is a leader of a Protestant congregation. Pastors lead Baptist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches, among others. The duties of a church pastor include performing ceremonies, such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals, in addition to leading their congregation in worship through sermons inspired by the Bible.

Required Education Must be ordained, graduate degree depending on congregation
Necessary Skills Leadership, public speaking, empathy, ethics
Median Salary (2015) $46,482 for pastors
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 5-8% growth for all clergy

Source: Payscale.com, ONet Online

Required Education

All church pastors must be ordained into their positions through an official appointment process, and educational requirements for church pastors vary with the needs of the congregation. Some denominations require their church pastors to hold graduate-level degrees from schools of theology aligned with the denomination. Churches in well-populated urban areas are more likely to have formal educational requirements than churches in rural areas.

Skills Required

Pastoring a church requires leadership skills, including the ability to motivate and inspire others. Church pastors must be able to speak confidently to large groups and also to listen to the troubles of others with open minds. Most church pastors called to the profession are devoted members of their churches with solid ethics and a natural sense of volunteerism.

Career and Economic Outlook

O*NET Online's data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that employment of church pastors could grow 5-8% from 2014-2024 (www.onetonline.org). Employment and salaries tend to be greatly affected by experience and the average income of the population being served. As of 2015, Payscale.com (www.payscale.com) reported that church pastors earned a median salary of $46,482 annually.

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Alternate Career Options

Some skills gained in training to be a pastor can also be used in other professions.

Director of Religious Activities and Education

A director of religious activities and education organizes and promotes programs that foster the faith, such as classes or lectures or camps. A person in this role may also recruit and train volunteers, and provide counsel to congregants. The position may be available in a number of faiths. Many people who work in this job have at least some college education, although requirements may vary by denomination. According to O*NET OnLine, job growth for directors of religious activities and education is expected to be slower than average from 2014-2024. The BLS reports that this occupation paid a median salary of $38,780 in 2015.

Direct-Service Social Workers

Direct-service social workers assist people with their problems, whether they're related to employment, family, illness or other factors. They help clients identify problems and connect them with the appropriate resources or the social services or federal agencies that provide relevant aid. A bachelor's degree in social work or a closely related field is generally required for this occupation; job titles may include caseworker or mental health assistant. Some states may require licenses for some of these jobs. The job growth for social workers in general - including direct-service social workers and licensed clinical social workers - is predicted to be 12% from 2014-2024, per the BLS. The median salary for this occupation was $45,900 in 2015, stated the BLS.

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