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Clergy Professions: Job Description and Information

Mar 11, 2019

Read on to learn more about a career as a clergy professional, such as a priest, minister, pastor, rabbi, and imam. Explore the education and training requirements, and see what the job prospects are to determine if this is the right career field for you.

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Career Definition for Clergy Professions

Clergy professionals include spiritual leaders in the Catholic, Protestant Christian, Jewish, and Islamic religions. A career in the clergy professions involves performing religious ceremonies, such as birth and coming of age rituals, weddings, and funerals. Clergy professionals lead worship based on religious doctrines, and they are often sought for spiritual guidance and other assistance. They promote spirituality, read from sacred texts, share religious insight, and provide faith-based comfort to people.

Required Education Master's degree; bachelor's degree may also be accepted
Job Skills Public speaking, foreign language knowledge, listening ability, helpfulness
Median Salary* $47,100 (2017)
Career Outlook* 8% (2016-2026)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Each religion has specific processes and requirements for ordaining, or appointing, members of the clergy. Most clergy professionals hold master's degrees in theology or religious studies, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in addition to participating in an on-going study of the relevant sacred texts. About 24% of clergy have a bachelor's degree, according to O*NET OnLine. Clergy also need to have extensive knowledge of the field and may hold more than five years of experience.

Skills Required

Members of the clergy professions are usually excellent public speakers, good listeners, and they are willing to serve others before themselves. Many clergy professionals speak more than one language, either to read sacred texts in Arabic, Hebrew or Latin or in order to reach out to other communities and countries. Only men can serve as Muslim imams and only unmarried men may serve as priests in most sects of Catholicism. Anglican priests can be women, and married men may serve as Anglican or Eastern Orthodox priests.

Career and Economic Outlook

The BLS expects that jobs in the clergy professions will increase by 8% from 2016 to 2026. Clergy professionals typically choose their careers based on their faith and desire to serve rather than for the salary. According to the BLS, the median annual salary in 2017 was $47,100.

Alternate Career Options

Related careers can be:

Director of Religious Activities and Education

Directors of religious activities and education plan and implement programs and events designed to support and grow congregants' faith. Programs may be geared toward children, teens or adults. Directors may arrange for classes, guest speakers, or camps. They may also provide guidance to congregants with problems. The qualifications for this job may vary by denomination; however, the BLS reports that the range of education completed by people in this job spans from some college up to a master's degree. According to the BLS, jobs in this field are expected to increase 7% from 2016-2026, and this job paid a median salary of $38,980 in 2017.

Direct-Service Social Worker

Direct-service social workers use the knowledge gained from a bachelor's degree program in social work to help people identify and solve problems. They guide clients to applicable community resources, social services or federal aid programs, and follow up as needed. Licensure requirements vary by state. The BLS reports that jobs for social workers in general - including direct-service social workers and licensed clinical social workers - are predicted to increase 16% from 2016-2026. The median salary for this occupation was $47,980 in 2017, per the BLS.

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