Theology Professions: Education and Career Overview

Find out about the career avenues available in the theology profession. Learn about the requirements for certain positions, details concerning education and preparation, as well as the requisite training to determine if this field is for you.

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If religious practice and faith are important to you, a career in theology might be your calling. A bachelor's degree in religion or theology can lead to work as a clergyperson, a director of religious activities, or a religious educator.

Essential Information

Careers in the theology profession can include positions such as spiritual leaders, religious activities directors or religious educators. Educational requirements vary due to the different needs of each of these professions, but a large majority of professionals in the theological industry hold post-secondary or graduate degrees.

Recommended Education Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree with specialization
Additional Training Varies with chosen profession
Job Outlook 13% growth from 2014-2024* (post-secondary teachers)
2-4% growth from 2014-2024 (religious activities directors)**
5-8% growth from 2014-2024** (clergy)
Median Salaries in 2015 $66,380* (philosophy and religion teachers, postsecondary)
$38,780* (religious activities directors)
$44,250* (clergy)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net

Theology Professions Education

Degree Programs

Some careers in the theology profession may require post-secondary training, but currently there is no standard educational requirement for this field. A bachelor's degree program related to religion or theology should provide sufficient academic training, though some employers could prefer applicants who hold graduate degrees or specialized certificates.

Students can choose degree programs that focus on one religion or programs that focus on the teachings of several religions and philosophies. Undergraduate coursework can include introductory courses to world religions, cultural religious practices and religious texts. Graduate coursework can provide students with the opportunity to specialize in areas such as ministry leadership, preaching methodologies, pastoral counseling and spiritual guidance.

Additional Training

Depending on the theological profession, some workers may need additional training gained through participating in religious ceremonies and rituals. Becoming a religious leader may require students to guide a certain amount of sermons or make spiritual promises in a private ceremony. Individuals are usually required to be active religious members in good standing and are often expected to participate in weekly religious activities.

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Theology Professions Career Overview

Career Options

Religion and Philosophy Teacher

Most religion and philosophy teachers work at colleges, universities and other religious educational centers. They create lesson plans that focus on teaching students about historical facts and cultural practices related to religion. Several teachers also educate students about philosophical concepts that are not necessarily tied to structured religious practices.

As post-secondary professors, religion and philosophy teachers must also maintain academic records, such as student grades and progress reports. Most teachers have to attend department meetings and participate on committees to accomplish department goals. To maintain their position on staff, some religion and philosophy teachers may have to conduct additional research and publish religion and philosophy articles.

Religious Activities Director

Usually separate from priests and other spiritual leaders, religious activities directors focus on organizing specific activities and events. For example, youth ministry directors concentrate their efforts on setting up activities to provide young adults with religious education. They may even set-up religious intervention activities for at-risk youths in economically disenfranchised neighborhoods.

Religious activities directors often work with members of the clergy to determine goals or to plan activities. Some directors may hire and train workers for tasks such as church maintenance or religious education. Many directors also deal with secretarial tasks, such as bookkeeping, maintaining records, reserving vendors and creating employee schedules.

Spiritual Leader

Also known as priests, rabbis, chaplains or pastors, spiritual leaders provide guidance for a congregation of religious worshipers. Spiritual leaders guide parishioners through religious rituals on spiritual days. They also organize additional events, such as youth group meetings or charitable volunteer work.

Many spiritual leaders meet one-on-one with members of their congregation. Although they mainly provide spiritual counseling, O*NET Online stated that these workers can provide advice concerning problems with substance abuse, domestic violence or financial issues. Spiritual leaders also meet with people outside their immediate religion to discuss theological issues or to start a religious conversion process.

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), post-secondary teachers in general were expected to see 13% growth in job openings from 2014-2024. The median pay for religion and philosophy professors was reported as $66,380. Statistics from O*NET Online showed that religious activities directors were expected to see a job growth rate of 2-4%, or slower than average, and clergy members, including spiritual leaders, were expected to see a job growth rate of 5-8%, about the same as the average for all occupations, from 2014-2024 (www.onetonline.org). The BLS indicated that religious activities directors earned a median annual salary of $38,780 in 2015, while clergy members earned a median annual salary of $44,250.

Working in theology can mean committing to and focusing on a single religion or faith as a spiritual leader or activities director, or learning about and teaching a variety of religious traditions and customs as an educator. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for many of these jobs, but there are often specialized training requirements for clergy, and professorial work usually calls for a doctoral degree.

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