Pastoral Care Ministry: Job Description, Training & Salary

Pastoral care entails looking after the spiritual well-being of an individual or a community, in a religious or secular setting. Read on to learn more about the duties of the pastoral carer, its job requirements and more.

What Is a Pastoral Carer?

Pastoral care covers many functions relating to spiritual health, counseling and education. A pastoral carer is somebody who focuses on providing spiritual support services like counseling, visitations to hospitals or prisons, palliative and bereavement care, prayer sessions and memorial services. Often, this term is used in a Christian context as one of the major functions of a pastoral ministry, in which a leader (or pastor) helps his or her followers develop a deeper connection to the church by conducting sermons and worship meetings, rites of sacrament, and other services.

Many pastoral carers are employed by a church as part of the ministry, though others may work for institutions like hospitals, schools, prisons, military/veteran's facilities or nursing homes. Because these institutions can be religiously and culturally diverse, a pastoral carer must be able to handle different spiritual needs of each patient with respect and understanding. Their duties also include maintaining a network of institutional/community contacts, organizations and volunteers to ensure that each patient has access to appropriate, helpful resources.

Educational Requirements A bachelor's degree; a master's degree in divinity, theology or pastoral studies is also commonly required
Job Skills Capable of communicating with respect and sensitivity, knowledge of appropriate counseling and guidance techniques, knowledge of religious customs and services, spiritual faith, patience, strong organizational skills, leadership and teamwork skills
Median Salary (2019)* $57,659 (pastoral care head)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)** 8% (all clergy)

Source: * Payscale.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Prospective pastoral carers will usually need a bachelor's degree or a master's degree, preferably related to religion (such as divinity, theology or pastoral studies). In addition, many pastoral care positions require at least one unit of accredited Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and/or supervised pastoral care work experience. Depending on the employer and level of the job, a pastoral carer may need to be ordained clergy; an ordained pastoral carer is sometimes called a chaplain.

Required Skills

As a pastoral carer, you may be working in a secular institution and serving a diverse community. In addition to demonstrating effective counseling skills, providing good pastoral care is a matter of having the knowledge and compassion to deliver spiritual guidance that is appropriate for each individual. The ability to work through stress is also important, as you may be mediating conflict, conducting a crisis intervention or giving support during a health-related emergency. You must be able to communicate well with your patients and your co-workers; often you'll be working closely with a network of other counselors, religious associates and community service providers. Your job may require basic computer and administrative skills to perform such tasks as answering the telephone, maintaining a database and writing emails.

Career Outlook and Salary

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for the clergy in general are expected to increase at a rate of about 8% from 2016 to 2026. This is close to the average rate for all occupations (7%).

In March 2019, Payscale.com reported that pastoral care heads earned a median of $57,659 a year, or about $30 an hour.


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