How Do I Earn a Minister's License?

Becoming a minister of a religious denomination takes time, study and devotion. However, there are simpler options if your intention is to become a licensed minister mainly to perform weddings or funeral services. Keep reading to find out how to earn these credentials. Schools offering Christian Ministry degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Routes to Getting Your Minister's License

There are two ways you can become licensed. You can become ordained by a recognized religious denomination by completing an accredited seminar or theological program. You can also become an independent ordained minister through a church or organization that offers an online ordination process. Both paths will allow you to meet licensing requirements to become a minister in most states.

Important Facts About Minister Licensing

Common Courses Old Testament studies, practical theology
Key Skills Public speaking, interpersonal skills, communication, organization, leadership
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% (for all clergy)
Similar Occupations Pastor, professor, program coordinator

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics

Become Ordained Through a Religious Denomination

Each of the major religious denominations offers a similar path to ordination, which typically requires a graduate degree. For example, if you are a Christian, you have to attend a seminary or school of theology to train to become a minister and work toward earning a master of divinity degree. If your goal is to minister in the Jewish faith, then you need to study at a rabbinical college, where you work toward earning a master's degree in rabbinical studies.

Both of these master's degree programs offer studies in ethics, philosophy, history and theology. Each denomination also requires specific courses in Scripture and analysis. Advanced study at the seminary level allows you to take pastoral care courses on marriage and family and ceremonial rites, such as weddings, funerals and canon law.

The final step toward ordination is training in supervised pastoral ministry. Some denominations first ordain you as a deacon, a designation that gives you the authority to baptize or officiate at funerals.

Become Ordained Online

If you want a quick, non-traditional route to becoming a licensed minister, you might consider an independent church or organization that offers ordination services online. This type of ordination gives you the authority to perform marriage ceremonies and officiate at funerals.

Online ordination services typically serve no specific religious affiliation and have simple registration requirements. All you need to do is fill out the necessary paperwork, pay an ordination fee or give a donation to receive your ordination certificate and minister's identification card.


Each state has its own requirements for licensing ministers, although all require that you be at least 18 years old. However, other regulations may apply. For example, Rhode Island allows any minister of good standing to perform marriages, while Pennsylvania recognizes only ministers from established religious denominations. It is important that you understand your state's requirements before you decide to become a licensed minister.


According to in September 2015, the median annual salary for ministers was $46,664. However, reported salaries ranged from $24,657 to $72,357. Salary can be affected by your geographic location and the church with which you are affiliated. For example, reported in September 2015 that the Roman Catholic Church generally pays its priests a median salary of $41,959, which is slightly less than Protestant ordained ministers.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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