Minister: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for ministers. Get the facts about degree requirements, job outlook, salary and licensure to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Christian Ministry degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Minister?

Ministers fulfill a leadership role within their religious community, utilizing oratory skills, careful listening and faith teachings to instruct, help and comfort fellow members of the faith. Ministers often deliver the weekly sermons or other talks to members of the congregation, as well as reading aloud from sacred texts. Their primary role is to pray and encourage spirituality for the members of the faith, so they often meet and gather with groups of them to lead discussions or talk about spiritual issues. Ministers also plan and lead various religious services and programs. They may be involved in resolving conflicts among members, providing emotional support during difficult times and developing working relationships outside of the organization. Read on to learn more about becoming a minister, including common education and training requirements and typical job skills.

Degree Required Bachelor's or master's degree
Education Field of Study Divinity, theology
Key Skills Listening, speaking, compassion, leadership
Licensure Licensure or ordination may be required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 5% - 8% (for all clergy)*
Median Salary (2015) $44,250 (for all clergy)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Should I Study to Become a Minister?

There are no uniform educational requirements for ministers, but most have a bachelor's or master's degree. You might obtain a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from an accredited theological program, which takes 4-5 years of study. This is the most common degree for those entering ministry and many churches require it for ordination. In a master's in divinity degree program, you would gain a thorough knowledge of:

  • Literacy
  • Biblical studies
  • Theology
  • Church history
  • Ethics

You would learn skills in preaching, exegesis, leading worship and pastoral care. To be eligible for a M.Div. program, you must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college, belong to a faith community or practice in a ministry setting. You might put your ministry skills to practice by applying to an internship program.

What Is Ordination Like?

Requirements for ordination vary by denomination. Many religious groups, such as the American Baptist Churches in the USA, require a bachelor's degree, an M.Div. and compliance with ethical standards (www.abc-usa.org). The United Methodist Church requires you to have a high school diploma or GED and participate for one year in a United Methodist ministry setting (www.gbhem.org). Some churches only provide ordination on the local church level.

The Evangelical Church Alliance (ECA) awards the credentials of Licensed Minister and Ordained Minister (www.ecainternational.org). Licensed Ministers can carry out all religious rites except for wedding ceremonies, while Ordained Ministers can execute all ceremonies including weddings. To attain either of these credentials, you must comply with the ECA's beliefs and ethics, complete theological studies in an approved program and meet their ministry experience requirements.

What Duties Will I Have?

As a minister, you would compose and deliver sermons for religious services and administer religious rituals, such as funerals, weddings and baptisms. You would also attend to the religious, emotional and personal needs of others and encourage prayer and spirituality. In nursing homes, prisons and hospitals you would offer support to patients and prisoners. Helping those who wish to become part of your faith through conversion would also be a responsibility.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Social and community service managers are related career options that require a bachelor's degree. These professionals provide various services for clients, as well as help clients find community resources and services. Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists are also similar positions, but require a master's degree. Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists work with individuals, couples or families to overcome various mental or emotional disorders or problems that affect their relationships.

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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