Religious Vocations

Read about religious vocations, including the undergraduate and graduate programs that can help you prepare for a career in the clergy, lay ministry or religious education. Find additional information about employment and salaries here, and make an informed decision about your education.

Is a Religious Vocation For Me?

Career Overview

As a person of faith, you can answer your calling to serve by working within your religious organization as a spiritual leader or religious education teacher. Additionally, hospitals, home health services, advocacy groups and other community-oriented organizations sometimes employ religious workers. Religious workers undertake a lifelong study of the texts, history and context of their religion. Undergraduate and graduate studies in religion can be found through colleges and universities, as well as your own organization's education and training programs.

Religious studies programs typically cover topics in theology, philosophy and church doctrine. Rabbinical schools focus on the Talmud and Hebrew language. You'll also study the history and culture of the Jewish people. In a Buddhism or Hinduism program, you'll learn about their respective religious cultures and writings.

Employment and Salary Information

Once you have completed appropriate training, you may serve in the clergy or ordained leadership of a local church, temple, synagogue or mosque. In May 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual salary of $42,950 for clergy members. Opportunities for employment were expected to grow by 10% between 2012 and 2022, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. As of May 2013, religious workers not classified by the BLS earned a median annual wage of $28,750, while religious activities and education directors were paid a median of $38,160 a year (www.bls.gov).

How Do I Work in a Religious Vocation?

Educational Requirements

Vocational roles often require a bachelor's or master's degree, depending upon the level of leadership you wish to pursue. In general, you'll need to train at a school approved by your faith, such as a Roman Catholic seminary. School for members of the Jewish, Islamic or Protestant faiths are often run by the parent religion or denomination.

Undergraduate Programs

As an aspiring lay minister in the Christian faith, you may pursue a campus-based or online bachelor's degree in Christian studies or Christian ministries. Specialized programs in youth ministries may also be available. Undergraduate students of all faiths can pursue programs in family ministries, pastoral counseling or religious education. You could also learn how to prepare and perform music during religious services.

Seminary Programs

A seminary education is usually required to obtain a position in the clergy. It can also help you acquire the background you'll need to obtain a minister's license. Online seminary and campus-based programs can lead to a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) and typically take three years to complete. Course topics can include a study of the fundamental texts of your faith in their original language, as well as homiletics and pastoral care.

Doctoral Programs

On campus and online Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Religion programs may allow for specializations in Biblical languages, liturgics, New Testament studies or another faith-related area. Ph.D. candidates typically include pastors and those who teach religion or religious studies at the college level. A Doctor of Divinity normally takes at least five years to complete and can qualify you for a tenure-track position at a university, where you'll train future pastors. Entry into a doctoral program usually requires a master's degree and competency in two languages.

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