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How Much Do Pastors Make?

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Becoming a Pastor: Serving God, Serving Others

If you've experienced a call to ministry, you are not alone. Throughout history, many men and women have sought to serve their churches in a pastoral role. While this career can present challenges for working parents, many congregations are willing to provide flexible working hours that will allow you to meet your family responsibilities.

Job Description

Pastors are clergy in the Christian tradition who serve church congregations. Typical pastoral duties include:

  • Leading and preaching at worship services
  • Performing the rites, rituals, sacraments or ordinances of a church
  • Visiting church members who are sick or going through a life change
  • Counseling church members

The role of a pastor often depends on the denomination in which he or she serves. In some churches, the pastor takes on the work of a chief executive and has significant authority over the day-to-day operations of the church. In other traditions, pastors provide care and worship leadership, and officiate at sacraments and ordinances, but they may have little authority over the way the church operates.

Education Requirements

Religious denominations set their own policies regarding clergy education. In the United States, many Protestant denominations, as well as the Roman Catholic Church and some Eastern Orthodox churches, regard the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree as the standard degree for those who wish to enter pastoral ministry. This degree, which typically requires three to four years of full-time study, can be earned at a theological seminary. Some churches that generally require clergy to hold an M.Div degree offer alternative education tracks that allow individuals to become licensed clergy without having to complete seminary.

Not all denominations require their pastors to have a seminary education. Some may only require a bachelor's degree or a certificate from a Bible college. Others may expect clergy candidates to complete a self-study program that incorporates reading, videos and exams. If you are interested in ordination, talk to your own pastor about your church's requirements.

In addition to completing an approved educational program, churches often have a strenuous application program. Once again, every church is different, but prospective clergy may be required to undergo background checks and psychological evaluations, meet with multiple committees and receive the endorsement of other church leaders.

As of May 2016, the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the annual median salary of pastors to be $45,740. This means that 50 percent of all pastors in the United States earn more than $45,740 annually and 50 percent earn less. The bottom 10 percent of earners made less than $23,830 and the top 10 percent earned more than $79,110.

Industry

Most pastors have an office inside their church buildings. However, many pastors spend time traveling around their local neighborhoods visiting parishioners in their own homes, as well as in hospitals and nursing facilities. If you become a pastor, you can expect to work on weekends, particularly Sundays, as well as on some evenings. Pastors are generally on call and may be asked to respond quickly to a congregant who is in crisis, has experienced a death in the family or who is ill.

Years of Experience

Pastors generally earn more as they gain experience. A survey by PayScale shows the following correlation between experience and salary:

  • 0-5 years: $40,000 
  • 5-10 years: $46,000 
  • 10-20 years: $50,000 
  • 20 years or more: $51,000 

Job Growth Trend

The BLS does not provide detailed information about job growth for pastors. According to O*Net Online, however, clergy, in general, can expect average job growth of 5 to 9 percent between 2016 and 2026. It should be noted, however, that not all clergy are pastors: Some serve as chaplains, counselors, academics or in administrative roles.

Another factor in job prospects for clergy is the general health of the denomination in which you wish to be ordained. Growing denominations may have a greater need for qualified clergy to fill pulpits.