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Church Pianist's Salary

If you visit most churches on a Sunday morning, you are likely to see two individuals: a preacher and a pianist. Generally, church pianists play the bulk of the music heard during church services. They may play with other musicians or solo. In some cases, they may serve in dual roles as director of the church choir. While some church pianists volunteer their time, others are paid. Salaries for church pianists are largely dependent upon church budgets, though a few organizations have established salary rates.

How Salaries Are Determined

According to the Boston chapter of the American Guild of Organists' (AGO) "The Work and Compensation of the Church Pianist" report, the most important factors in determining how much to pay your church pianist are their duties and responsibilities. As such, the report emphasizes that church salaries should be reflective of a pianist's training and credentials and the hours they commit each week to music related tasks for the church.

Established Rates Without Degrees

AGO rates state that church pianists without degrees should earn between $12,100 and $18,000 annually for a 10-hour work week, $16,700 to $24,600 annually for a 15-hour work week, $22,800 to $33,700 annually for a 20-hour work and $42,600 to $57,600 annually for 40-hour work week. These figures were as of 2007. Similarly, the Presbyterian Association of Church Musicians' minimum rates as of 2007 are $11.75 per hour or $3,550 annually for a six-hour work week, $11,500 annually for a 19 to 24 hour work week and $22,825 annually for work weeks of 35 hours or more. The National Association of Church Musicians proposed a salary range between $8,440 and $17,230 annually for eight to 11 hours per week, $13, 225 to $26,475 annually for 12 to 15 hours per week and $14,960 to $29,425 annually for 16 to 19 hours per week as of 2004.

Established Rates with Degrees

Much like other professions, salaries for church pianists are higher for those with degrees. According to the Presbyterian Association of Church Musicians, the highest wages are reserved for a church pianist with a doctorate degree. Accordingly, they should earn an hourly rate of $25, an annual salary of $7,750 for a minimum of six hours weekly, $25, 675 annually for 19 to 24 hours per week and $52,250 annually for 35 hours per week as of 2007. Those with master's and bachelor's degrees should earn as much as $51,250 and $42,675 respectively for full-time work as 2007 and $6,575 and $4,375 respectively for minumum part-time hours (six hours per week).

The AGO proposes its highest salary range, between $69,100 and $99,800, for church pianists with doctorate degrees. Part time salaries for those with doctorate, master's or bachelor's degrees range between $19,400 and $57,600 as of 2007. The National Association of Church Musicians proposes salary recommendations based on the presumption that church musicians have been trained at a college or university. Church pianists with doctorate degrees would earn as much as $33,520 annually for 16 to 19 hours of work per week as of 2004. The salary ranges for those with bachelor's and master's degrees begin at $10,905 and $14,455, respectively, for part-time work (minimum 10 hours weekly) and as much as $50,280 and $63,155 respectively for full-time work (40 hours or more) These numbers are also from the 2004 report.

Common Numbers lists the average yearly salaries for church musicians at $35,000. Church pianists in New York average $41,000 per year, and church pianists in New Orleans make $39,00 per year on average. A January 2010 job posting for ChristianJobs 1 offers an annual salary of $9,000 for a church pianist.


Leonard Dozier is a freelance writer based in southern New Jersey and New York. His film and sports columns have been published by "Casino Connection Magazine" and Trev Rogers sports respectively. A prolific and extremely versatile writer, he is an ASCAP songwriter and has written screenplays and stage plays registered with the Writer's Guild of America.