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How to Become a Pastor in California

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There are two facets to becoming an ordained pastor, minister, rabbi, priest or other member of the clergy in the State of California. The first is completing the educational and pastoral requirements of your religious denomination or sect. This process frequently takes years of work and study. The state of California has no specific requirements, however, and does not recognize, endorse or license pastors. Your status as a pastor is between you and your church.

Discuss your calling with your religious leaders and the elders in your church or other religious institution. They can help you identify the processes and courses of study specific to your religious institution required for ordination, and help you decide if the clergy is the right path for you.

Complete such a course of study as your religious organization requires. These courses can vary widely in length and scope, depending on your religious order. Some programs are relatively cursory or you can complete them via correspondence or distance learning. Others require a full master's of divinity degree or its equivalent, requiring years of theological study.

Complete a ministry or leadership program as required by your religious institution. Some traditions require you to complete a period of service in an assistant or apprentice pastoral capacity prior to full ordination.


The state of California does not have any specific requirements to register as a member of the clergy, nor do they grant licenses to clergy members.


Leslie McClintock has been writing professionally since 2001. She has been published in "Wealth and Retirement Planner," "Senior Market Advisor," "The Annuity Selling Guide," and many other outlets. A licensed life and health insurance agent, McClintock holds a B.A. from the University of Southern California.

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