Prisoners in state facilities sometimes seek spiritual guidance from chaplains to ease their anxieties or get closer to God. The duties of state prison chaplains are similar to those of ministers, and their denominations vary from Methodist to Catholic. They run weekly services, teach religion classes and comfort family members when the incarcerated pass away. If you want to become a state prison chaplain, you will likely need to attend a theological seminary. Expect to earn an average salary of just under $40,000 annually.
Salary and Qualifications
State prison chaplains earned average annual salaries of $39,000 as of 2013, according to the job website Indeed. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a May 2012 annual salary of $53,960 for state clergy, but not all of them work as state prison chaplains. To become a state prison chaplain, you will likely need a bachelor's degree in theology, religion or humanities. Other important qualifications include empathy, patience, a strong faith, and communication and analytical skills.
Salary by Region
In 2013, average salaries for state prison chaplains varied within the different U.S. regions. In the Midwest region, they earned the lowest salaries of $31,000 in South Dakota and the highest of $41,000 in Illinois, according to Indeed. If you worked in the Northeast region, you would make between $35,000 and $46,000 per year, with the lowest salary in Maine or Pennsylvania and the highest in New York. State prison chaplains earned $28,000 and $43,000 per year, respectively, in Hawaii and California, which were the lowest and highest salaries in the West region. And those in the South region earned $33,000 to $46,000, respectively, in Louisiana and Mississippi.
State prison chaplains typically earn more as they gain experience. Annual increases alone can add thousands of dollars to their incomes. Your salary would be higher in New York or California because housing, insurance, groceries and other expenses are usually more costly in those states. Moreover, you may also earn more working for larger state prisons that hold more inmates and have larger budgets.
The BLS doesn't report job trends for state prison chaplains. It does, however, report job opportunities for clergy, which are expected to increase 18 percent in the next decade. This growth rate is statistically about as fast as average compared to the 14 percent national average for all jobs. The prison population increased 11 times faster than the growth of the general population from 1980 to 2010, according to "U.S. News & World Report." The prison population is still growing, especially among white woman and Americans over 50, which may create more jobs for state prison chaplains.