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At a Glance

  • Most are ministers, priests, or rabbis
  • Work includes giving sermons and performing ceremonies
  • Often work days, evenings, nights, and weekends
  • Often counsel people who are sick or in emotional distress
  • Training requirements vary by religious groups
  • Many have bachelor's and graduate degrees

Career summary

Clergy provide spiritual leadership.

Depending on the religious denomination they serve, clergy may be called rabbis, imams, pastors, ministers, reverends, or priests.

#From 8436 Clergy. Nothing else carried over.

# review 3/25/19 lh

Most clergy in the United States are Protestant ministers, Jewish rabbis, or Roman Catholic priests. There are many other religious organizations with spiritual teachers and leaders.

Clergy give sermons as well as religious instruction. They study and interpret religious texts and doctrines. They also conduct:

They may write articles for publication in church newsletters. Many clergy counsel individuals and groups.

Clergy take part in community or recreational activities sponsored by their place of worship. They also talk to people who are curious about faith. They may train other church and youth leaders.

The size of the religious organization or congregation affects the duties of the clergy. In large congregations, clergy members have more administrative duties. They meet with committees, officers, and staff. In smaller congregations, clergy may spend more time with the members of the congregations. Sometimes they coordinate community efforts to help others during times of emergency or great need.

Some clergy tend to the personal and religious needs of people who are sick, have disabilities, or are in prison. Other clergy teach in:

Related careers

This career is part of the Human Services cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to clergy.

Common work activities

Clergy perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, clergy:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Clergy frequently:

It is important for clergy to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for clergy to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Clergy need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a member of the clergy, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Religious groups differ, so anyone wishing to become a member of the clergy should talk to religious leaders about how to prepare for this field.

Many Protestant ministers have a bachelor's degree in ministry, religious studies, or biblical studies. You can also attend a theology school to earn a master's of divinity or theology. In these programs, you study the Bible, pastoral care, and ethics. You can be ordained after completing a program of study. Some denominations only require a high school diploma to be ordained. Men and women can be ordained as Protestant ministers.

To become a rabbi, you must complete a program at a seminary. Each branch of Judaism has different requirements for entry into a seminary. In a seminary you earn a master's or doctoral degree in Hebrew letters. You study the Bible, the Torah, Hebrew, and Jewish history. It can take up to five years to complete a program. Men and women can be ordained as rabbis.

It usually takes about eight years to prepare to become a Catholic priest. Most priests begin by earning a bachelor's degree. Some students begin training for the priesthood while still in high school. Others begin later at a Catholic college or a seminary. You study Latin, philosophy, church history, and prayer. You should also learn Spanish. Most priests earn a master's degree in divinity or theology. At this time, only men can be ordained as priests.

Work experience

Many training programs for clergy include some form of community service. This often includes the opportunity to work in other countries.

On-the-job training

Clergy receive training after they are called or hired. This training may be more about learning the organizational structure of the congregation rather than learning how to be a rabbi, for example. In some cases, however, clergy may be brought on at a junior level and may advance once the senior clergyperson retires or moves to another congregation. Training may last up to one year.

Military training

The military does not provide initial training in this field. However, the military can provide work experience to chaplains who have a master's degree in theology.

Some branches of the military provide training to religious program specialists. These workers assist chaplains. Training for specialists last seven to eight weeks and you do not need a degree to enter this military occupation.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Hiring practices for clergy vary greatly. Some religious groups require their leaders to have a degree in theology. Other groups do not require formal training.

Employers generally look for clergy who listen to the needs of others. Clergy should be able to work under pressure and be able to make difficult decisions. Employers also look for people who can lead by example.

Elders in charge of placement usually wait for an opening within their geographical region. They help select a clergy member from their area who is experienced and prepared to move elsewhere, usually to a larger congregation. Religious officials look for someone who has strong leadership ability and concern for their congregation.


An internship is beneficial and is required in some cases. Volunteer work and involvement with the religious group of your choice is helpful. Knowledge of basic office software and e-mail applications is also helpful. Talk with clergy to learn more about what they do.

Costs to workers

Clergy who join a professional association may have to pay annual dues.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Clergy (SOC 21-2011)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $19.00 $25.05 $29.49 $35.42 $42.08
Monthly $3,293 $4,341 $5,111 $6,138 $7,292
Yearly $39,520 $52,110 $61,330 $73,670 $87,530
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $13.42 $17.35 $26.45 $35.45 $44.10
Monthly $2,326 $3,007 $4,584 $6,143 $7,643
Yearly $27,917 $36,074 $55,018 $73,722 $91,741
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $20.15 $22.14 $25.70 $31.08 $35.31
Monthly $3,492 $3,837 $4,454 $5,386 $6,119
Yearly $41,928 $46,042 $53,462 $64,653 $73,447
    Longview Hourly $20.87 $25.90 $29.38 $34.34 $39.07
Monthly $3,617 $4,488 $5,092 $5,951 $6,771
Yearly $43,407 $53,884 $61,117 $71,429 $81,264
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $16.87 $26.61 $31.57 $38.45 $45.68
Monthly $2,924 $4,612 $5,471 $6,663 $7,916
Yearly $35,083 $55,342 $65,674 $79,979 $95,013
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $21.95 $25.44 $28.52 $32.27 $36.46
Monthly $3,804 $4,409 $4,943 $5,592 $6,319
Yearly $45,655 $52,899 $59,328 $67,122 $75,840
    Vancouver Hourly $11.93 $20.43 $28.25 $36.04 $44.20
Monthly $2,067 $3,541 $4,896 $6,246 $7,660
Yearly $24,821 $42,499 $58,778 $74,950 $91,918
    Walla Walla Hourly $23.83 $26.99 $30.05 $33.22 $38.29
Monthly $4,130 $4,677 $5,208 $5,757 $6,636
Yearly $49,572 $56,146 $62,511 $69,095 $79,629
    Yakima Hourly $19.77 $22.80 $27.59 $32.14 $38.24
Monthly $3,426 $3,951 $4,781 $5,570 $6,627
Yearly $41,113 $47,430 $57,390 $66,849 $79,557
United States Hourly $12.58 $17.06 $23.55 $30.74 $40.88
Monthly $2,180 $2,956 $4,081 $5,327 $7,085
Yearly $26,160 $35,480 $48,990 $63,930 $85,040

Wages vary by area of the country and the worker's level of experience. The denomination, size, and wealth of the congregation also affect wages. For some clergy, their pay equals the average wage of the congregation or the community. Thus, those who serve larger, wealthier congregations may earn higher wages. Clergy who have low salaries often earn extra income from jobs outside the church. Some clergy earn extra income from gifts or fees for leading religious ceremonies.

Diocesan priests get living allowances, health insurance, and a retirement plan. If they teach or do extra work, they get a partial salary. Priests take a vow of poverty and give any personal earnings to the order. Due to the vow of poverty, these priests do not have to pay federal income tax.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

#Between 2014 and 2024, it is estimated that there will be 55 openings annually due to new positions and 98 openings annually from workers leaving this career.

#Updated outlook 06.16 sd

In Washington, the outlook depends on replacement of those clergy now serving existing congregations or working in other religious institutions, such as private schools and colleges. Growth of religious institutions and services, and expansion of the cleric's role in related social service, welfare, and other community activities, will also affect job opportunities. Some opportunities will arise in areas such as working with youth in family relations, welfare, correctional institutions, and in the armed services.

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Clergy (SOC 21-2011)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 4,078 3.9% 16.1% 478
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 89 -3.4% 13.4% 8
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 91 -4.4% 8.6% 8
    Benton and Franklin Counties 154 16.2% 15.0% 23
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 211 18.5% 11.9% 33
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 225 -4.9% 15.2% 21
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 204 14.2% 14.1% 30
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 239 14.6% 14.6% 36
    King County 1,187 1.6% 19.6% 131
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 162 -6.2% 13.8% 14
    Pierce County 500 4.2% 15.2% 58
    Snohomish County 513 2.7% 12.4% 59
    Spokane County 498 0.8% 13.9% 53
United States 234,000 5.9% 5.2% 27,500

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand varies for clergy based on the different religious groups. The number of jobs for rabbis should grow because the number of Jewish congregations is increasing. Competition for Protestant ministers will be strong. This is due to few new churches being created and there being a high number of qualified people for jobs. In contrast, there is a shortage of Catholic priests. Opportunities should be best in smaller, rural communities.

Many job openings will occur each year as clergy leave this occupation.

Other resources

American Academy of Religion (external link)
825 Houston Mill Road NE, Suite 300
Atlanta, GA 30329
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (external link)
112 South Alfred Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
American Correctional Chaplains Association (external link)
PO Box 85840
Seattle, WA 98145-1840
Ask A Missionary (external link)
National Council of Churches (external link)
110 Maryland Avenue NE, Suite 108
Washington, DC 20002


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational clusters