Be a Pastor: Education Requirements and Career Information
Learn how to become a pastor. Research the education and career requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career as a pastor. View article
An error occurred trying to load this video.
Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.
Select a school or program
Grand Canyon University
- Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership – Christian Ministry
- M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with an Emphasis in Christian Ministry
- M.A. in Christian Ministry
- MS in Christian Counseling
- MS in Christian Counseling of Substance Use & Addictive Disorders
- M.A. in Christian Leadership
- M.A. in Urban Ministry
- Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies with an Emphasis in Biblical Studies
- BA in Christian Studies
- BA in Christian Studies – Worship Leadership
- B.A. in Christian Studies with an Emphasis in Global Ministry
- B.A. in Christian Studies with an Emphasis in Philosophy
- View all programs
Indiana Wesleyan University
- Doctor of Ministry
- M.A. Ministry – Pastoral Ministry
- Master in Theological Studies
- M.A. Ministry – Spiritual Formation
- M.A. Ministry – Children, Youth and Family
- M.A. Ministry – Church Health and Revitalization
- M.A. Ministry – Leadership
- B.S. General Studies – Religious Studies
- B.S. Biblical Studies
- B.S. General Studies – Liberal Arts
- A.S. Christian Ministries
- A.S. General Studies – Religious Studies
- A.S. General Studies – Liberal Arts
- Undergraduate Certificate – Religious Studies
- Seminary Certificate – Children, Youth and Family
- Undergraduate Certificate – Pastoral Care and Counseling
- Seminary Certificate – Church Health and Revitalization
- Seminary Certificate – Church Planting and Multiplication
- Seminary Certificate – Worship Arts
- View all programs
- 0:39 Career Requirements
- 1:10 Undergraduate Degree
- 1:53 Gain Experience
- 2:13 Graduate Education
- 2:59 Senior Pastor Opportunities
Should I Become a Pastor?
Pastors promote spirituality in churches and other religious institutions through sermons and teachings. They organize regular services and may lead congregations who believe in a specific faith or who seek non-denominational worship. Pastors also counsel members, provide emotional support to other leaders and parishioners, visit sick people in hospitals, and assist the poor through outreach programs. Pastors may confer weddings, baptisms and funerals. Stress is inherent in this profession due to the serious nature of many situations and to the somewhat political aspects of the job.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2015, the median salary for clergy was $59,320. A bachelor’s or master’s degree is usually preferred for this career. Many job openings for pastors require five years of experience and pastors may need to be ordained in their faith. The skills needed for this career include speaking, active listening, service orientation and social perceptiveness.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Biblical Studies
- Buddhist Studies
- Christian Studies
- Islamic Studies
- Jewish Studies
- Missionary Studies
- Pastoral Studies
- Religious Music Studies
- Theology and Religious Vocations
- Youth Ministry
How to Become a Pastor
You can take the following steps to become a pastor:
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
A career as a pastor begins with a 4-year degree. Popular majors for students who wish to pursue a career in religious leadership include Bible or pastoral studies, theology and ministry. Some programs offer bachelor’s degrees in specific ministerial areas, such as pastoral studies. Courses in the program cover topics in the Old and New Testament, theology, ethics, pastoral studies and sociology.
Be active in campus ministry. Colleges and universities may feature a campus ministry where students can worship and express their faith. Leading Bible study groups or helping within the community may be beneficial both spiritually and for graduate programs.
Step 2: Gain Experience
Pastors may begin their career as associate pastors. They’ll work under the supervision of a senior pastor at the church. While associate pastors may lead spiritual groups and be available for counseling during the week, they may conduct readings during services and perform sermons periodically.
Step 3: Complete a Master’s Degree Program
After the completion of a bachelor’s degree, pastoral students typically begin their graduate coursework at a seminary or School of Divinity. Aspiring pastors may follow a degree plan for a Master of Divinity (M.Div.), but other options may be available. The M.Div. program lasts 3 to 4 years depending on the amount of courses taken each semester. Courses are strictly focused on religious practices, Bible study and congregational leadership.
While all pastors study the Christian faith, additional courses based on the denomination of study may be offered. Most seminaries offer an apprenticeship-like program included in the master’s program that allows pastoral students to observe and practice their developing skills with an ordained pastor.
Step 4: Look for Senior Pastor Opportunities
Depending on pastors’ goals or the needs of a denomination, pastors may spend only a short time serving one congregation or serve one for many years. Typically, pastors are notified of job openings through postings from the denominational governing organization.