Religion anchors millions of Americans' lives, and their clergyperson is their ship's captain. That's especially true at life's critical moments: birth, coming of age, marriage, crisis, and death. Most clerics spend far more work hours off the pulpit than on. And not all clerics have a congregation. Some, for example, are chaplains in prisons, hospitals, or the armed forces. Being a cleric isn't a job—it's a life. Your nights and weekends are often spent officiating at events or ministering to parishioners in crisis. To succeed, yes, you must be an inspiring speaker, but you should also be an inspiring human being—able to motivate people to be their best selves, even in crisis. Surprisingly, what isn't required is an unquestioning faith in God. Many clerics experience periods of doubt.
National: $53,700. More pay data by metropolitan area
(Data provided by PayScale.com)
Requirements vary widely according to denomination. According to the Department of Labor, many denominations require graduate training while others "will admit anyone who has been 'called' to the vocation." To learn what's likely to be required, speak with a respected clergyperson of your faith.
- Celebrant. Some self-employed clerics specialize in officiating at weddings, funerals, and other ceremonial events.
- Cantor. Leads singing in Jewish services, directs the synagogue's music program, and can perform weddings. Check out the Jewish Music Web Center for info.