Buddhist Priests and Contemplatives


Buddhist Priests and Contemplatives


Buddhist priests lead worship services, perform ceremonies and rituals, and officiate at festivals in Buddhist temples and in the homes of parishioners. Most priests can marry and have families. The majority of Buddhist priests and contemplatives are male, but some are female. Priests may also be known as ministers—especially in the United States. Buddhist contemplatives live their lives within the boundaries of their monastery and engage in meditation and a form of prayer. (The term “monastery” is used in this art...

Quick Facts


Median Salary



Employment Prospects



Minimum Education Level

Some Postsecondary Training



Five to seven years experience as a contemplative (priests)



Foreign Language


Personality Traits

Hands On


The U.S. Department of Labor does not provide salary information for Buddhist priests and contemplatives, but it does report that religious workers not otherwise classified earned median annual salaries of $29,820 in May 2018. Earnings ranged from less than $19,400 to $58,320 or more.

Full-time Buddhist priests in U.S.-based temples may receive paid vacation, sick, and personal days; med...

Work Environment

Buddhist temples come in all sizes and styles. The best-known are the pagodas in Japan and China such as Todaiji in Nara, Japan, which houses one of the largest Buddha statues in Japan and is the world’s largest wooden building. Some temples are smaller and less ornate. Walking into a temple, one may smell incense burning, freshly-cut flowers, and fruit (for offerings) and hear chanting or the ...


The percentage of Americans who practice Buddhism increased (from 0.7 percent to 1 percent) from 2007 to 2018, according to America’s Changing Religious Landscape, a report from the Pew Research Center. It’s estimated that there are fewer than 4 million Buddhists in all of North America, which may make it challenging to find a position as a priest or a spot in a monastery. Much better ...