Protestant Ministers


Employment Prospects


Approximately 53,180 clergy, including Protestant ministers, are employed in the United States. Ministers usually employed by the congregations they serve. Most, but not all, congregations play a decisive role in selecting someone to serve as their pastor. Other ministers may choose to work in seminaries, hospitals, or other church-run institutions. Other employment opportunities for clergy include social service work, such as counseling, youth work, family relations guidance, and teaching. Ministers may also find opportunities as chaplains in the armed forces, hospitals, mental health centers, prisons, and social agencies such as the YMCA.

Starting Out

Students should consult with their minister or contact the appropriate theological seminary to learn how to best meet entrance requirements. Some denominations do not require seminary training to become ordained. Smaller denominations may train part-time leaders, who eventually may seek ordination. Seminary graduates who cannot find ready employment may become directors of homes for the aged or mentally handicapped, or of orphanages. Others may find employment in the social services, as missionaries, or in church-sponsored summer camps. Some ministers may take an unpaid position with a financially disadvantaged church in order to gain valuable experience.

Advancement Prospects

Newly ordained ministers generally begin their careers as pastors of small congregations or as assistant pastors (curates) in larger congregations. Advancement may take the form of getting a new or larger congregation of one's own. Protestant ministers may also advance into the hierarchy or controlling bodies of their denominations. Many, though, do not seek advancement in the material sense, but find satisfaction in serving wherever they are most needed.

Tips for Entry

Talk with Protestant ministers about their careers.

Participate in a vocation discernment retreat.

Consult the headquarters of your denomination for information about becoming a Protestant minister. Additionally, most have useful Web sites that can help you learn more about a religious vocation.