Protestant Ministers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

In high school, prospective Protestant ministers should study history and religion, plus English and speech to improve their teaching and oration skills. Music and fine arts classes will help strengthen their understanding and appreciation of the liturgy. Knowledge of a foreign language may help ministers better serve the needs of their congregations.

Postsecondary Training

While some denominations require little more than a high school education or Bible study, the majority of Protestant groups require a bachelor's degree plus several years of specialized theological training.

An undergraduate degree in the liberal arts is the typical college program for prospective clergy, although entrants come from a range of academic backgrounds. Course work should include English, foreign languages, philosophy, the natural sciences, psychology, history, social sciences, and comparative religions, as well as fine arts and music.

Seminary curriculum generally covers four areas: history, theology, the Bible, and practical ministry techniques. Practical ministry techniques include counseling, preaching, church administration, and religious education. In addition to classroom study and examinations, the seminary student serves at least one year as an intern to gain practical experience in leading services and performing other ministerial duties.

In general, the major Protestant denominations have their own schools of theological training, but many of these schools admit students of other denominations. There are also several interdenominational colleges and theological schools that give training for the ministry. This may be augmented by training in the denomination in which the student will be ordained. The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada accredits more than 270 graduate schools in ministry and theology. Accredited schools require a bachelor's degree, or its equivalent, for admission. After three years of study and an internship, students earn a Master of Divinity degree.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification or licensing requirements for Protestant ministers.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Protestant ministers obtain experience in the seminary and through a vicarage at a church. First and foremost, Protestant ministers must feel a calling to religious life. They must believe that God is calling them to dedicate their lives to serving others.

Protestant ministers must meet the requirements of their individual denominations. Both men and women can become ordained ministers in most denominations today. Beyond formal ordination requirements, Protestant ministers must possess a religious vocation—a strong feeling that God is calling them to the service of others through religious ministry. For most, this means giving material success a lower priority than spiritual matters.

Ministers need to be outgoing and friendly and have a strong desire to help others. They need to be able to get along with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. They need patience, sympathy, and open-mindedness to be able to listen to the problems of others, while maintaining a discreet and sincere respect. They need leadership abilities, including self-confidence, decisiveness, and the ability to supervise others. Ministers need to be aware that they will be relied on heavily by their congregation in times of trouble and stress, therefore making it more important they keep the needs of their own families balanced with those of their congregations.