Roman Catholic Priests


Employment Prospects


There were approximately 35,929 Roman Catholic priests in the United States in 2019, most of whom were diocesan priests. While some priests serve in dioceses and others serve in religious orders, all priests ultimately serve the church. Most priests can count on a pretty conventional life in the settings they have chosen: the hustle and bustle of an urban mission, the steady work of a suburban parish or school, or the serenity of a monastery. Still, it is important to be ready and willing to serve wherever the church needs you. For example, a priest who has done an exemplary job in a small suburban parish may be called to work in a bustling urban archdiocese.

Starting Out

Newly ordained diocesan priests generally begin their ministry as associate pastors, while new priests of religious orders are assigned duties for which they are specially trained, such as missionary work. Both diocesan and religious priests work under the supervision of more experienced colleagues until they are deemed ready for more responsibility.

Advancement Prospects

Because serving God and other people through the church is a priest's main concern, advancing to positions of power or prestige is not an important goal. Most priests do, however, advance to positions of some responsibility or move into altogether different positions. Some may become teachers in seminaries and other educational institutions, or chaplains in the armed forces. The pulpits of large, well-established churches are usually filled by priests of considerable experience. A small number of priests become bishops, archbishops, and cardinals.

Tips for Entry

Read VISION: The Annual Catholic Religious Vocation Discernment Guide ( to learn more about becoming a Roman Catholic priest.

Visit and for assistance in choosing a vocation.

Participate in a vocation discernment retreat. Additionally, talk with your parish priest about pursuing a priestly vocation.