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Clergy Occupations: More Than a Career
by Leanna Harmon
Published Apr-22-2014

 
You can pretty much bet that the hour or two you see your clergy or religious leader is just a small part of the time they spend on the job. God knows there is a lot more to this occupation than what meets the eye. Clergy are religious and spiritual leaders who conduct religious worship and perform other spiritual functions associated with beliefs and practices of religious faith or denomination. They teach and interpret traditions and faith. Clergy also provide spiritual and moral guidance and assistance to members of their congregation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes all formal religious leaders under the title of clergy (e.g., imam, rabbi, pastor, deacon, priest).

Being a clergyperson is not only a career, but a way of life. Some people may even say it's a calling. What prompts or influences someone to choose this profession? Pastor Dave Manning of Grace Community Church in Salem, Oregon explains that at a young age, he was drawn to the idea of doing something full time for God (not knowing at the time exactly what that would be). Growing up as a teenager in church, Pastor Dave says that he had a love for people, being around them, and just associating with them, in general.

Working Conditions and Nature of Work
 
Clergy typically work in churches, hospitals, schools, Armed Forces, and various social service agencies. People who have chosen this career typically work long and irregular hours. Some could be working as much as 60 hours a week on average. These long hours are typically split up through the day providing services such as comforting those who are sick and bereaved, and counseling individuals seeking guidance. Most clergy organize and lead regular religious services at churches and temples and officiate at special ceremonies (e.g., weddings, confirmations, funerals). According to Pastor Dave, there was a time when he was working over 70 hours per week. His work day would begin driving the church bus to pick up kids for the school that was part of the church, teaching at the school, coaching for school sports activities, and then driving the bus to take kids home after school. Pastor Dave's evenings were spent meeting people for appointments (such as students' parents and members of congregation for counseling) and studying for sermons that he would give three times a week. The tasks that consumed most of his time, however, were studying the bible for sermons and meeting with people for counseling or planning.

Training and Other Qualifications
 
Although educational requirements for clergy vary greatly depending on the nature of the work, most individuals in this occupation possess at least a bachelor's degree - many also have a graduate level degree in theological studies. The state of Oregon does not require a license for this occupation. The path that Pastor Dave took started with three years attending a pastoral class under the guidance of the pastor at his church. This was similar to an internship. Following this "hands on" experience, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in theology and later a Master's in biblical studies. Pastor Dave feels that the first three years in the pastoral studies program was more beneficial than the bookwork because it was more "hands on."

It takes a special set of skills to be a clergyperson; this occupation is not for just anyone. A person must possess confidence, be a good listener, have patience, and be a good communicator. It is also helpful to be able to maintain composure under stress and have good decision making skills. Most individuals in clergy professions are expected to do a certain amount of public speaking. Some people are naturally fearless of standing in front of others and speaking. For Pastor Dave, however, this was something he was deeply frightened of and it would literally make him sick to his stomach. As the years went by, though, he had a greater draw to pastoring and speaking (even though the fear was still there). The draw, however, was so strong that it overrode his fear. Today, he is an extremely gifted public speaker.

There are a number of schools and training providers in Oregon which offer the training programs one would need for this occupation. Subjects such as theology, divinity and ministry, pastoral studies and counseling, and youth ministry, to name a few, are generally closely related to this occupation. To find this information online, visit www.QualityInfo.org and click on "Occupations" under "Data Tools", then click on "Occupational Information Center" and type clergy in the "Occupation Title" box. Select full report and then scroll down the page of the report to "Schools and Training Providers".

Job Outlook and Employment
 
In 2012, the number of people working in this occupation was smaller than the statewide average employment for all occupations. Further, it is not expected to grow as fast as the average of all occupations through 2022. The Oregon Employment Department predicts an increase of 5.8 percent from 2012 to 2022 for jobs in the clergy professions. According to the OED data, 3,738 clergy were employed in Oregon in 2012. Of that number, 925 are in the Portland area, 537 in the Salem area, and 319 in the Eugene/Springfield area.

There are a wide variety of industries that employ clergy. Although the bulk are employed in various religious organizations, a substantial amount are found working in health care and social assistance, followed by hospitals, educational services, nursing and residential care facilities, and social assistance entities.

Earnings
 
The average wage for clergy vary from slightly over $38,000 to more than $53,000 annually. The highest average of $53,622 was found in the central Oregon region of Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties; the lowest being $38,087 out of the northern coastal region of Clatsop, Columbia, and Tillamook counties (Graph 1). The overall statewide average for Oregon was $45,490 in 2013. However, since clergy work very irregular hours, it is difficult to calculate an average hourly wage. Miscellaneous allowances such as housing and other "perks" create a compensation package that may be higher than what is understood as wage. The average annual wages can also vary greatly.

The focus of most clergy professions is centered on people and all facets of their lives. Working in a clergy occupation, one may face many challenges, but they can also experience great fulfillment. For Pastor Dave, some of the challenges he has experienced are watching people go down the wrong path and being powerless to change their direction. Other times, people receive advice from him and apply it to their lives. When this happens it is very rewarding and fulfilling to watch people's lives change in a positive direction.

For anyone who is considering entering into any type of clergy profession, Pastor Dave gives the following advice, "You have to love people. It can't be viewed as a business career. It has to be about people."

Graph 1
Average annual salary of clergy by region Oregon 2013