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Religious Leader


Humans have been seeking spirituality as far back as we can remember. In this quest for guidance some people dedicate their lives to helping others understand the laws and outlooks of their chosen religion. These people are referred to as ministers of religion or religious leaders.

Some of the titles of religious leaders included in this group are ministers, rabbis, imam, priests, pastors, chaplains, bishops, curates and leaders in other religious communities. Although, the title and duties of a minister depend on his or her religion or denomination, there are general duties that most ministers of religion perform.

Contrary to popular belief, religious leaders do not spend their time alone in churches or mosques, reading the text of their religion; although that is certainly part of their duties. Religious leaders are active in their communities, besides conducting religious services they administer marriages, funerals and rites of faith and they provide spiritual and moral guidance to their members. Religious leaders may also work in hospitals and hospice, or work with prisoners as a minister.
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  Interests and Skills  
People that work as religious leaders first and foremost have a deep faith in and commitment to their religion. They must be honest, reliable, mature and sensitive as they are dealing with all sorts of problems and people. Ministers of religion are able to apply their knowledge of religious principles to aid people in everyday situations.

People that work in this field also need the ability to handle stressful situations that may arise in their ministerial duties. They need to have good communication skills to deal with members of their congregation and community as well as an interest in planning programs of worship and education.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Plan programs of worship and education
  • Conduct worship services and presides at ceremonies marking rites of passage (e.g. birth, marriage, death)
  • Organize religious education for their communities
  • Counsel individuals and couples concerning spiritual, emotional and personal needs,
  • Visit people in prisons, hospitals and homes
  • Provide spiritual and moral guidance to members of a religious faith
  • Supervise, plan and administer programs of religious education
  • May participate in humanitarian endeavors, social services and welfare activities
  • May share in the administrative and financial operation of a religious community
  • The daily duties of a minister will vary greatly depending on what is required of them on that day. They may conduct a service, preside over a bar mitzvah, marry a happy couple or perform baptismal rites. Their duties depend largely on what their congregation or person they are working with requires. Their hours and places of work vary tremendously. Religious leaders may serve religious communities of any size in urban or rural areas, in large well-equipped buildings or limited spaces.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Religious leaders perform these duties in churches, synagogues, temples or other places of worship. They may also work in other institutions such as schools, hospitals and prisons.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Experienced religious leaders may advance to administrative roles in larger religious community units or religious institutions. With additional education, they may also move into social work, counseling, nursing, journalism or teaching (in schools, colleges or universities). Some may even decide to work overseas as missionaries.

  Educational Paths  
The educational path for this field differs somewhat from other occupations. Most religious communities expect prospective religious leaders to first become active volunteers in houses of worship and/or the religious community, and seek guidance from religious leaders in their faith. Also, it is required that religious leaders have the endorsement of their religious orders to become a minister.

Formal training requirements are specific to the particular faith. The theological training required may be offered by private colleges or seminaries located nearby, or require study in another state or country. In many faiths, ordination requires a bachelor degree plus several years of post-graduate study in a seminary or theological college.

Ordination as a rabbi usually requires five years of prescribed study in a seminary. Seminary entrance requirements include a university degree, a strong background in Jewish studies and the ability to read Hebrew (and, sometimes, Yiddish). Many seminaries require one year of study in Israel as part of the five-year program.

As requirements vary it is also recommended that they speak with a minister of their faith regarding the educational paths available within their faith and community.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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