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Religious leader Faith leader, cleric

Religious (or faith) leaders offer spiritual and moral guidance, and lead public worship and other religious ceremonies.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: Variable average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

Each faith has a different requirement.

Becoming a religious leader is a serious commitment that can be seen as a calling; as much as a career. As well as a strong belief in your faith and its traditions, you should accept that the work will affect all aspects of your life.

The process of becoming a leader can take several years, and is often based on your knowledge, experience and position within the religion.

In some religions there are rules on who can become a leader. For example, some faiths don't accept women.

A good standard of education is often helpful as your training is likely to include study at a religious college.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • teaching and leadership skills
  • public speaking skills
  • counselling skills

3. What you'll do

Your day-to-day duties will depend on your faith, but may include:

  • praying and studying your religion
  • encouraging commitment to the faith
  • leading regular religious services or ceremonies
  • conducting services and ceremonies for religious festivals, holy days and events such as births, marriages and deaths
  • explaining the meaning of your faith's teachings
  • educating people who are converting to your faith
  • supporting people at difficult times in their lives
  • representing your faith within the community
  • being a role model for your followers
  • meeting representatives of other faiths and communities
  • fundraising and doing admin

4. Salary

You may get a salary or you may work as a volunteer.

You may also get living expenses and somewhere to live.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll need to be prepared to work long hours. Certain religious ceremonies must be performed at set times of the day or week, and you'll also need to be available to members of your community whenever they need you.

You'll perform ceremonies at your place of your worship, and you'll also have an office there or at your own home. Some posts are based permanently in a prison, hospital or with the armed forces.

You'll also spend time visiting people in their homes, or in hospitals, schools, prisons or care homes.

There may be opportunities to travel within the UK and abroad, to meet other religious leaders or visit holy places. Some faith leaders work as missionaries in remote locations overseas.

6. Career path and progression

Every religion or faith is structured differently, and career progression will vary from faith to faith.

You may be recommended for higher positions by senior members of your faith, or you may have to apply for vacant posts.

You may also have opportunities to become involved in teaching, counselling, interfaith relations, writing, or humanitarian and charity work.

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Last updated: 11 April 2017