Religious Leader

Job Description:

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

Job Category:

What you will do:

Your day-to-day duties will depend on your faith. You may:

  • pray and study your religion
  • encourage commitment to the faith
  • lead regular religious services or ceremonies
  • conduct services and ceremonies for religious festivals, holy days and events such as births, marriages and deaths
  • explain the meaning of your faith’s teachings
  • educate people who are converting to your faith
  • support people at difficult times in their lives
  • represent your faith within the community
  • be a role model for your followers
  • meet representatives of other faiths and communities
  • fundraise and do admin tasks


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of philosophy and religion
  • knowledge of teaching and the ability to design courses
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

As well as:

  • sensitivity and understanding
  • customer service skills
  • leadership skills
  • the ability to work well with others (teamwork skills)
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to use your initiative (ambition/drive)
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a religious leader, such as a priest, minister, rabbi, imam, or other clergy member, the specific academic requirements can vary depending on your religious tradition or denomination. However, here are some general guidelines and common subjects that can be relevant to a religious leadership role:

  1. Religious Studies: This subject is the most directly related to a religious leadership role. It provides foundational knowledge about religious texts, doctrines, rituals, and history.
  2. English: Strong communication skills are essential for delivering sermons, counselling, and working with congregants. Writing and speaking effectively are key aspects of this role.
  3. History: Understanding the history of your religion, as well as world religions and their impact on society, can be valuable.
  4. Philosophy: Philosophy courses can help you develop critical thinking skills, which are important for discussing complex theological and ethical questions.
  5. Sociology and Psychology: These subjects can provide insights into human behaviour, group dynamics, and mental health, which can be valuable when working with congregations.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly


You may need a degree or postgraduate award for some leadership positions. Most subjects are accepted though theology and philosophy may be particularly useful.


You could do a church minister degree apprenticeship, if you want to train to be a religious leader within the Christian tradition.

This typically takes 36 months to complete and you will complete a degree in theology and ministry as part of the apprenticeship. Employers will set their own entry requirements.

Direct Application

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

Each religion has a different way of training its leaders, so the training and the length of time it takes will vary. For many religions the process might include:

  • study at a college or religious training centre
  • intensive study of your faith’s teachings and writings
  • time alone in contemplation or meditation
  • experience of working with people in the community
  • mentoring and supervision from an experienced leader of your religion

In some religions, there are rules on who can become a leader and what duties they can carry out.

If you want to train to become a leader in your faith, the first thing you should do is ask your own religious leader for advice and guidance.

Career tips

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.

Working Hours and Environment:

A typical week consists of 37-39 hours of work. You could be required to work evenings/weekends managing your own hours.

You could work in an office, from home, in a prison, in a place of worship or in an NHS or private hospital. Your working environment may be emotionally demanding and you’ll travel often. You may need to wear a uniform.

Career Path & Progression:

Look at progression in this role and similar opportunities.
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.

There are also opportunities to work as a chaplain in the armed forces.