Religious leader

Faith leader, cleric

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

Salary range: Variable

How to become a religious leader

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.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
  • a degree in any subject for a postgraduate course

More information


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

Entry requirements

Employers will set their own entry requirements.

More information

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.

More information

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.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • knowledge of philosophy and religion
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • customer service skills
  • leadership skills
  • the ability to work well with others
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • knowledge of teaching and the ability to design courses
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

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

Working environment

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 you’ll travel often and emotionally demanding.

You may need to wear a uniform.

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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