Religious Leader Salary Review 2022: How Does Your State Compare?

Religious Leader Salary Review 2022: How does your state compare?

Mean Wage: Medium to Higher
Cost of Living: Low to Medium Low


Mean Wage: Lower to Medium
Cost of Living: Low to Medium Low


Mean Wage: Medium to Higher
Cost of Living: Medium High to High


Mean Wage: Lower to Medium
Cost of Living: Medium High to High

Faith Positions Ranked
by Average Annual Salary

Christian Pastor

Catholic Priest

Jewish Rabbi

Muslim Imam

Hindu Priest

Buddhist Monk

Top Paying Nonmetropolitan Areas for All Clergy

Western Montanta

Eastern Sierra-Mother Lode Region of California

North Coast Region of California

Southern Pennsylvania

North Valley-Northen Mountain Region of California

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for All Clergy

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

Los Angeles-Long Beach- Anaheim, CA

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

Santa Rosa, CA

Stockton-Lodi, CA


Depending on which faith someone leads in, the salary for religious leaders can vary greatly with some earning near poverty level to others that go well into the six-figure range. These salaries are also greatly affected by allowances and benefits, which are also very different from faith to faith.

These salaries are also very different for many other industries, since the pay plays much less of a pivotal role. Many people go into these positions not as a means of making a lot of money or seeking promotions, but more with the intent of serving a higher power and serving their fellow man. In many cases, the sacrifice of worldly possessions is part of their commitment and others donate a portion of their salary back to their faith or to those in need.

Bureau of Labor and Statistics Data

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is the principal fact-finding agency for the United States Government in the field of labor economics and statistics. It is the go-to source for salary information.

But one of the biggest problems with data from the BLS is how broadly it covers some professions, one of which is religious leaders. The BLS doesn’t differentiate between different faiths and simply lists all religious leaders under the category of “clergy.” So, the salaries of all priests, pastors, rabbis, imams, and all the leaders of other faiths are lumped into one group and averaged out.

The lumping in of this data might be relatively accurate for Christian leaders, but even then it’s not completely reliable since an Evangelical pastor might make significantly more than a Catholic priest in any given area. According to Pew Center research, the United States is about 76 percent Christian and about 6 percent all other faiths. In the southern and midwestern regions, states can have over 85 percent of the population following Christianity.

BLS data for a huge portion of the general employment landscape shows higher salaries in coastal areas and lower salaries in midwestern and southern areas. That’s not always the case with religion. If you’re a software engineer, then Virginia is a great place to get a high-paying job and Alabama is not. If you’re a pastor, however, it’s the exact opposite.

California, Washington, New York all have great salary ranges for clergy, similar to other positions. However, you can find the same pay in areas like Wyoming and New Mexico, which are rarely at the top in most other positions.

One positive about BLS stats is that it recognizes that clergy work in a variety of environments, which reveals a noticeable difference. For instance, clergy who are employed by the federal government are paid almost twice as much as those who help the poor via community and emergency services. In the private sector, jobs in healthcare and for religious organizations pay about 5-10 percent higher than clergy who work for religious schools.

If a religious leader wants to get a general idea of pay for industry, then the BLS site can be a helpful jumping off point. If anyone wants data on their specific career, then it won’t be of much use.

Average Salaries By Position

Finding salaries by type can be difficult. Most sites offer either national averages or states with only a few offering both. These averages were culled from a variety of sources, including Indeed, Glassdoor,, PayScale, Zippia, and numerous faith-based sites.

One thing that’s important to remember is that these are only a rough estimate. In every state with a high salary, there will be lower-paying regions. And for every low-paying state, there will be cities that pay above. In addition, there are different areas of work that may increase a salary. For instance, the priest at a church can often make less than a priest that is principal at a private school. Length of employment, education, and size of worship location can also heavily influence salaries.

  • Buddhist Monk - $28,750
    Buddhist monk is a salary that is difficult to find data for. There is no state data that is readily available but the range of reported salaries can run from $18K to $65K per year with an average of just less than $30K.
  • Catholic Priest - $51,694
    In the coastal areas, such as California and New York, Catholic priest salaries can hit over the $60K/year mark. Higher salaries can also be found in the upper Midwest, as well as Alaska, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee are the only areas where salaries fall below average. For the remainder of the country, salaries will range from the average to 5 percent to 10 percent above average.
  • Christian Pastor - $101,807
    Christian pastor has one of the widest ranging salaries in the United States, mainly because there are so many factors involved including denomination, size of the church, education, location and experience. The range for this position is from $28K/year to $127K/year. The higher paying areas can be found on both coasts (except California) along with Alaska, Hawaii, and Wyoming. The lowest paying areas are the Midwest and southern regions, as well as California. This last state is a surprise since California tends to rank high in most other professions. All the other regions fall around the average.
  • Hindu Priest - $30,000
    The salary for a Hindu priest in the United States is one of the most difficult to discover. There are no statistics available by state and many of the national averages are speculation. Searches for salaries for Hindu priests typically present data for priests in the United States are lumped in with figures for priests of all denominations, which is around $58K/year. An examination of sites that focused on Hinduism showed that salaries can be as low as $12K/year and as high as $96K/year depending on the temple.
  • Jewish Rabbi - $43,000
    Jewish rabbis can find the highest salaries in the Northwest region, the Rocky Mountain region and the West Coast, with salaries ranging in the $60K to $87K range. There are numerous areas in the Northeast, however, that fall below the average. New York, another high-wage state in most areas, falls below average in salaries for rabbis. California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Arizona, and Wyoming are some of the highest paying states. In the south and Midwest, almost all of the states fall below the average pay with the South offing salaries below $30K in almost all of the states.
  • Latter-Day Saints Bishops - $0
    Bishops at the Church of Latter Days Saints are technically not paid for their service. They are required to volunteer 20-30 hours of their time each week to the church. Bishops are given a base-living allowances, figures for which are not officially available. According to an article by the Salt Lake Tribune in 2017, the living allowance for one bishop in the early 2000s was over $83K. The same article reported that documents showed the living allowance was being raised from $116K to $120K/year at that time. LDS officials declined to confirm any of the documents.
  • Muslim Imam - $41,000
    The average salary for Imams is higher than the figures would suggest. Much of this is boosted by the regions in the western portion of the country, such as the West Coast and the Rocky Mountain region. East of the Rocky Mountain States the average is closer to $30K. In the Midwest and Southern regions, with exception of Minnesota, Imams are paid below $30K. All along the East Coast there are salaries that are above the $30K mark, but mostly below the national average.

Cost of Living

Because salaries tend to shift less from state-to-state with a few exceptions, cost of living can play a much bigger role in the salary, depending on which faith you follow. Taxes are not always a factor in salaries for faith-based positions and many denominations offer living assistance and benefits that can help. It doesn’t hurt to know what areas are going to be the costliest overall.

  • Northeast
    One of the most expensive places in the country to live, especially New York City and the Washington, D.C. region. However, there are pockets of affordability to be found in the region.
  • South
    The South has typically been one of the least expensive areas to live, but that may not soon be the case. The lower costs have attracted the attention of many corporations and people seeking more affordability. The problem is that this only drives up prices, especially in housing. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Texas are three states seeing costs grow, but they still remain among the most affordable.
  • Midwest
    Another area that is typically more affordable and remains that way. There are fewer places that a paycheck will go farther than the Midwest, although some states like Illinois and Minnesota can have higher costs.
  • Rocky Mountain
    This is a region that tends to vary more than others. Colorado, Idaho and Arizona have a higher cost of living, while the remainder of the states are quite a bit cheaper.
  • West Coast
    One of the more expensive places with California being the most expensive and Oregon and Washington not too far behind. Again, where you live can be a factor. There are numerous pockets of affordability in this area.
  • Alaska and Hawaii
    Hawaii is the most expensive place in the United States to live with the cost of living being twice as much or more than the rest of the nation. Alaska is not too far behind the West Coast, but given that this is one of the best places for a higher salary for faith-based positions, it worth more of a look that other areas.

Faith Positions Ranked By Average Annual Salary

Christian Pastor $101,807
Catholic Priest $51,694
Jewish Rabbi $43,000
Muslim Imam $41,000
Hindu Priest $30,000
Buddhist Monk $28,750

Top Paying Metropolitan Regions For All Clergy

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $83,770
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA $78,560
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA $75,530
Santa Rosa, CA $74,880
Stockton-Lodi, CA $74,500
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $72,120
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA $70,910
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA $70,550
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA $69,410
Albuquerque, NM $69,410

Top Paying Non-Metropolitan Regions For All Clergy

West Montana nonmetropolitan area $61,110
Eastern Sierra-Mother Lode Region of California nonmetropolitan area $60,070
North Coast Region of California nonmetropolitan area $59,670
Southern Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area $59,140
North Valley-Northern Mountains Region of California nonmetropolitan area $57,700

Top 10 Most Expensive Cities in the United States

1 Miami, FL
2 Los Angeles, CA
3 San Diego, CA
4 Santa Barbara, CA
5 Salinas, CA
6 New York City, NY
7 Honolulu, HI
8 Santa Rosa, CA
9 Visalia, CA
10 Vallejo/Fairfield, CA

11/29/2022 11:12:57 PM
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