How to Become a Theologian: Career Advice & Information

Overview & Salaries


Theologians study the nature of God and religious belief from the perspective of a particular religious faith. In Western cultures the term ‘theologian’ is usually associated with Christianity, but many other religions have scholars and clergy who play similar roles. Theology can involve the study of a sacred text, such as the Bible, Torah, or Koran, the interpretation of religious ideas and rituals, or gaining an understanding of religious history.

People with a grounding in theology may serve as clergy in their particular religion, composing sermons and presiding at weddings, funerals and other ceremonies. Theologians may also take a more academic path, either in universities, teaching students and publishing reflective works, or as teachers of religion in schools.


Annual salaries for theologians will vary depending on your experience, education level, and expertise. In 2013, the average annual salary for higher education philosophy and religion teachers in higher education—a group including many theologians—working in the U.S. was $72,200 per year.

For more information on what parts of the country have the most opportunity for theologians, click through to our Best Places to Work tab for information on the number of people employed and the average salary in each state.

Discover the Best Cities and States to Work in Theology

New York leads the nation in employment for both clergy members and philosophy and religion teachers at the postsecondary level, with the former making an average salary of $48,650, and the latter earning an average salary of $83,660.

The metro areas employing the most higher education philosophy and religion teachers are:

  • New York-White Plains (1,770)
  • Chicago-Joliet (700)
  • Philadelphia (610)

The metro areas employing the highest concentration of higher education philosophy and religion teachers are:

  • South Bend-Mishawka IN-MI (1.3 jobs per thousand)
  • Manhattan, KS (1.06 jobs per thousand)

The metro areas employing the best-paid higher education philosophy and religion teachers are:

  • Edison-New Brunswick, NJ (average annual salary $112,090)
  • Boston-Cambridge (average annual salary $101,420)

Employment and Salary Information for Theologians

Use our interactive map below to find out which areas of the United States are currently experiencing the greatest amount of growth and job availability for graduates looking for a career as a theologian. The associated information has been gathered from Bureau of Labor statistics, representing data collected in 2012.

Why Become A Theologian?

A commitment to the study of theology requires an academic and religious commitment not everyone has. If you do, however, there are real rewards to theology:

  • Religious commitment. For many theologians, seeking to gain a greater scholarly understanding of their faith is not just a job; it’s a calling. Theology allows them to pursue that calling.
  • Use an inquiring mind. You’re encouraged to think about the big questions. And although you usually approach those questions from the perspective of a particular faith, you’ll need to use your critical brain and think independently.
  • Mentor others. Whether as a religious studies or university teacher, or through sermons, there are plenty of opportunities for people with theological backgrounds to be educators or counselors.
  • Help others. Whether through spiritual counseling as a member of the clergy or as a powerful religious writer, there are chances to help strengthen others in the practice of their faiths.

Theology: What You Need To Know

While theologians often think critically about religion—and find new ways of thinking about faith—they need to be committed enough to their religion to devote their lives to it. They also need a commitment to teaching and helping others. A working knowledge of these skill sets will help to set you apart from other candidates.

  • Deep Understanding of Religion
  • Religious Commitment
  • Academic Research
  • Writing Skills
  • Communication and Teaching

Feel like you’ve got a lot to learn? Get more information about theology careers, degrees, and applicable courses from one of the schools below.

Degree Options for Theology Careers

Bachelor’s degree

People who want to become members of the clergy will likely need at least a bachelor’s degree, either from a university or a divinity school.

Master’s degree / PhD

Most churches who employ clergy prefer to hire individuals who have earned a Master’s or PhD in theology, usually with a specialization in their particular faith.

Universities and colleges will require theology professors to obtain a Master’s degree, or preferably a PhD, in order to instruct students.

Religious schoolteaching and writing

Faith-based schools at the elementary and secondary level don’t always require candidates to have any training beyond being a member of their faith, though a certification or degree in theology is helpful.

For religious writers, there are no educational requirements necessary, though there are many who find having earned an undergraduate or graduate degree in theology is helpful in building credibility in their writings.