Religious Leader Careers

How to become religious leader

What does a religious leader do?

Being a religious leader is as much a way of life as a career. It requires dedication and a strong belief in a particular faith.

It may take many years to become a religious leader because the role is often based on knowledge, experience and standing within the religion.

The titles and roles of the religious leader differ between faiths, but certain parts of the work apply to most religions:

  • speaking in front of meetings at a place of worship - in some religions this may involve saying prayers and reading from texts
  • conducting ceremonies such as marriages and funerals, or festivals to commemorate certain times of the year - rituals are an important part of most religions, and it may be necessary to wear special clothing
  • listening to people’s problems, giving them advice, support and comfort
  • reading and studying their religion, following its rules and laws, and passing knowledge on to followers
  • acting as a representative of their faith within all communities.

Religious leaders may also become involved in religious education programmes, community affairs and interfaith activities.

Religious leaders may also have administrative duties, as well as working on committees, fundraising and visiting institutions such as prisons.

Some leaders also write regularly for religious publications, and others become involved in issues such as human rights and social welfare.


What's the working environment like for a religious leader?

Religious leaders often work irregular hours. There will be set times for certain activities such as services and meetings, but religious leaders must be available for their followers at all times.

Leaders will spend time working in an office, either in a religious building or their own home. They may also travel to visit people, and some religious groups meet in people’s homes. Some ceremonies take place outdoors.

Some religious leaders may travel abroad to meet other members of their religion, or visit holy places. Others live a communal life, where they devote themselves to prayer and study.


What does it take to become a religious leader?

To be a religious leader you should:

  • have a strong belief and understanding of your own religion
  • be prepared to discuss and defend the ways of your religion
  • enjoy preaching and teaching your religion
  • be able to relate to people of many different ages, cultures and backgrounds
  • understand the issues involved in counselling and consoling people
  • be patient, trustworthy and able to act with discretion
  • be a good listener and able to speak clearly and confidently in public
  • be aware of the needs of the community
  • be able to memorise long passages, such as prayers
  • be confident to work and make decisions independently, and work as part of a team.

Depending on the faith in which you want to become a religious leader for, some study at a religious college may be required. The process to become a religious leader takes time and is often dependent on important factors like your knowledge, experiece and position within the religion. 

Religious leader career opportunities

Religion still plays a part in modern society, and about two thirds of the UK population claim to believe in some form of supreme being. Christianity is still the dominant religion in the UK, but many other faiths are practised.

There are no set ways of being promoted, and each religion has a different structure. In some religions you may be recommended to fulfil a position by other more senior members; in others, you may have to apply for vacant posts.

Opportunities also exist to practice religion in the armed forces, as a minister, priest, imam, rabbi or pastor.

There may be opportunities to become involved in other areas of religious affairs such as administration, counselling, teaching, or interfaith relations.


Further information

If you would like to learn more about becoming a religious leader that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Inter Faith Network for the United Kingdom
8a Lower Grosvenor Place
Tel: 020 7931 7766

INFORM (Information Network Focus on Religious Movements)
Houghton Street
Tel: 020 7955 7654