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What qualifications are needed to become a pastor?

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Quick Answer

Pastors must possess both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, along with some prior experience as an associate pastor. Pastors are spiritual leaders who conduct sermons, lead congregations, organize religious services and counsel parishioners.

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Full Answer

The first step for aspiring pastors is to obtain a bachelor’s degree, either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science. Pastors may obtain these degrees from either a traditional college or a Bible college. Typical degrees that lead to a career as a pastor include theology, ministry or pastoral studies. A degree in pastoral studies is intended to prepare students specifically for positions as pastors and includes courses in theology, ethics, sociology and more.

After completing a bachelor’s degree, aspiring pastors must pursue a graduate degree, typically a Master of Divinity. Commonly pursued at either a seminary or a School of Divinity, the Master of Divinity is a completed in three to four years, depending on coursework. Graduate work features more specialized courses focusing on various aspects of Bible study, congregational leadership and religious practices. Many graduate programs also offer students the opportunity to apprentice under an ordained pastor.

After completing graduate work, pastors typically gain experience by working as an associate pastor at a church. Studying under a senior pastor, they may learn about congregational practices, offer counsel to parishioners and deliver sermons and readings occasionally.

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