There is no doubt that religion is a significant topic of conversation and debate. With a wide variety of faiths, belief systems and principles in the world, there are plenty of opportunities to share opinions, discuss, and provide commentary. Columnists that work for religious publications are paid to share their thoughts on culture, politics, family dynamics, business, entertainment and lifestyle as it relates to faith. Having a solid educational background and life experience often gives columnists an authoritative voice and perspective to the topics they write about, which helps build a reliable, regular following or audience.

Job Activities & Responsibilities

Unlike journalists and reporters (who are generally held to a high standard of fact-based writing), columnists are paid to give their two cents about the subject they write. Faith-based columnists write short essays, articles and online posts, as well as answer Q&A’s for one or more publications. The work of the average columnist is often syndicated, and distributed to multiple news outlets. However, in the case of a faith-based columnist, their work may be limited to a specific church, faith, school, or other smaller circle of readers. Some columnists write every day or follow a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule, while others supply content for weekly or once-a-month columns. Other routine tasks associated with this profession include:

  • Demonstrating a grasp of current issues affecting a denomination
  • Writing in an individual, authentic, opinion-based, tone of voice
  • Being able to produce copy quickly, when needed
  • Interacting with readers (online comments, responding to questions, answering letters)
  • Being available to submit copy on evenings, weekends and holidays


Anyone who is able to demonstrate the ability to write engaging copy, analyze topics, and connect with readers can become a columnist, but the majority of religious-focused magazines, newspapers and other media outlets prefer to hire someone with at least a bachelor’s degree in theology, communications, or journalism.

Step by Step: How to Become a Faith-Based Columnist

1. Earn a college degree. Although a college education is not a requirement of all online and offline publications; most prefer to hire columnists who hold at least a bachelor’s degree. An educational background in theology, English, journalism, writing, and/or communications is ideal. There are also schools that offer coursework in column- and opinion writing.

2. Build skills and knowledge helpful for managing a column. Individuals often gain valuable experience while in college. Choose courses that strengthen research-, analytical-, critical- thinking, interviewing- and writing skills. Take a grammar class. Aspiring columnists seeking to work for magazines and newspapers should know the style guidelines typically used for a specific publication. The Associated Press Stylebook is oftentimes a publisher’s style of choice.

3. Get hands-on experience as a columnist. Joining the school newspaper, and contributing as a columnist provides an excellent snapshot of what to expect in the career field. College students often participate in skill-building activities and experiences, such as attending a writing workshop or conference. Pursue an internship or mentorship with a columnist, to learn the ropes and fine-tune writing skills and personal style further.

4. Launch a blog or website. Any kind of writing helps improve the skill of a columnist, but having a blog is two-fold. Not only does launching a personal blog that shares religious commentary helps sharpen writing skills, but also builds an audience that may eventually follow a future column. Following significant topics of denominational interest keeps blog content fresh, as well as allows an aspiring columnist to stay current with his or her readers.

5. Use all education, experience or training to your advantage. Not every faith-based columnist pursues a humanities-related education, but instead, follows a different path. There are positions available that integrate religion and any other subject imaginable. Political science majors can provide commentary on today’s political issues as it relates to religion. Theology professors and other educators can provide a scholarly view. Former ministers and priests may contribute as a guest or full-time columnist. Social workers, counselors, and psychologists with a religious background or theology degree can become an advice columnist. It is also not uncommon for an employer to give preference to job applicants who have work experience in a related field, such as news reporters and theology professors.

Career Salary, Outlook & Growth

Faith-based websites, newspapers, blogs and magazines generally hire columnists with a background in or the authority to speak on religious topics and current events. The columnist profession is one that falls under the same umbrella as writers and authors, which according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), typically earns a median yearly salary of $61,820.

A variety of factors affects the overall pay of a columnist, and can vary from the size of a company, business or publication. Larger companies, high readership figures, popularity, and a solid reputation in the industry generally translate into higher pay for columnists and contributors. Geographic location also affects yearly salaries. The following states have been identified by the BLS to pay the highest pay to writers: Alaska ($75,410), Maryland ($79,460), New York ($85,640), District of Columbia ($95,190), and California ($96,120).

Employers tend to seek ‘experts’ in a particular field to manage their columns. Because of this, a job candidate’s educational background, church background, online presence, and years of experience in the field can all come into play when it comes to a faith-based columnist’s salary. Employers may also hire columnists that are able to provide religious commentary that stays in line with a specific church; have a particular background (like being a former professor of theology); or who are familiar with a specific denomination.

Print newspapers and magazines are shifting more towards online media outlets, as subscription numbers have suffered over the years. A columnist faces strong competition for open, paid positions. Online publications and services will continue to grow in number and influence, which means writers with website and multimedia experience have a bit of a competitive edge.

3. Complete an internship. In college, students often participate in an internship, as many journalism programs require the completion of an internship course in order to graduate. Colleges and universities often establish partnerships with local media outlets that make it easier for students to find opportunities which sharpen vital skills. An internship is an excellent way to build a portfolio of clips, sound bites and video. Students also network with news and media professionals, establishing contacts in the field that could come in handy after graduation.

4. Pursue an advanced degree. Having a graduate degree related to journalism increases the chances of being hired in such a competitive field. Master’s degree programs allow students to specialize in a particular field in journalism, from print to broadcast to new media platforms. In order to teach writing and reporting techniques to the next generation, a Ph.D. is required of candidates seeking employment as professors at the college and university level.

Career Salary, Outlook & Growth

Faith-based journalists are generally hired to work in broadcast news on television or radio, as well as to write for print newspapers and magazines. Nowadays, the most opportunities to work as a journalist are generally found with online news outlets. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cites that reporters and correspondents earned a median annual salary of $40,910 in 2017. Years of experience and working for reputable employers can lead to earning up to more than $195,520 (when belonging to the highest 10 percent of journalists).

Unfortunately, the overall field of journalism is in decline. Falling advertising revenue for certain kinds of media has contributed to a shuttering of many print publications (newspapers, magazines and online publications). However, online jobs for journalists are continuing to flourish due to the popularity of using the Internet to present the news in a faster and less expensive manner. The BLS cites a negative 9% change in the number of job openings for reporters, from 2016 to 2026. An estimated loss of 4,500 employment opportunities for journalists is expected to take place during this time period.

Job competition is strong for writing positions in the U.S., especially with companies, businesses and organizations that have an established reputation. Competition for employment also increases in larger cities, like New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. It is not uncommon for recent graduates to find more openings with local media outlets. Online and social media outlets have carved an influential place in journalism. Therefore, journalists and correspondents with a background, experience and knowledge in navigating online news media often see increased opportunities to thrive in the field.