Director of Religious Education

Playing an integral role in the management of a parish or Christian school, religious program directors of education work closely with church leaders and members to develop and put into action a curriculum that stays in line with a particular belief system. Having a hand in meeting the teaching-, staffing-, budget- and administrative needs of a religious education program, directors are expected to have a college degree and demonstrate relevant experience in the field.

Job Activities & Responsibilities

A director of religious education works closely with church leaders in the crafting and application of a curriculum and activities within a parish or Christian school. Because of this, communication skills are essential since a director comes in regular contact with church members, educators, volunteers, parents, and children that attend a congregation or parish school. Some directors travel to conferences and workshops as part of the job description, while others specialize in a concentrated field, such as children’s ministry or women’s studies. A director generally assumes the following responsibilities while in their position:

  • Hire, recruit, and train teachers, staff and other personnel
  • Approve various programs; create, update and oversee curricula
  • Fulfill budget tasks for religious education programs and activities
  • Collaborate with a board of directors to ensure school goals are met


The educational requirements for religious directors vary according to the employer; many directors are expected to hold at least a bachelor’s degree or higher. Several years of related experience is also preferred for most job applicants. Many parishes seek prospective directors with a background in or have completed relevant coursework related to human resources, personal service, counseling, and project administration. It is not uncommon for a parish to hire a religious education director with a degree in Theology or dual-degree involving Theology and Education. Having a background in Christian education is also a plus for this career path.

Step by Step: How to Become a Religious Education Director

1. Earn a college degree. Prospective religious education directors must hold at least an undergraduate degree, preferably one in religious studies, education, or another relevant field. Students often encounter a curriculum that includes courses centered on scripture; systematic theology; sacraments; church history, and Christian life studies. Some students may pursue a specialty while in school, and take the appropriate classes to prepare for a specific position in the field. For example, someone with an interest in planning, leading and directing the programs for children and youth at a parish, often takes courses and gains experience in children religious education, children’s studies, child psychology, and youth counseling.

2. Become a certified or licensed professional, when applicable. Depending on the employer, prospective education directors are expected to obtain a teaching license or certification before qualifying for a position. This may include (but is not limited to) completing specific coursework; enrolling in additional programs; passing the proper exams; and fulfilling the requirements of a state-approved licensure process.

3. Gain the appropriate experience. Parish experience, in combination with other field experience, is often an expectation of religious directors. Those with a religious education background in college often complete teacher preparation programs, as well as gain experience through an internship or student-teaching assignments. Employers prefer to hire candidates for a director position who have spent several years as a teacher in an academic or religious setting.

4. Meet required qualifications of a parish or school. Individual schools and religious organizations will have their own set of standards that prospective directors must meet. For many, job candidates are expected to practice and show commitment to their respective faith. Some churches are also looking for directors with special skills and experience, such as music, art, or being fluent in a foreign language.

Career Salary, Outlook & Growth

Directors of religious education are typically hired to work for a specific church, organization or program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary of a religious activities and education director in May 2017 was $38,980, with the top 90% of directors earning $82,570 or more annually.

Factors, such as the size of a school or parish, play a role in how much a religious education director may earn. Smaller schools typically pay $35,000 to $45,000 per year, while larger learning institutions offer annual salaries up to $200,000. Geographic location is another significant influence on salary figures for this career. States demonstrating the highest-paying job opportunities in the United States include North Carolina ($87,860), Alabama ($83,470), District of Columbia ($73,470), Kentucky ($71,420), and Colorado ($63,520).

In relation to all other employment opportunities in the U.S., the religious education director position shows average projected growth of 5% to 9%. An estimated 19,400 job openings are anticipated to become available from 2016 to 2026. The majority of new hires will come from religious organizations, an industry that is responsible for the highest levels of employment regarding this career field. The BLS also identified the state of New York as employing the most religious directors in the nation.