our everyday life

Salaries and Compensation for Church Musicians

by Dana Severson, studioD

Not all people who feel the call to serve choose to go into the clergy. There are many other ways to serve the church, including through music. Churches are always looking for musicians to play at services, accompany choirs and visit nursing homes to lead the residents in song.

Musician Salaries

In 2011, the average musician earned $31.74 an hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But this figure doesn’t account for employer. Musicians hired by religious organizations earn an average wage was $25.51 an hour. A survey by Berklee College of Music provides a slightly different number, specifically for organists or pianists. As of 2010, the average wage was $100 per service. However, a full-time organist can make upwards of $70,000 a year.

Director Salaries

Music directors, on the other hand, earn an average of $25.84 an hour. This is less than an average musician, but these are usually full-time positions, so the annual earnings are usually higher. Church music directors, for example, earned an average of $22.42 an hour in 2011. The annual earnings, however, were $46,640. The same isn’t necessarily true for a church musician.

Contributing Factors

Though many musicians spend years learning their craft, a formal education is not usually required. Most churches hire musicians on a part-time basis. At a large church, with five services, a musician might earn $100 per service; that's $500 a week or $26,000 a year. Music directors, on the other hand, usually need a degree in music theory or conducting to get a job. Churches typically will pay more for that background.

Job Outlook

Through 2020, job opportunities musicians and music directors are expected to grow by at least 10 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is slower than the average growth rate for all occupations, which is estimated at 14 percent. Nonprofit organizations, such as churches, rely heavily on donations to fund positions like musicians and music directors. If the economy is in a recession, people tend to give less, which can limit growth for both professions.

About the Author

Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images