The Salary of a Prison Chaplain

by Jared Lewis; Updated September 26, 2017
Prison chaplains conduct religious services for inmates.

Prison chaplains play an important role in the rehabilitation of incarcerated individuals. These chaplains conduct religious services and provide spiritual counsel. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the salaries of prison chaplains with the salaries of other clergymen nationwide in its Occupational Employment Statistics report for 2010. Prison chaplains typically work for state governments, but some are employed by the federal government as well.

Average Salary

The average salary of prison chaplains working for state government agencies was $52,400 per year, as of May 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau also indicates that prison chaplains and other chaplains employed by the federal government made an average salary of $73,310 per year. By comparison, the average salary of all clergymen nationwide was $48,290 per year.

Pay Scale

Placing the salary of prison chaplains within the larger pay scale of all clergymen nationwide provides some additional insight. According to the BLS, the median salary for clergymen nationwide was $43,970 per year in 2010. In the middle of the pay scale were those who earned salaries ranging from $31,780 to $58,360 per year. This indicates that chaplains working in state prison systems fit squarely within the middle of the salary pay scale for all clergymen. The highest-paid clergy made $77,390 or more per year. This means that federal government chaplains were right at the upper end of the national pay scale.


Location also provides some indication of what prison chaplains can expect to make. According to the BLS, clergymen in New York made an average salary of $53,420 per year in 2010. Those working in the state of California made an average of $60,260 per year, while those in Oregon averaged $51,180. Clergymen working in Florida averaged $44,500 per year, while those in Michigan made similar salaries at $41,350 per year.


Working as a prison chaplain takes both education and training. The Master of Divinity is the standard professional degree for those planning to work as a chaplain at either the state or federal level. Prison chaplains work with prisoners from a wide variety of denominational backgrounds and must be able to conduct interfaith religious services. Experience as a preacher is generally required to work as a prison chaplain. Prison chaplains must be able to deal with persons who have troubled backgrounds.

About the Author

Jared Lewis is a professor of history, philosophy and the humanities. He has taught various courses in these fields since 2001. A former licensed financial adviser, he now works as a writer and has published numerous articles on education and business. He holds a bachelor's degree in history, a master's degree in theology and has completed doctoral work in American history.

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