The Average Salary of Nuns

by Wanda Thibodeaux; Updated January 12, 2018
Nuns take a vow of poverty to test, strengthen and remind them of their faith.

Nuns play a leading role in the spiritual life of the public, often doing important social work with a selfless and humble attitude. Nuns do not get paid the same way other people do for working. They turn any earnings over to their congregation, which they trust to provide a stipend that will cover minimum living expenses. Their pay thus depends on their community, not on how much or where they work.

Average Earnings

Nuns may work for the benefit of the Church in any profession, such as social worker, accountant, day care worker, teacher or even doctor. This makes it virtually impossible to estimate average earnings. However, nuns give up any earnings they may have to the Church, so in essence, nuns don't have a salary, even if an average were assessable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, all members of the clergy make a mean annual wage of $49,450. In terms of an hourly rate, this is about $23.77.

Vow of Poverty

All nuns take a vow of poverty. The vow of poverty is intended to help the nuns remind themselves that God, not man, will supply everything that is necessary, and that spiritual riches matter more than material wealth. The vow of poverty also is supposed to make it easier for a nun to move about various geographical regions at the calling of God, as there is less to transport. Because of the vow of poverty, nuns relinquish any income to their order, which issues them a stipend that covers basic living expenses. Any money from earnings not given back to the nun via the stipend supports the Catholic ministry.

Stipend Variances

The Catholic Church advocates a nun's vow of poverty, but it also recognizes that the cost of living is different based on the geographical location. The stipend is additional funds paid for housing. Stipend amounts vary depending on the location and number of nuns sharing a home. Most stipends are not taxable.

Tax Issue

Because nuns take a vow of poverty and are members of religious orders, the Internal Revenue Service allows nuns to take exemptions for self-employment and income tax in certain circumstances. Nuns are exempt from income taxes if they make money for services performed as an agent of the order, or if the duties they perform outside of the order are the same or very similar to duties performed as an agent of the order.

About the Author

Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website,, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.

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