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Setting a Salary for Church Musicians

There are no guidelines for establishing salaries and benefits for full-time church musicians in The United Methodist Church. These matters are left to the local church and employee to negotiate and determine. Nor is there available a comprehensive listing of such salaries within our denomination, although we can be sure the range would be from a very small amount of money up to tens of thousands of dollars per year, even $100,000 or more.

One approach to arriving at a salary is to compare the church musician's position to another position in that same community; a high school teacher, for instance. If the church and musician could agree that a high school teacher's position is comparable to the full-time church position, then it seems reasonable that the church musician should receive about the same income and benefits. In another situation, the church musician position might be comparable to a junior high school teacher, a college professor, a religious training and education director, or some other occupation.

The website www.salary.com can be helpful in determining median salaries and salary ranges for specific occupations and locations. You may need to be creative, since this site doesn't have much information on full-time church music positions. Try entering something that you think might offer a comparable salary for comparable training and experience.

  1. Go to www.salary.com
  2. Enter a job title, such as high school teacher, junior high school teacher, college professor, religious training and education director. Of course, you can also try entering church choir director, minister of music, church music director, and so on.
  3. Enter a zip code, or scroll through and select a state and city.
  4. Click "Search."
  5. You will see search results showing positions that you searched for as well as related positions. Be sure to scroll down past the advertisement that is inserted into the results so that you see all the options presented.
  6. This site offers you four choices, two of which require payment and two of which are free. Assuming you want the free information, click on the "View Basic Range" link under "For You." This will bring up a statement that tells you the median income for that position and city/state. For example, I found that the median income for a high school teacher in Nashville, Tennessee, is $46,782. If you and your church can agree that a high school teacher's position is comparable to your full-time church position, then it seems reasonable that you should be making about the same amount. At least that figure will give you a starting point for discussion and negotiation.
  7. The site also presents a graph showing the range of salaries for that position and community.

The site also offers you many options that you must pay for. Depending on how serious you are about this, some of these look quite informative.

Written by Dean McIntyre, Director of Music Resources, The United Methodist Discipleship Ministries.

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