Buddhist Priests and Contemplatives

Buddhist Priest Prays with Monk

Buddhist priests lead worship services, perform ceremonies and rituals, and officiate at festivals in Buddhist temples and in the homes of parishioners. Most priests can marry and have families. The majority of Buddhist priests and contemplatives are male, but some are female. Priests may also be known as ministers—especially in the United States. Buddhist contemplatives live their lives within the boundaries of their monastery and engage in meditation and a form of prayer. (The term “monastery” is used in this article to refer to structures that house—separately—both male and female contemplatives.) In some branches of Buddhism, contemplatives can marry and have children. Some even live outside the monastery and have jobs. Male contemplatives are also known as monks, monastics, brothers, and bhikkhus. Female contemplatives may also be known as bhikkhunis, monastics, sisters, and nuns.

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Quick Facts
Alternate Title(s) Bhikkhunis, Bhikkhus, Brothers, Buddhist Ministers, Monastics, Monks, Nuns, Sisters
Duties Lead worship and perform ceremonies and rituals in Buddhist temples (priests); engage in meditation (contemplatives)
Salary Range Below $25,000 to $75,000
Work Environment Primarily Indoors
Best Geographical Location(s) Opportunities are available throughout the country, but are best in large U.S. cities
Minimum Education Level
  • Some Postsecondary Training
School Subjects
  • Foreign Language
  • Religion
  • Speech
Experience Five to seven years experience as a contemplative (priests); no experience needed (contemplatives)
Personality Traits
  • Hands On
  • Helpful
  • Outgoing
  • Foreign Language
  • Interpersonal
  • Public Speaking
Certification or Licensing Recommended
Special Requirements Must be at least eight years old for novice contemplatives and at least 20 years old for ordination as a priest
Employment Prospects Fair
Advancement Prospects Fair
Outlook Little Change or More Slowly than the Average
Career Ladder
  • Head Priest or Abbess/Abbott
  • Priest or Contemplative
  • Novice

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