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Martin Arnold of Oceanside set out to become a big-time computer programmer, but quit school a month before graduating to become a youth pastor in Ghana.

His parents were disappointed and his girlfriend was surprised, but Arnold felt his passion for spreading the gospel was his true calling, not writing code.

“There are jobs out there that you get to make money to pay for a house and a car and there are jobs that you take to make yourself and other people feel good,” said Arnold who was visiting his family for Christmas. “I realized I had a calling, and it wasn’t to write code.”

If you are thinking of spreading the Good Word as a career, it might be an upward move.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that employment of church pastors could grow about as fast as average compared to other occupations from 2010-2020. Employment and salaries tend to be greatly affected by experience and the average income of the population being served. As of December 2013, Salary.com reported that associate pastors earned a median salary of $62,845 annually, and church pastors with five or more years of experience earned a median salary of $86,895.

“Jobs in religion pay more than many people think,” said Arnold, who is going back to school to study religion so he can move up in the church and counsel people who are lost.

Fred Blaine of El Cajon said that 30 years ago he quit a fast-paced job in law to become a pastor of a church in Palm Desert and never regretted the decision.

“I made a lot of money in law, but I drank and was very unhappy,” he said. “Once I became a pastor my depression eventually subsided, and I helped others who were searching for answers. It was the best career and life choice I ever made.”

Blaine isn’t the only one that has seen the light with a job in religion. Ministers reported the highest level of job satisfaction and general happiness with their jobs of any profession, according to a survey published in 2007 by NORC/University of Chicago.

“You comfort people and make others happy,” Blaine said. “Can you say that about other jobs?”

Christian ministers are often called pastors or priests, and once they are ordained they can conduct worship services, baptisms and funerals, and provide guidance for their congregation.

According to the Christian college, Grand Canyon University, the most common path for becoming a pastor includes earning a bachelor’s degree in a Christian field, such as Biblical theology or Christian education, and then pursuing a master’s degree in divinity. An M.Div., which takes three years to complete, includes coursework in the Bible, Christian history, Biblical languages and worship, and will normally need to be done at a school or seminary approved by your denomination. Some denominations require pastors to complete internships or go through steps such as being ordained as a deacon prior to becoming a priest. Most denominations will have newly ordained pastors begin as assistant or associate pastors. Other jobs in religion take the form of music directors, children’s pastors, fund raisers, and social workers.

Ministry jobs can be found on linkedin.com, christianet.com, and on mainstream job sites such as careerbuilder.com.

Jobs in this heavenly field can take place at a local church or at outposts around the world.

Maryann Abbott of San Diego spent 15 years teaching Sunday school to children in countries such as Sudan, South Africa, China and Japan.

“I love God, children, and to travel, all in that order,” she said. “A job in the ministry has given me opportunities to spread the love and word of God while having a career. My parents wanted me to be a flight attendant to see the world. I think I chose a better way.”

A career in the ministry isn’t for everyone. It takes a special person to be able to minister to those who are grieving or who are desperate to find answers. But Mike Arnold said that if you have a calling you are one of the lucky ones. “Just think if I had become a computer programmer and sat in a cubical all day instead of helping those who need my counseling,” he said. “That to me would have been hell on earth. The career I have chosen brings me happiness every day of the week, with a little extra on Sunday.”

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