Becoming an Imam and Other Types of Islamic Jobs
Educational and Training Requirements
To become an imam, a person needs to receive a college degree in religious studies.
If you are leaning toward becoming a director of an Islamic non-profit organization, you will most likely need a bachelor's degree, although some organizations may not require a degree. There may be some organizations that prefer a candidate with a master's degree in business administration. Other positions, such as accountants, communication directors, and other professional positions, will require a bachelor's degree related to the specific discipline. In addition to management and other professional positions, non-profit organizations hire office personnel to answer phones and perform basic office duties. These positions do not require a college degree. Instead, most require a minimum of one to two years of office experience and familiarity with basic office equipment and procedures.
Although many private schools do not require licensed teachers, most schools do require the same credentials and educational level as some private and all public schools. While teachers at pre-schools are not always required to be certified or have a degree, depending on the school's program, the vast majority of elementary and secondary grade teachers will need to have at a minimum a bachelor's degree, as well as certification. However, keep in mind that pre-school teacher educational requirements vary widely from school to school. Call schools you are interested in and ask administrators what credentials are needed to be considered for teaching preschool. Otherwise, how you become certified depends on your state's requirements. In some states, teachers are required to pass a test before they receive certification. In other states, a teacher is required to earn a master's degree. To determine what your state requires for you to become a certified teacher, visit your state department of education Web site, or give them a call.
If you are interested in becoming an instructor at the college level as a staff member, or sometimes on an adjunct basis, you will need to have at least a master's degree in the subject area you wish to teach. To become a professor and earn tenure you will need to earn a PhD in your subject area.
Required Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
Imams will need to have in-depth knowledge of the Qur'an as well as the Sharia, the Islamic law set down in the Qur'an and further writings. This helps the imam who works in a pastoral capacity to counsel members of the mosque. In-depth knowledge of Muslim history and culture is also expected of these professionals. Imams should also have thorough knowledge of worship methodology. In addition, since imams are leaders and may have people working for them, even if it is on a volunteer basis, imams need to have knowledge of leadership, management, and administrative practices. Customer service techniques are also valuable for them to know, since they provide many services to their members.
Being an imam is a people-intensive job, which means having excellent communication skills is a must. Imams must be able to listen to their members, understand their needs, and respond to them in a meaningful way. Additionally, imams need to have strong organizational and time management skills. Imams should enjoy working with people.
Professionals leading Islamic non-profit organizations must have knowledge of current and effective management techniques, as they will be directing the efforts of the entire organization.
Teachers are expected to have a very solid base of knowledge in the subjects they teach. They are also expected to understand children's developmental stages and needs, as well as have a high level of knowledge of effective learning techniques. Additionally, teachers are expected to know how to work with kids with behavioral issues, and in fact have some knowledge of what behaviors are typical of the ages they teach. Often, children with special needs are placed in regular classrooms, and teachers should have some knowledge of how to work with these special needs. Discipline is a part of every teacher's vocabulary, and knowing discipline techniques that motivate students to change and improve their behavior, is essential. Additionally, teachers must know how to organize their time and communicate well with administrators and parents.
Average Salary Information
Like other faith-based jobs, the salaries for these positions vary widely and depend on the type of position, the size of the operation, and your previous experience. Imams usually earn a yearly salary. Most professional jobs such as non-profit directors and teachers also earn a yearly salary.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' salary information can be used as a general guideline of what people in these positions earn. Keep in mind that faith-based employers may pay more or less than this average. The figures that follow were based on information gathered in 2008.
The Bureau's information did not include salaries for imams. It did report that most managers of social agencies like non-profit organizations earn an average of $26.92 an hour, or $55,993.60 per year. Social workers earned an average salary that ranged from $14.87 per hour up to $19.01 per hour, depending on the kind of social work performed. General office personnel in this sector received an average of $12.17 per hour, and volunteer managers earned an average annual salary of $32,000.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that preschool teachers earned an average yearly salary of $23,870 in 2008. In the same year, the average annual salaries of kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers ranged from $47,100 to $51,180. The lowest 10 percent earned $30,970 to $34,280, while the top 10 percent earned $75,190 to $80,970. College level instructors and professors earned an average annual salary of $58,830. The middle 50 percent earned between $41,600 and $83,960. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,870, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $121,850.
Potential Career Paths
Imams can advance their careers by becoming imams at larger mosques or becoming instructors at the college level. Teachers can become specialized or be promoted to supervisory or administrative positions. Workers at non-profit organizations can obtain management positions, or similar positions at larger organizations.