To Potential Employers of Members of the American Guild of Organists:

The job postings on the Web site of the American Guild of Organists are provided as a service to employers and a member benefit to AGO voting members. As a professional association of musicians, the American Guild of Organists expects the highest standard of professional behavior on the part of its members. AGO members are bound by a Code of Ethics and guided by a Code of Professional Standards. Before posting your position available, we ask that you read and understand these documents. For institutions, we suggest that you print out this section and share it with colleagues, committee members, or others involved with the employment process.

Thank you for your interest in employing a member of the American Guild of Organists.

Leadership in Religious Institutions

While the spiritual leadership and supervision of religious institutions is usually invested in ordained staff members, the programs and missions of these institutions are often the responsibility of non-ordained staff. Sacred music, along with a variety of outreach ministries, is the work of persons hired for these purposes.

Fair Compensation

The provision of fair compensation is both an economic and a justice issue. Many denominations now offer pension and medical benefits to part-time and full-time employees, both lay and ordained. The American Guild of Organists believes that all employees of religious institutions are entitled to fair compensation, which includes a living wage and benefits that provide current and future economic security and ordinary economic rights. Ordinary economic rights include food, housing, health care, education, security in old age, insurance for sickness and joblessness, leisure and recreation, and the possibility of property ownership. The AGO no longer publishes suggested salary guidelines.


One part of compensation is salary. Factors involved in the determination of salary include the extent of an employee’s responsibilities (reflected in the average number of hours per week – on site, at home, or elsewhere – needed to do the job successfully) and the training, skill, and experience of the individual. If, for example, it is determined that a particular position will take one-half of the person’s work week, then the employer ought to pay one-half of a full-time salary. More information.


The second part of fair compensation is benefits – those that provide for an employee’s current and future economic security. Every full-time or part-time employee should receive benefits, either in the form of enrollment in a denominational plan or in the form of additional salary to allow them to purchase their own benefits. These benefits belong to an employee whether or not a second job, spouse, or partner also has access to benefits. A 1996 AGO Professional Relations Committee study of denominational benefit plans found that they averaged 20%-30% of base salary

Common Health and Pension Benefits:

Pension – Denominational plans allow congregations to invest a percentage of an employee’s salary in preparation for retirement.
Health insurance – Employees should be covered by a comprehensive Major Medical Plan, preferably one whose “total lifetime benefit” caps at $2.5 million.
Life insurance
Dental insurance – Important for procedures such as oral surgery, root canals, and crowns.
Disability coverage – The chances of being out of work due to accident or illness are higher than dying before retirement age. A good policy is one that delivers one-half to three-fourths of the employee’s salary for life.

Additional Health-Related Benefits:

Paid sick leave
Paid and unpaid maternity/paternity leave
Nursing home insurance
Unemployment benefits
Most states do not require that religious institutions participate in their unemployment system. Therefore, the majority of lay employees do not qualify for government unemployment assistance.

Work-Related Benefits:

The following items are in addition to the 20%-30% of base salary included in the health and pension benefits listed above.

Paid vacation – Averages three to four weeks for new employees and increases annually.
Continuing education funds and leave – Funding and leave for continuing education should be determined by an employee’s responsibilities. For example, if musicians have responsibility for an adult choir, a children’s choir, a handbell choir, and also play the organ, they will need regular continuing education in those areas. Continuing education should be extended to unpaid, volunteer staff also.
Professional association memberships – Employees’ professional memberships are determined by their employment responsibilities.
Sabbatical leave – This is an extension of continuing education, usually given to professional staff every five to seven years. The employee receives his/her full salary during the sabbatical period.
Reimbursement of job-related expenses – This covers a variety of items – music purchase, entertaining, gifts for program participants, postage, computer supplies, etc.
Auto expenses – Employment-related driving.
Teaching facilities – Many employers make available instruments or space in their facilities for private teaching or tutoring by professional employees. Musicians should be aware of their employer’s policy regarding such usage.

Supportive Working Conditions:

The items listed previously have a financial value. However, there are other, equally important benefits that should be offered by employers. These include freedom from discrimination based on age, race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability unrelated to job performance; contracts and up-to-date job descriptions; and well-equipped office and work areas. Religious institutions expect much from their employees. We encourage them to be worthy of this expectation.

American Guild of Organists
475 Riverside Drive – Suite 1260
New York NY 10115
212-870-2310/Fax: 212-870-2163

It is the policy of the American Guild of Organists not to discriminate on the basis of sex, age, disability, race, color, religion, marital status,veteran’s status, national or ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.

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