Nuns play a leading role in the spiritual life of the public, often doing important social work with a selfless and humble attitude. Nuns do not get paid the same way other people do for working -- they turn any earnings over to their congregation, which they trust to provide a stipend that will cover minimum expenses of living. Their pay thus depends on their community, not on how much or where they work.
Nuns may work for the benefit of the Church in any profession, such as social worker, accountant, day care worker, teacher or even doctor, as shown by The Rosary Group. This makes it virtually impossible to estimate average earnings. However, nuns give up any earnings they may have to the Church, so in essence, nuns don't have a salary, even if an average were assessable. Keeping this in mind, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that all members of the clergy make an average wage of $46,960 as of 2009. In terms of an hourly rate, this is about $22.58.
Vow of Poverty
All nuns take a vow of poverty. The vow of poverty is intended to help the nuns remind themselves that God, not man, will supply everything that is necessary, and that spiritual riches matter more than material wealth. The vow of poverty also is supposed to make it easier for a nun to move about various geographical regions at the calling of God, as there is less to transport. Because of the vow of poverty, nuns relinquish any income to their order, which issues them a stipend that covers basic living expenses. Any money from earnings not given back to the nun via the stipend supports the Catholic ministry.
The Catholic Church advocates a nun's vow of poverty, but it also recognizes that the cost of living is different based on the geographical location. For example, the church may pay $2,000 a month in rent for a home shared by several nuns in one location, while the cost of rent for a similar property in another state might be $3,000. The Church adjusts stipends accordingly.
Because nuns take a vow of poverty and are members of religious orders, the Internal Revenue Service allows nuns to take exemptions for self-employment and income tax in certain circumstances. Nuns are exempt from income taxes if they make money for services performed as an agent of the order, or if the duties they perform outside of the order are the same or very similar to duties performed as an agent of the order.