What Training Is Required to Become a Chaplain?

Chaplains can be found in many environments, including hospitals and military bases. The training and education to become a chaplain varies based on the particular field you want to work in. Schools offering Pastoral Ministry degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

The Role of a Chaplain

When you work as a chaplain, your job is to provide counseling and religious or spiritual services to people on-site in many different types of settings, such as military installations, hospitals and prisons. While chaplains historically have been tied to the Christian faith, it's not unusual for today's chaplains to be associated with other religious and spiritual traditions, such as Buddhism.

Important Facts About Chaplains

Median Salary (2014) $43,950 for all clergy
Key Skills Interpersonal communication, empathy, analytical ability
Top Industries for Clergy Religious organizations, hospitals, home health care services
Similar Occupations Director of Religious Education, Director of Pastoral Care

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Although many chaplains are ordained ministers, you don't have to be ordained to work as a chaplain, but you do have to have an endorsement or commission from your faith group. An endorsement may be obtained after satisfying specific education and training objectives outlined by an authority in your faith group. Chaplaincy training programs can be found at a colleges and universities; many of these programs are master's degree programs designed to train you to work in businesses, crisis centers, hospices and schools. Courses may include counseling theory, theology and officiating religious ceremonies.

You may find that educational requirements vary depending on the type of work you choose to pursue. For example, military chaplains need a master's degree with a minimum of 72 hours in theology and ministry, while an entry-level chaplain may only require a bachelor's degree, according to the National Association of Catholic Chaplains.

Training and Experience Requirements

You may also need experience as a religious leader before you apply for a chaplain position. Some organizations require prospective chaplains to have between two and four years of religious leadership experience, and some require ordination. Requirements in training and experience can vary depending on the type of chaplaincy you're seeking or your religion. For instance, military chaplains are not required to go through basic training in the same way that a new recruit would.


There are many professional chaplaincy organizations that offer certification, the largest of which is the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC). The APC's Board Certified Chaplain program provides you with the opportunity to become a certified or provisionally certified chaplain or an associate certified chaplain. Each certification requires that you complete graduate-level coursework in theology and pastoral care. Although certification is not always required, it demonstrates that you have education, training and experience in chaplaincy.

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