Hospital Chaplain: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for hospital chaplains. Get the facts about educational requirements, certification, job duties, and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Medical Billing Administrative Specialist degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Hospital Chaplain?

A hospital chaplain serves the spiritual needs of patients, staff members, and families. Hospital chaplains help people cope during difficult times and provide comfort and compassion. They may also sit with injured or dying individuals to provide comfort and help them not feel alone. Depending on the religion, they may arrange for last rites or other religious services. Hospital chaplains must be sensitive and prepared to handle strong emotions, such as grief, anger and sadness, of those around them. Some of these professionals may work for their hospital full-time, while others are volunteers and are called in as needed. They must be fully certified and ordained. The table below outlines the general requirements for becoming a hospital chaplain.

Degree RequiredVaries by religion; bachelor's degree up to a master's degree
Educational Field of StudyTheology, divinity or a related field
Key ResponsibilitiesProviding spiritual guidance; leading religious services; grief ministry and counseling; crisis intervention
Certification RequirementsCertification from the Board of Chaplain Certification requires a combination of experience, endorsement, education, and formal clinical pastoral work
Job Growth (2014-2024)6% for clergy*
Average Salary (May 2015)$50,430 for clergy in general medical and surgical hospitals*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Job Duties of a Hospital Chaplain?

Hospital chaplains give support to patients, families and staff members of diverse faiths. This position typically combines theology, psychology, spirituality and religion. As a hospital chaplain, you will give comfort and compassion to those who are suffering or facing difficult decisions. Some of your duties in a hospital may include:

-Giving ethical advice

-Crisis intervention

-Grief ministry

-Counseling

-Leading religious services

-Providing solace through religious texts

In this position, you would typically represent the faith of your choice, while accommodating others regardless of religious beliefs. In order to succeed in this career, you must be able to offer spiritual and ethical guidance to people in times of emergency or crisis.

What Should I Study?

Your educational requirements will often depend on your faith group. For example, candidates looking to be ordained by the Muslim Chaplains Association (MCA) should study for a master's degree in Islamic studies or Muslim Christian Relations.

Some faiths require chaplains to obtain a graduate education in theology. For example, you might acquire a Master of Divinity degree in which you would take courses in subjects such as the Old and New Testaments, theology, biblical languages and church history. A graduate program in divinity usually takes three to four years to complete, depending on the requirements of your faith group.

How Do I Become Certified?

The Board of Chaplain Certification Inc. is one organization that offers chaplain certification (www.professionalchaplains.org). Certification requires a combination of experience in the field, endorsement by your faith group and education in theology, as well as formal clinical pastoral work. The certification process can take up to a year to complete and includes an oral and written review process.

What Can I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, members of the clergy earned an average annual wage of $48,150 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Those who worked in hospitals earned an average salary of $50,430 a year, while those who worked in nursing care facilities earned $46,380.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A handful of related careers that require a bachelor's degree include social and community service managers and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors. Social and community service managers point the public to community organizations that offer a wide range of services. They help oversee an organization and coordinate its outreach efforts. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors counsel patients who are struggling with various behavioral problems. They may deal with alcoholics, those suffering from eating disorders and more. Rehabilitation counselors are also related, but require a master's degree. These counselors help people manage various disabilities in order to work and live independently.

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