Become a Hospital Chaplain: Requirements & Steps

Hospital chaplains are specialized ministers who tend to the spiritual needs of those in healthcare settings. Read below to learn about the steps those who are called to be hospital chaplains go through to gain their positions. Schools offering Medical Billing Administrative Specialist degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Hospital chaplains provide emotional and spiritual support to those who have been hospitalized and their families. Their expertise in spiritual matters can provide comfort for families as they cope with birth, death, and the crises which occur in between.

The chart below shows the education requirements, job duties, and salary of hospital chaplains.

Education Required Minimum bachelor's degree and ordination; some hospitals prefer graduate degrees
Education Field of Study Theology, religious studies, counseling, psychology
Training Required Additional on-the-job training or training through certification may be necessary
Key Responsibilities Providing spiritual support to patients, families, and occasionally to medical personnel
Growth Rate (2016-2026) 8% (clergy)*
Median Salary (2019) $49,555**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); **Payscale.com

How Does One Get Started In A Career As A Hospital Chaplain?

Chaplains who are interested in working in a hospital setting will usually need at least a bachelor's degree. It is commonly recommended that this degree be in theology, religious studies, counseling, psychology, or a related field. This could help prepare you to cope with the difficult emotions that arise while someone is hospitalized and to answer any challenging questions of faith patients and their families may have. Your bachelor's degree can be earned at any university with an appropriate degree program.

Is Further Education Necessary?

It is often preferred that a hospital chaplain have a master's degree. Depending on your faith, this may be a requirement of becoming ordained. It is typically recommended your master's degree be in some form of religious studies. Keep in mind that you will need to tend to the spiritual needs of people of multiple faiths, so interfaith study will be valuable. While not always required, you may find greater success finding employment after earning a PhD, as well.

Does One Need To Become Ordained?

Hospital chaplains are typically ordained ministers. Requirements for ordination vary based on the rules of each faith. However, most faiths require a period of formalized study, such as attendance at a seminary or a yeshiva.

Is Certification Necessary?

The work of hospital chaplains is different from other types of ministry. For this reason those wishing to be hospital chaplains may need to seek out additional training and certification through clinical pastoral education (CPE) programs. Multiple organizations offer this training, including but not limited to Association of Professional Chaplains, National Association of Catholic Chaplains, American Association of Pastoral Counselors, and Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains.

How Does One Find A Job As A Hospital Chaplain?

While hospital chaplains work at hospitals and hospice centers they are not always employed by these organizations. Hospital chaplains may be assigned to a hospital by their church or other governing body. However, some hospitals do hire their own chaplains. Networking and online job boards may be good ways to find positions as a hospital chaplain.

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