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Chaplain: Career Profile and Educational Requirements

Chaplains require significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties, endorsements and work experience required to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Chaplains are trained to provide counseling and pastoral services to those needing spiritual or emotional support. A strong desire to help others and faith in one's chosen denomination are important attributes for this profession. Formal education at the graduate level in divinity studies, religion, theology or a similar field is typically required. Certification is also available to chaplains and may be required by some employers. Candidates may also need to earn an endorsement from their particular faith to become chaplains, and employers may prefer to hire those with prior work experience.

Required EducationMaster's degree or doctorate
Other Requirements Work experience, ecclesiastical endorsement, spiritual vocation
Certification Required by some employers
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 10% for all clergy
Median Salary (2013)*$43,800 for all clergy

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Profile of a Chaplain

Chaplains generally work in institutional settings like the military, hospitals, prisons and schools, either part time or full time. They may be commissioned laypersons but are usually members of the clergy who provide the kinds of services a clergyperson would ordinarily provide in a place of worship. These services can include worship, crisis counseling, weddings, funerals and last rites. Chaplains can work directly for an institution or receive compensation from their religious organization.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't publish information pertaining specifically to chaplains, but it does have employment data for all clergy members. According to the BLS, the median salary for members of the clergy was $43,800 as of 2013. The number of employment opportunities in this field was expected to increase 10% from 2012-2022, reports the BLS, which is average compared to other career fields.

Educational Requirements of a Chaplain

According to O*Net OnLine, clergy members, including chaplains, are generally required to have a graduate degree (www.onetonline.org). Graduate programs are available in theology, divinity studies or religious studies. Theology majors may take courses in expository preaching, Old Testament language and soteriology. Divinity and religious studies majors often focus on certain fields, such as Asian religions, African religious studies and Judaic studies.

Additional Requirements to Become a Chaplain

Requirements for becoming a chaplain can also include an ecclesiastical endorsement by the candidate's particular faith organization and a certain amount of previous related work experience. Depending on where a chaplain ends up working, there may also be additional requirements related to the particular institution. The armed forces typically require their chaplains to be under a certain age and be able to pass a military physical exam and a security clearance.

Certification Information for a Chaplain

Certification may be required by some employers. Certain organizations certify chaplains in either general chaplaincy skills or specific skills related to certain institutions. The Board of Chaplaincy Certification Inc. (BCCI) offers three levels of certification - board certified chaplain, provisional certified chaplain and associate certified chaplain. Each designation has differing levels of educational, experience and competency requirements a candidate must meet.

For more job-specific certification, the International Fellowship of Chaplains (IFOC) offers basic and advanced certifications. IFOC certification focuses on chaplains who provide services to emergency workers and law enforcement personnel.

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