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Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE): Program and Training Information

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is a professional ministry training program for theology students of all faiths. They learn to act as counselors for individuals and families in crisis, such as people with chronic disabilities or those facing death.

Essential Information

Students studying clinical pastoral education (CPE) come from several backgrounds like Judaism, Christianity, Muslim or other religions. These programs are heavily geared towards clinical work with patients and their loved ones. Applicants should have a high school diploma or GED. Alternatively, ordination by a religious authority may also qualify potential students. Some schools may require applicants to have completed one or more years of theological school.

  • Program Levels: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED, prior theological coursework
  • Other Requirements: Clinical experience and residency program

Clinical Pastoral Education Training Programs

CPE programs include both clinical experiences and supplemental class work. Many programs have a ratio of three hours of clinical experience to one hour of education. Clinical responsibilities may include being on-call for hospital visits. Instruction involves reading, written reflection assignments, seminars, group discussions and case studies. There are three levels of training, often found within one all-encompassing program; however some institutions only feature the first or second level. Students must complete one level before progressing to the next; those progressing to Level II or beyond may qualify for a paid 1-year residency. Course work includes:

  • Cultural perspectives on pastoral care and counseling
  • Pastoral identity
  • Spirituality and health
  • Systems and groups of ministry
  • Patient relationships
  • Personal growth and development

Popular Career Options

Many residential and outpatient facilities employ individuals who have completed a Clinical Pastoral Education program, including hospitals, hospices, veteran's facilities, geriatric care centers, rehabilitation centers, correctional facilities and children's medical centers. Common job titles include:

  • Pastor
  • Chaplain
  • Parish minster
  • Lay minister
  • Pastoral counselor
  • Pastoral educator
  • Licensed professional counselor

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2014 over 13,000 clergy members worked in hospitals and nursing care facilities, in addition to being employed by home health care services. That same year, the median annual wages for clergy members was $43,950. The BLS predicted 10% job growth for clergy in general, from 2012 to 2022.

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