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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, Islam or other religions. These programs are heavily geared towards clinical work with patients and their loved ones. There are three levels of training; 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.

Students must meet clinical experience and residency program requirements for graduation. 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.

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.


Clinical Pastoral Education Training Programs

Instruction involves reading, written reflection assignments, seminars, group discussions and case studies. Course topics include:

  • 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 or lay minster
  • Pastoral counselor
  • Pastoral educator
  • Licensed professional counselor

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2014, 244,200 clergy members were employed. The median annual wage for clergy members was $44,250 in 2015. The BLS predicted 6% job growth for clergy in general, from 2014 to 2024.

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) programs include clinical/residency components along with coursework. Graduates may be employed by medical or correctional facilities.

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