Hospice Chaplain: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a hospice chaplain. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Hospice chaplains are members of an interdisciplinary team of medical professionals and other allied health staff who provide care and comfort to patients nearing end of life because of terminal illnesses. Hospice is generally intended to encompass care for the 'whole person', and chaplains are trained to support medical care from a spiritual and emotional perspective. To be officially certified, which is required by many employers, chaplains must earn a master's degree and complete Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).

Required Education Varies by employer, but typically:
Undergraduate degree in applicable subject
Master's degree in theology, divinity, or pastoral studies
Internship or Clinical Pastoral Education (separately or concurrently with master's degree)
Licensure/Certification Certification often required
Other Requirements Employers often require candidates be ordained/commissioned ministers and endorsed by a recognized faith group
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 10% (for all types of clergy) *
Average Salary (2013) $47,540 annually (for all types of clergy)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for a Hospice Chaplain

Hospice chaplains provide spiritual support to terminally ill patients and their families. Chaplains generally work in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities but may also visit patients in their homes. These professionals make spiritual assessments of patients, taking into account mental, emotional, physical and spiritual stresses, and respond with appropriate counseling and care.

Chaplains are members of the interdisciplinary team, which is a group of specialists and professionals that provides guidance and support. Accordingly, they assist the medical staff in developing an individualized plan of care for each patient. Individualized plans may include daily spiritual consultations and performance of sacraments.

Hospice Chaplain's Duties

A hospice chaplain's primary responsibility is to provide emotional and spiritual counseling to patients and their families. Other duties may include submitting written reports on patient interactions and acting as liaisons between members of the clergy and hospice patients. Chaplains don't replace clergy members but rather are there to offer further support and communicate the needs of the patient. Additionally, chaplains provide bereavement services, including phone calls, visits and memorial services, to family members upon the death of a patient.

Requirements for a Hospice Chaplain


Most chaplains have earned a bachelor's degree in religious studies or a related subject and a master's degree in theology, divinity or pastoral studies. Courses may include biblical interpretation, human development and crises management. Master's degree programs require the completion of 72 semester hours, generally last three years and may include an internship or one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education defines one of unit of CPE as 400 hours of supervised meetings with persons in crises and includes ministry and peer evaluation.


Although the specific requirements for certification may vary based on affiliation, most organizations require chaplains to be ordained or commissioned to minister. Additionally, applicants must present a letter of endorsement for chaplaincy from a recognized faith group. Lastly, chaplains must have obtained an M.A. in Theology or a related subject and accrued four units of CPE. Maintenance of certification varies by institution but generally includes continuing education, a peer evaluation and an updated letter of endorsement.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (the BLS) predicted 10% employment growth for clergy members in general, from 2012-2022. In 2013, the average annual salary for all types of clergy, according to the BLS, was $47,540. Specifically for clergy members working for home health care services, general medical and surgical hospitals, and skilled nursing facilities, average annual salaries in 2013 ranged from about $46,280 to $48,610.

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