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Become an Army Chaplain: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Army chaplains provide spiritual services such as counseling to the soldiers in their assigned unit. Chaplains are also Army officers who advise their unit's commander on ethical, religious and moral issues.

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Should I Become an Army Chaplain?

Army chaplains serve an important function for troops subjected to emotional an ethical turmoil as a result of their military service. Religious leaders need to obtain an advanced degree and years of experience before seeking a position in the armed forces. Those who meet the stringent physical and ethical requirements to work in the military must then complete a special basic training program. All of these requirements can lead one to a rewarding and challenging career in army chaplaincy.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Master's degree
Degree Field Religious studies and theological studies
Experience Two full-time years in religious leadership
Training Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course
Salary Military pay is based upon rank and years of service

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

The Army requires chaplains to have a bachelor's degree consisting of at least 120 credit hours. Although the Army does not specify which degree programs students should choose, aspiring chaplains may benefit from a major in religious studies. A religious studies program provides an individual with knowledge of religion and teaches the person practical skills such as cultural awareness, communication and critical thinking.

Step 2: Earn a Master's Degree

Army chaplains must obtain a graduate degree. Acceptable master degree programs include religious studies and theological studies. These degree programs offer advanced courses in in philosophy, world religions, religious practices, church history, ethics and religious literature.

Step 3:Gain Experience as a Spiritual Leader

The Army requires chaplains to have two years of experience working full-time for a religious institution or organization. Candidates can gain experience by becoming clergy members, who are spiritual leaders such as priests, ministers, preachers or rabbis. Each religion has specific requirements for ordaining clergy members. Spiritual leaders have duties that include performing ceremonies such as funerals and weddings, delivering sermons and providing counseling.

Step 4: Meet Army Requirements

To apply as Army chaplains, applicants must be endorsed and affirmed by their religious institutions, which certifies that applicants are clergy members, spiritually qualified and capable of accepting people of various religions. Army chaplains must be between the ages of 21 to 42 and U.S. citizens. Eligibility also depends on passing a physical screening and background security check.

Step 5: Complete Training

Instead of attending basic training, Army chaplain candidates complete the Chaplain Basic Officer Leadership Course. Candidates with no prior military training begin with four weeks of instruction in basic military skills such as drill and ceremony, navigation and field operations. The remaining eight weeks consist of courses in Army correspondence, counseling, ministry in a military setting, moral leadership and interpersonal communication.

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