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Schools for Aspiring Chaplains: How to Choose

Aspiring chaplains can train in a variety of faith traditions. Chaplains are usually certified by a professional organization, either in a particular religion or denomination, or by an organization such as the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, after they have earned a master's degree. Most chaplains also complete clinical pastoral education in preparation for ministry.

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Aspiring chaplains study courses in theology, history, and literature, and many programs allow students to choose a certain specialty, such as teaching, counseling or hospice work. Graduate programs are available at select schools across the U.S.

Schools That Offer Chaplaincy Programs

These schools offer master's degree programs that will prepare students to be chaplains.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition and Fees 2015-2016*
Seattle University Seattle, WA 4 year, private Master's $19,793
Grace College and Theological Seminary Winona Lake, IN 4 year, private Master's $10,404
Harvard University Cambridge, MA 4 year, private Master's $42,874
Emory University Atlanta, GA 4 year, private Master's $41,940
Columbia International University Columbia, SC 4 year, private Master's $10,020
Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest Austin, TX 4 year, private Master's $14,255
Loyola University Chicago Chicago, IL 4 year, private Master's $18,886
Loma Linda University Loma Linda, CA 4 year, private Master's $27,180
Liberty University Lynchburg,VA 4 year, private Master's $8,000

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

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School Selection Criteria

Consider the following when looking for a chaplain school:

  • Students might look for courses that meets the standards of The Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) in order to prepare for certification.
  • Internships are available in some programs and allow students to learn about different types of ministry and gain practical skills under the supervision of an experienced chaplain.
  • Students will want to consider their denomination. Chaplaincy training programs exist for many different faith traditions, including Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam, as well as inter-faith programs. Curricula usually include study and training in a particular religion.
  • Some chaplaincy programs provide financial assistance. For example, students enrolled in a military chaplain master's degree program can pursue financial aid opportunities through their particular military branch.

Master's Degree Programs

Graduate programs in chaplaincy confer a master's degree, such as a Master of Arts in Counseling Ministries with a concentration in chaplaincy or a Master of Divinity. These programs can be completed in three years and usually include participation in clinical pastoral education (CPE), which is accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). Programs usually include an internship or practicum. Some chaplains continue on to earn a Doctor of Divinity.

Military Chaplain Candidate Program

Some branches of the armed services, including the Army, Navy and Air Force, provide training programs for military chaplains. Military chaplains must submit to a background check, and are required to have a bachelor's and a master's degree, but candidates can complete the chaplain candidate program concurrently with their degree programs.

Prospective chaplains should look for programs that will prepare them for certification. Other considerations include denomination, internships, and the availability of financial aid.

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