Chaplain Studies Degrees with Career Information

A chaplain gives ministerial services to a group of people unable to attend religious services or to a group of people who are not established as a church or mission. Those interested in this profession can find degree programs at the graduate level.

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Essential Information

Duties of a chaplain can include worship and sacraments, counseling and education, ethical guidance and staff support, as well as church or community coordination. Degree programs in chaplain studies are typically offered in theology and are available at the master's and doctoral levels. Program fields include divinity, theology, and ministry and prerequisites for chaplain studies include a bachelor's degree.

Studies in a master's degree program focus on church administration, sermon preparation and religious writings. Those pursuing a doctorate will take courses that place an emphasis on ministry and counseling. They could study pastoral counseling, family therapy and conflict resolution techniques. Graduates of a doctoral program are in most cases awarded a Doctor of Ministry degree. Completion of one of these programs will prepare students to practice both in and outside of religious institutions. They might offer spiritual support in healthcare settings, correctional facilities and postsecondary institutions, among other settings. Completion of a thesis/dissertation and two years of biblical-related study is required.

Chaplain Studies Degree Programs

Although states have differing laws, technically a chaplain does not need a degree of any sort if an organized body ordains or officially designates them as a chaplain. Practically, most chaplaincy careers require at least a master's degree in religious studies.

Master's Degrees for Chaplains

Master's degrees in religious studies are usually given the title of Master of Divinity (M.Div.), although some are called Master of Theology, M.A. in Practical Theology or even Master of Arts in Marketplace Chaplaincy. These are all degree titles from recognized and accredited universities.

Program Coursework

All theological degrees require students to complete two years each of biblical Hebrew and koine (or New Testament) Greek. Most will require a thesis. Other courses may include:

  • Hermeneutics
  • Synoptic gospels
  • Systematic theology
  • Church history
  • Pneumatology
  • Current theological issues

Doctoral Degrees for Chaplains

At the doctoral level, the most common degree title for those pursuing a career as a chaplain is the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.). This is an advanced degree in theology that aims to give students who already are in ministerial or pastoral positions an opportunity to enlarge and improve their skills and their own spiritual growth. Some common coursework includes:

  • Pastoral theology and care
  • Pastoral counseling
  • Evangelism strategies
  • Conflict resolution
  • Family life ministry and therapy
  • Interfaith relations

Career Opportunities for Chaplains

Often, when people consider what a chaplain is, their thoughts don't go beyond the military. However there are chaplains in many places. The chaplain in each setting provides the unique pastoral and spiritual support for the clientele they serve, such as:

  • Military
  • Hospitals
  • Hospice
  • Nursing homes
  • Emergency medical technician
  • Law enforcement

Chaplains, who have a minimum of a master's degree, are equipped with the training and skills to serve others with pastoral and counseling services. Chaplains may work in a variety of settings and help people through some emotionally or spiritually difficult situations.

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