How to become

How to Become a Chaplain

How to Become a Chaplain


Chaplains provide spiritual direction to people going through difficult times. For those who require religious support, chaplains are often present in hospitals, prisons, and military bases. You must pursue accreditation from a nationally renowned chaplaincy certification board if you think this noble vocation is a good fit for you.

What is a chaplain ?

A chaplain is a spiritual advisor who offers guidance, religious instruction, and pastoral care to people in a variety of contexts. Chaplains provide assistance and support to those unable to attend religious services as members of the clergy. Although they may identify with different religions or spiritual traditions, they are associated with secular organizations like a hospital or prison. They typically do the following tasks:

  • Offer spiritual direction and support to patients, residents, families, staff members, or other patients.
  • Help individuals who require spiritual support or encouragement.
  • Hold nondenominational religious sessions and worship.
  • Perform religious rituals and ceremonies like marriages and burials.
  • During a worship or religious ceremony, administer sacraments.
  • Offer educational initiatives, religious youth events, or conversion therapy.
  • Plan, organize, and carry out training sessions.
  • counseling for grieving.
  • Conduct prayer meetings.
  • With those who require assistance, pay attention and pray.

The steps to becoming a chaplain

You must comply with a specific set of requirements in order to pursue a profession as a chaplain. Your chances of landing a job in this profession are higher the more you meet the standards. To become a chaplain, follow these steps:

1. Develop your abilities

You need a specific set of talents in order to successfully carry out the duties of a chaplain. Develop interpersonal and empathic abilities, among other talents. Additionally, learn how to encourage and motivate new acquaintances. In order to encourage and counsel people of all religious backgrounds, it’s also critical to possess a strong spiritual sensibility. These abilities will enable you to serve the spiritual needs of strangers and forge deep connections while serving as a chaplain.

2. Acquire a bachelor’s degree

Until you have attained at least a bachelor’s degree, many institutions and organizations won’t consider you as a qualified potential chaplain.  Theology and counseling are the most beneficial and pertinent academic areas to concentrate on when aspiring to be a chaplain.

  • With the intention of creating chaplains, several institutions, universities, and seminaries may provide specialist chaplain training. But earning a bachelor’s degree in religion or a closely connected subject is also adequate.
  • If you want to work as a chaplain in a particular setting, such as a hospital or prison, consider adding volunteer experience to your undergraduate degree. When applying for jobs, this will be taken into consideration favorably.
3. Complete training

If your seminary, college, or institution offers it, you might want to explore receiving specialized chaplain training. Consider volunteering if you wish to work as a chaplain for a certain organization. For instance, if you intend to work at a hospital, consider volunteering as an extracurricular activity throughout your college studies. Your chances of landing a job at these organizations may increase if you have this experience.

4. Take into account earning a graduate degree

Take into account earning a master’s degree

Chaplains must possess at least a master’s degree, according to many schools (and some prefer candidates with PhDs). If you want to work as a hospital or military chaplain, this is extremely important. Obtain your master’s in divinity or a comparable discipline, and if the position you want demands a doctorate, think about continuing on to one.

  • Universities with accreditation and seminaries both offer these degrees.
  • You can prepare for chaplain training by concentrating on biblical counselling or pastoral care.
5. Evaluate your requirement for Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) instruction.

Hospital chaplains are frequently obliged to complete this training, which adds practical work experience to academic learning. You will have the chance to help those in need while working at a hospital or prison. Chaplains from all various faiths come together for CPE, which gives them practical, priceless experience they can use later on in their careers. Numerous certification programmes demand it.

  • To obtain experience working with a specific population, look into CPE centers at the kind of facility you want to work at.
  • There are different parts to the CPE curriculum. Usually, it takes three months to finish one unit. You may need to finish up to 4 units to qualify for some certification programmes.
6. Receive an ordination from your religion

Given the religious roots of the chaplain profession, training in religious doctrine and practice is a requirement. Before you can be recruited as a chaplain, in some situations, you may need to be ordained and given your religious organization’s approval. For instance, in order to apply for a position with the US Army, you must be a member of your denomination or faith community’s clergy. Before you may be formally authorized as an acceptable chaplain, you must fulfill the requirements set forth by many religious groups and organizations. Determine the actions you must take to join your congregation’s clergy.

  • A seminary graduate degree will frequently be necessary in order to become a clergyman.
  • Your religious community must also endorse you and state that you have the ecclesiastical credentials necessary to effectively represent your faith community and serve as a qualified chaplain in addition to receiving ordination.
7. Obtain ordination

In certain situations, your employer might insist that you become ordained and receive approval from your religious group. Check to see if this applies to you, and if it does, figure out what measures you must take. Before approving you as a chaplain, some religious organizations or groups may additionally have requirements that you must complete. Any necessary requirements must be met.

8. Obtain certification

You might need to obtain your certification from a group accepted by the Association of Professional Chaplains, depending on your workplace. The standards and requirements that national chaplain organizations use to certify potential chaplains vary. Find the best one for you depending on your religious beliefs and professional objectives. Normally, passing a written exam is required to obtain certification. You would also need to fulfill additional prerequisites, such as becoming ordained as a pastor and earning a graduate theology degree.

9. Ascertain whether you must do a residency

To work as a chaplain, you may need to finish a residency at some hospitals and other organizations. Find out if you have to fulfill this criteria. If you do, a senior priest will oversee your completion of it.

  • In addition to working with patients and medical staff, resident chaplains receive training by attending lectures and seminars.
10. Join a group of chaplains who are professionals

The Association for Professional Chaplains, which welcomes members from a variety of religious traditions, is the largest organization for professional chaplains in the United States. There are other more chaplaincy organizations, and each of them has different criteria for membership. A wonderful approach to connect with other chaplains and obtain access to employment openings as they occur is to join one of these organizations.

Chaplains’ abilities

To offer their services and assistance to a wide spectrum of people, chaplains need a number of talents. You can enhance or add new skills to your skill set by being aware of the abilities required for this job. The following are some chaplains’ typical skills:

Talents in communication

To communicate and converse with people in an effective manner, chaplains require great communication skills. They speak with people when they are in need, particularly using their verbal communication skills. They need listening skills in addition to communication abilities to comprehend a person’s situation and to facilitate dialogue.


In order to comprehend a patient’s or a person’s circumstance, chaplains require empathy. People can tell that someone cares about them and the difficulties they experience in life when they exhibit empathy. Empathy also relaxes the individuals they work with and contributes to the development of trust.

Rationality of thought

Chaplains evaluate a patient’s or an individual’s spiritual needs using their analytical skills. The better they are at analyzing data, the better they are at identifying the needs of their patients and delivering care that is tailored to meet those needs.

Training abilities

To provide educational services, chaplains must possess some form of teaching expertise. They create instructional activities and programmes while utilizing their teaching abilities.

Spiritual wisdom

You must be knowledgeable about a wide range of religions in order to function as a chaplain. It is possible for you to provide spiritual services to persons who have different belief systems if you have a wide range of in-depth information. You can execute rituals from other religions if you have a strong spiritual foundation.

Publicly speaking

Chaplains require good public speaking abilities in addition to regular communication in order to conduct religious services and rituals. The more confident you are in front of an audience, the simpler it will be for others to comprehend your messages of encouragement.

Average salary 

A chaplain’s annual salary in the United States is $47,097. Additionally, they can be eligible for perks like parental leave and help moving. Remember that your particular income or benefits in this position would depend on your region, experience, and company.

Most lucrative cities for chaplains

City                                        Average salary          Hourly rate

San Jose, CA               $68,504               $32.93

Portland, ME                         $56,083               $26.96

Phoenix, AZ                         $53,960               $25.94

Providence, RI               $53,180               $25.57

Minneapolis, MN               $50,487               $24.27

Henderson, NV                 $49,997                 $24.04

Boston, MA                           $49,648                 $23.87

New York, NY                 $49,070                 $23.59

Milwaukee, WI                 $48,490                 $23.31

Seattle, WA                              $46,325                 $22.27

Medford, OR                     $45,711                 $21.98

Rochester, NH                 $45,565                 $21.91

Chicago, IL                             $45,562            $21.90

Toledo, OH                             $45,381                 $21.82

San Antonio, TX                 $43,553                 $20.94

How much chaplains earn in disciplinary  industries ?

Here are some samples of chaplain salaries in several fields of employment:

  • Chaplains receive an annual income of $58,864 on average from the healthcare sector.
  • $51,031 is the average salary in the professional sector.
  • The government sector offers chaplains the lowest wages. The average annual compensation for chaplains in this field is $42,011.

Chaplains salary by year

Year               Average salary                 Hourly rate

2022               $46,400                         $22.30

2021               $45,000                         $21.64

2020               $43,800                             $21.04

2019               $42,100                         $20.23

2018               $40,900                         $19.64

2017               $39,500                         $19.00

2016               $39,300                         $18.87

2015               $39,100                         $18.81

2014               $39,400                         $18.92

2013               $39,400                         $18.95

Chaplain’s Highest Paying Sectors

Industries                      Average salary        hourly rate

Health Care                     $58,864           $28.30

Professional                     $51,031           $24.53

Non Profits                     $46,807           $22.50

Government                     $42,011           $20.20


What professions are comparable to a chaplain’s?

Priests, pastors, missionaries, ministers, directors of religious education, and directors of pastoral care are among the occupations similar to that of a chaplain.

What difficulties in life do chaplains deal with?

Chaplains provide assistance to people and families dealing with a range of difficulties in life. These difficulties include sorrow, substance misuse, and marital problems.

What kinds of settings are chaplains employed in?

Chaplains are employed in various settings. Military bases, hospitals, fire departments, and educational institutions are just a few of these settings.

How do I tell if my chaplain salary is fair?

If your compensation as a chaplain is comparable to the average pay in the state where you reside, you are getting paid properly. For instance, if you reside in Maine, your annual salary should be around $55,445 each year.

What kind of chaplain is compensated the highest?

The Hospice Chaplain earns the most money. The typical Hospice Chaplain salary was $52,027. The top 10 percent of earners earn $63,000 annually, while the bottom 10 percent earn $42,000.

What are hospice chaplains paid?

Hospice chaplains make, on average, $55,000 a year. The annual income for this position can range from $41,000 to $72,000.

The main variable that can impact a hospice chaplain’s remuneration is experience. Chaplains who are new to the field often make between $42,000 and $44,000 a year. Hospice chaplains with 10 years of experience may expect to make an average salary of $61,000 per year.

Is being a chaplain a worthwhile career?

Yes, if you’re interested in helping people, becoming a chaplain is an excellent job choice. It is difficult to find work in this employment field, which has grown to be very competitive.