Becoming a Chaplain: Salary Information & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a chaplain? Get real information on job duties, educational requirements and salary information to see if a career as a chaplain is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Chaplain

If you are a looking for a career that allows you to work in a compassionate environment that showcases your faith, becoming a chaplain may be for you. Continue reading for the pros and cons of this career.

Pros of a Career as a Chaplain
Careers available in multiple industries such as healthcare or the military*
Average salary of around $47,000*
Job requires helping and comforting people**
Allows you to integrate your faith into your career**

Cons of a Career as a Chaplain
Extensive education is needed, at least graduate school in most cases**
Some work, such as palliative or end-of life practice, may be depressing or upsetting**
Work as a military chaplain can require overseas and battlefield work
Must be able to integrate your opinion and faith without pushing or being overbearing**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **O*Net OnLine

Essential Career Information

A career as a chaplain allows you to provide support and compassion to people in need. Work as a chaplain is not limited to one particular industry as hospitals, the military, hospice care and even religious schools generally use the services of a chaplain. You must be ordained in the particular faith that you wish to serve in order to practice, and you may be required to not only lead services, but also offer religious or faith-based counseling to those in need. As a chaplain, your job may require some amount of travel, visiting the sick, imprisoned or dying. The job may be very emotional and all material should be considered confidential and highly sensitive.

The BLS reports that the average salary for a chaplain or other members of the clergy profession was around $47,730 per year in 2014. This salary may increase greatly according to the industry in which you work. According to the BLS, chaplains working for the Federal government can make nearly $73,000 per year on average. Exact salary stats will vary by industry. Most available careers are offered on a full-time basis and provide a salary that correlates with years of experience.

Education and Training Requirements

While some on-the-job training does occur for chaplains, in most cases, you will need at least a master's degree in divinity or theology in order to practice. These degree programs usually take around three years to complete and can help you on your path to becoming ordained. Some employers may also require that you have certification credits, commonly known as Clinical Pastoral Education credits (CPE), through the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). The ACPE is an excellent resource and community for aspiring and practicing chaplains and other clergy members for their careers. The organization offers support, job training, education and certifications, in addition to career postings. Available job postings from April 2012 reflect the following for organizations seeking a chaplain:

  • A hospital in Connecticut is looking for a chaplain who is able to work full-time with the sick and their families. This position requires that the chaplain have at least two years of experience in oncology, hospice or palliative care.
  • In Massachusetts, a religious healthcare network is looking for a chaplain who is capable of working with the dying. This position requires CPE certifications and a master's level education.
  • A hospice care center in Pennsylvania seeks a chaplain who has hospice or healthcare experience and is able to travel to various locations as assigned.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

In order to make your skills stand out to potential employers, you will need to demonstrate a high level of compassion, listening ability and faith. You will also need to be ordained, possess a master's degree and obtain multiple certifications/educational credits. Various faiths may prefer different courses or certifications, so it is important to understand what is required by employers. You may also need to seek certification from the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC). The APC is a multi-faith organization that certifies chaplains through an application and interview process. Once approved by the board, the chaplain is granted certification from the APC.

Other Careers to Consider

If you do not feel that a career as a chaplain is right for you, similar careers do exist. Some alternative careers do not require a concentration in faith, but do help people in different ways. If you do not feel that an ordained religious career is right for you, you may find one of these options more appealing.

Counseling Psychologist

A career as a counseling psychologist has many parallels to that of a chaplain. Counseling psychologists assess and help individuals who are living with personal and social issues. This profession requires a higher level of education, usually a doctoral degree and has an average salary of around $67,000 as of May 2011, reports the BLS. The job growth for this profession is also expected to grow faster than the national average, 20-28% from 2010-2020, which is higher than the rate of growth for a chaplain, according to O*Net OnLine.

Director of Religious Activities

Another potential career that you can consider is that of a director of religious education or activities. This possession usually requires a master's degree, but does not require that you become ordained. In this career, you will be responsible for planning and executing religious events, camps, seminars and other educational programs. Some counseling may be required as well. This profession has a slightly lower pay than that of a chaplain at around $36,000 per year. A director of religious education/activities can also expect an average growth rate for the career at around 10-19% from 2010-2020.

Popular Schools

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    1. Regent University

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    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Ministry - Clinical Pastoral Education
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      • Master of Theology - Pastoral Theology
      • Master of Arts in Practical Theology - Church and Ministry
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      • Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies
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      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Christian Ministry
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Christian Ministry
      • Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies - Biblical Studies
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    2. Johns Hopkins University

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    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Museum Studies
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    3. Grand Canyon University

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      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Christian Ministry
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      • B.A. in Christian Studies - Biblical Studies
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    4. Concordia University Portland

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      • Master of Science - Bible Literacy
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    5. Penn Foster High School

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    6. Excelsior College

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      • MA in Liberal Studies
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    7. Abilene Christian University

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    8. Judson University

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      • Associate of Arts
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    Loyola University Chicago

Featured Schools

Regent University

  • Doctor of Ministry - Clinical Pastoral Education
  • Master of Theology - Pastoral Theology
  • Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies

What is your highest level of education completed?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts in Museum Studies
  • Master of Liberal Arts

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Christian Ministry
  • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with an Emphasis in Christian Ministry
  • B.A. in Christian Studies - Biblical Studies

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Concordia University Portland

  • Master of Science - Bible Literacy

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Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

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Excelsior College

  • MA in Liberal Studies
  • BA / BS in Liberal Arts [Without Concentration]
  • AS in Arts in Liberal Arts

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Abilene Christian University

  • Master of Arts in Christian Ministry
  • Master of Divinity

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Judson University

  • Associate of Arts

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