How to Become a Chaplain
Are you interested in becoming a professional chaplain? With five accredited centers in Central Florida, Chicagoland, Kansas and Texas, we offer high-quality, graduate-level education with master’s degree programs in spiritual care and divinity. Get to know AdventHealth University’s Master of Science in Spiritual Care and learn about professional chaplaincy requirements, CPE programs and more on this page.
We also invite you to download this guide to mapping your path to chaplaincy.
Professional Chaplaincy Qualifications and Competencies
In general, professional chaplains have:
- Graduate-Level Theological Education
Graduate-Level Theological Education
Typically, professional chaplains have a master’s degree in spiritual care, a Master of Divinity or a 72-credit hour equivalent. Learn about AdventHealth University’s Master of Science in Spiritual Care degree program.
- Four Units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)
Four Units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)
This takes about one and a half years to complete if you do an initial unit and then engage in a CPE clinical residency.
- Professional Chaplaincy Practice
Professional Chaplaincy Practice
Upon completion of your academic and CPE requirements, you’re typically ready for a professional ministry. Some contexts have different requirements for CPE completion before you are hired, and others will hire chaplains as needed before completion of academic or CPE preparation.
- Faith Community Endorsement
Faith Community Endorsement
This is a chaplain’s acknowledgment that they are affirmed and acknowledged as a representative of the faith community, ministering in a specialized context outside of a denomination or community of faith. Endorsement is an important connection for the chaplain, as a support and professional accountability partner in ministry.
- Board Certification
After completing the academic and CPE requirements, along with a minimum of 2,000 hours of professional ministry practice, the chaplain is eligible to seek board certification by the Association of Professional Chaplains. Board certification of chaplains is a peer-reviewed process that affirms one’s gifts, skills, training and competencies for basic chaplaincy practice.
Frequently Asked Questions Answered
We’re here to answer your questions about CPE and becoming a chaplain so you’re informed and confident.
Question: Can I Take a First Unit of CPE if I Haven’t Completed My Graduate Theological Education?Answer:
Yes. While theological education is encouraged and preferred, you may take your first unit since CPE focuses on how your theological perspective informs your ministry. An initial unit of CPE will provide you with the opportunity to learn and practice important skills and opportunities for self-awareness that will inform any ministry you are called to.Continue Reading
CPE is meaningful learning for all types of ministers, not just chaplains, as it focuses on skills specifically related to spiritual care. Many students who complete one unit of CPE do not sense a calling to chaplaincy. Maybe you are one of the deacons, Stephen’s Ministers, elders, Bible study leaders or many others who want to learn more about providing care in times of crisis and grief, or to really listen as part of your personal ministry.
Those sensing a call to professional chaplaincy are encouraged to have completed or be engaged in theological education while completing CPE. This allows for the important integration of theology and ministry that is key to becoming a professional chaplain.
Question: Do Units of CPE That Are Not ACPE-Accredited Count?Answer:
To apply to AdventHealth Orlando’s CPE System Center residency programs, you need to have completed at least one ACPE-accredited unit of CPE.
Question: How Do I Know if My Seminary or University Is CHEA-Accredited?Answer:
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) has a searchable online database of institutions and programs accredited by recognized accrediting organizations in the United States. Learn more about CHEA-accredition here.
Question: How Do I Know if My Program Meets the 72-Hour Equivalency for Board Certification?Answer:
The Association of Professional Chaplains (APC), along with its affiliate, the Board of Chaplaincy Certification, Inc. (BCCI), have established common qualifications and competencies for professional chaplaincy. APC can review your program and coursework to advise if it meets the equivalency.Continue Reading