What Education Does a Hospital Chaplain Need?

| Staff Writers

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If you are interested in faith ministry but not in pastoring a church, you might consider becoming a hospital chaplain.

These professionals assume many duties working with staff, patients and families at times of stress. What kind of education do you need to become a chaplain?

The Chaplain’s Role

To answer the question of what education is needed, you should look at the duties of a chaplain.

First, chaplains act as faith counselors. People of faith often react differently to illness than do others and counseling them requires someone of like faith, or at least someone familiar with the part faith plays in dealing with illness and death.

Many denominations allow people without formal training to pastor churches, but they probably could not get positions as professional chaplains. State regulations also do not require persons who call themselves counselors to have specific training. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is usually required, however, to become a professional hospital chaplain. These people visit patients who are dealing with heavy issues and a knowledge of psychology is needed to understand their reactions.

Chaplains also help the families of patients deal with their loved one’s illness and, sometimes, impending death. Chaplains usually hold office hours and counsel hospital staff members as well. They lead religious services within the facility and often officiate at funerals.

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The Chaplain’s Training

So, with those duties in mind, it is easy to see why hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers would require chaplains to have formal education.

The denomination from which the chaplain comes may have some requirements as well. Most healthcare facilities require professional chaplains to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Ordination is usually not required, according to Learn.com, unless the chaplaincy is at a church-affiliated hospital or nursing home.

You might get your counseling degree from a secular university, but you will need theology and ministry courses as well. Military chaplains have master’s degrees and must undergo basic training just as would any service person.

After getting their degrees, chaplains should seek certification. This ensures a standard of proficiency. The largest chaplain certification organization in the United States is the Association of Professional Chaplains.

You will need to pursue graduate-level coursework called Clinical Pastoral Education, which is usually four, three month terms, and then serve a residency. The denomination with which you are affiliated may have other requisites as well.

Job Outlook and Salary

The projected job growth for clergy of all types is ten percent, which is lower than the average job growth in the United States. The highest mean salary is for those chaplains employed by home health agencies, followed by those employed by general surgical hospitals. Those salaries are $49,560 and $49, 430 respectively. (Source: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes212011.htm)

Military chaplains are officers and their pay depends upon experience and years of duty, but with non-cash benefits and bonuses, these professionals could earn up to $99,000 annually.

If you have a desire to help people and serve God, a job as a chaplain may be the career for you. Working in a healthcare facility will mean you assist people at times of high stress. A college degree and certification are the starting point, but your own personality and desire will determine your success at becoming a hospital chaplain.

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