That depends on who you are and what God has written on your heart. If you have a deeply compassionate heart and care about people in need; if you want to make a real difference in people in crisis, then the answer is definitely Yes! Join the 10,000 chaplains of different faiths who daily serve in diverse settings including: hospitals, hospice, palliative care, mental health, prisons and other settings where people experience life’s pain and setbacks. Caring chaplains can help people who seek to understand their lives from a faith perspective. You can be with them offering them hope, healing, and strength through your loving presence.
Who becomes a chaplain?
Chaplains come from diverse backgrounds: health care, education, pastoral ministry, social work, and many other careers in the business and non-profit worlds. Most will speak of a the common tug of their own religious calling to ministry, to be with and make a difference in the lives of those who experience life’s most challenging and painful moments, and to witness to God’s healing presence in the midst of suffering.
How would I know?
Ask any chaplain what triggered his or her call and the answers will be different. For some it begins with a spiritual questioning or awakening, for others it was the experience of suffering and someone being there for them as a supportive presence; for some the call emerges with the first clinical pastoral education unit, for others the call may come as they experience God’s healing love at a time of personal loss. The core of each call is the self-awareness of attraction to be a listening, compassionate presence to others in times of suffering.
So what does a chaplain do?
The core of the chaplain’s ministry is being a compassionate, pastoral presence to those who are suffering and to those who serve as caregivers, such as family and staff. Chaplains hear an incredible array of life stories in their daily ministries. A chaplain assesses the spiritual care a patient might need, provides spiritual care programs and services, facilitates ethical decision-making, is part of interdisciplinary care teams, and works with other leaders to cultivate a culture of spirituality within the organization which he or she serves. The work of a Chaplain is a richly blessed and rewarding ministry.
Are there jobs? Is there a demand?
Yes, and there will be, are the answers. Right now there are professional chaplain positions for Catholic board-certified chaplains throughout the country with critical shortages in some areas (and more rural locations have higher demand for qualified chaplains). We anticipate within five years that the demand for Catholic chaplains will grow as the baby boomer and older generation of chaplains retire. The average age of Catholic chaplains is about 63. We need you to begin discerning if this ministry is for you NOW!
Does it pay enough? Can I make it a viable career?
Shared efforts among chaplain associations have helped make the case for compensating chaplains comparably to other Master’s degree and clinically trained professionals. Right now certified chaplains are compensated similar to or better than most other ministries, with salaries ranging from the $30,000’s to the $60,000’s and typically excellent benefit packages. Leadership opportunities abound, with directorship and supervisory level positions open all over the country. You can make a wonderful career of this profession. Let us get you in touch with a professional chaplain to discuss the varied opportunities.
How would I get started?
You already did by visiting the NACC website and reading this. Let’s start with what you need to be ready to become a NACC certified chaplain. The chaplaincy profession has common standards for certification to become a Board Certified Chaplain. To become an NACC certified chaplain there are several requirements, including: membership in NACC, being a Roman Catholic in good standing, successful completion of at least four units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in an accredited CPE center, a Master’s degree in theology, divinity, religious studies, pastoral studies, or spirituality granted or acknowledged by an accredited academic institution, and meeting competencies found in the NACC standards for certification. You can read about these and other requirements here.
But I need to be working, how can I complete these requirements?
Early on, many a chaplain has said, “I know it’s my call, I have to make it happen.” Masters level education in theology or pastoral ministry can be achieved in diverse ways (full time, part time, on line) at graduate schools throughout the country. The Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) units can be taken over an extended period of time, or in an intensive one-year residency which is usually modestly compensated. Many employers will consider hiring a person with one CPE unit or more knowing this person’s plan is to complete certification. Don’t be put off by the requirements. Being certified positions you in the profession and among the other interdisciplinary professionals with whom you will be working.
Who do I contact about my interest?
Please contact us at the NACC (414-483-4898 or firstname.lastname@example.org), and will we will pleased to direct you to the best person to explore your interest. We will do everything we can to have you meet personally with a board certified chaplain in your area to learn more about chaplaincy, or else have you speak with one by telephone.
Below are some preliminary resources about chaplaincy as a profession. Follow these links to learn more about what chaplains do, who they are, and why they do what they do.
Read Chaplain ministry experiences in Chaplain Encounters: Stories of Grace and Spiritual Healing
from the National Association of Catholic Chaplains
• Peruse the Stories of Chaplaincy’s calling to learn how some of our members arrived at the vocation of chaplaincy.
• Chaplain – A Healing Presence is a ministry awareness PowerPoint slideshow created by the NACC
• Read two of the most-requested articles that have appeared in our newsletter, Vision, over the years:
Chaplains Are More Than What Chaplains Do by Rev. Stephen Ryan, OSM
Do You Want to See the Chaplain? by Joan E. Carlson
• Board Certification by the NACC is the typical goal of our members. Read more about this here:
Frequently-Asked Questions about Certification (See the first FAQ “What does certification by the National Association of Catholic Chaplains mean?”)
• Is God Calling You? is a 7-minute promotional video that serves as an introduction to chaplaincy.
View it below or on our YouTube channel.