Hospital Chaplain Education and Career Pathways

By | July 16, 2023
Hospital Chaplain Education
The hospital chaplain education begins with a Bachelor’s degree in in Theology or Religion. Image source: vitality.

This post provides complete information on the hospital chaplain education and career, to help you meet the requirements to become one and advance your career.

Please, keep reading:

Why Choose Hospital Chaplain Career?

Here are some of the reasons you should choose to become a hospital chaplain:


  1. get to help others.
  2. can work in any part of the world.
  3. get to meet different people from all walks of life.
  4. will be able to travel all around the world.
  5. get to impart people’s lives positively every day.

Hospital Chaplain Education Requirements

The educational requirements for becoming a hospital chaplain vary by country. The minimum education requirement is usually an undergraduate degree with a major in theology or religion.

However, many hospitals prefer candidates with graduate degrees.

Hospital Chaplain Continuing Education

Continuing education is required for most hospital chaplains, and there are two types of continuing education you can take as a hospital chaplain:

One type is general continuing education that includes topics such as ethics, spirituality, counseling, pastoral care, etc.

Another type is specific continuing education that covers topics related to particular areas of ministry such as hospice care, palliative care, end-of-life care, grief support, etc.

Hospital Chaplain Certification/License

Certification is not required, however it is strongly advised. Most hospitals require certification before they allow their chaplains to offer services to patients and family members.

Some hospitals may even require a license to practice medicine. A hospital chaplain must be licensed by the state where he or she practices.

Hospital Chaplain Career Pathways

There are several career pathways for hospital chaplains. These include:

  1. Director of social services

The director of social services oversees the social service department of the hospital.

He or she also supervises the chaplains who provide spiritual care to patients, family members, and staff of the social service department.

2. Chaplaincy program director

This position requires at least a Master’s degree in theology or religious studies. It involves overseeing the day-to-day activities of the chaplaincy program.

3. Clinical chaplain

Clinical chaplains perform direct patient care. They are involved in providing spiritual care to patients and family members during their stay in the hospital.

4. Hospice chaplain

Hospice chaplains serve patients who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses. Their primary duty is to provide emotional, physical, spiritual, and psychological support to those who are dying.

5. Spiritual care coordinator

Spiritual care coordinators assist chaplains who provide direct patient care. They coordinate the chaplains’ schedules, ensure that chaplains receive training on how to handle difficult situations, and oversee the chaplain‘s performance reviews. 

Other career pathways for the hospital chaplain include:

  • Pastoral counselor
  • Religious studies professor
  • Organizational development specialist
  • Community outreach

How to Advance your Hospital Chaplain Career

If you want to advance your hospital chaplain career, here are several ways to do so:

  1. Get a degree

You can start by obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Theology or Religious Study. This will help you become more familiar with the field of chaplaincy.

2. Certifications

Once you obtain a Bachelor’s degree, you can then pursue certifications. You can take courses online through accredited universities.

Certifications are good because they show employers that you know what you are doing.

3. Volunteer work

Volunteering is another way to gain experience in this field. You can volunteer at an organization like the American Cancer Society, which has many opportunities for volunteers.

4. Join professional organizations

Professional associations are great places to network and get job leads. You can join the National Association of Healthcare Chaplains (NAHC), the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC), and the International Association of Pastoral Care (IAPC).

5. Network

Networking is very important when you are looking for jobs. You should attend conferences and seminars related to your chosen profession.

How to find a Good Hospital Chaplain School

Choosing a school to go to is not easy. There are hundreds of schools out there. However, here are some tips to make sure that you choose the right one:

  1. Accreditation

The first thing you need to look into is accreditation. A school must be accredited if it wants to offer degrees.

If a school is not accredited, it means that it does not follow the guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Education.

2. Location

Choosing a school close to where you live is better than choosing a distant school. It is also easier to commute from home to school.

3. Faculty credentials

When choosing a school, you need to check whether its faculty members hold a Master’s degree.

The best hospitals chaplain programs have highly qualified professors.

4. Student-to-faculty ratio

Another thing to consider is that students should not feel overwhelmed by too much teaching going on.

In addition, students should not feel isolated from other people.

5. Online options

There are also online options available. These are great choices for busy professionals.

6. Tuition fees

Tuition fees vary depending on the program offered. Some programs cost as little as $10,000 while others cost up to $50,000.

How to be Successful in your Hospital Chaplain Career

Being successful in your hospital chaplain career depends on how well you perform in different aspects of your life. Here are some things that you need to remember:

  1. Be positive

It is important to stay positive throughout your entire career. Being negative will only affect you negatively.

2. Get involved

Getting involved in church activities and community service projects is a great way to meet new people.

3. Networking

Networking is essential to being successful. You need to build relationships with people who can help you find a job or give you advice about your career.

4. Keep learning

Continuing education is vital to staying ahead of the game. You can always learn more about your profession.

5. Stay humble

You cannot succeed unless you know your limitations. Always try to improve yourself.

6. Have fun

Having fun is an integral part of success. Enjoy what you do!

What Does a Hospital Chaplain Do?

As mentioned earlier, a hospital chaplain works at a hospital. He/she helps patients cope with their illness.

They provide spiritual care to patients and families.

Hospitals chaplains may also work with doctors and nurses to ensure that they understand the religious needs of their patients.

Qualities of a Good Hospital Chaplain

A good hospital chaplain has these qualities:

  • Has compassion

Compassion is the most important quality of a hospital chaplain. Chaplains should show empathy towards patients and their families.

  • Is knowledgeable

Chaplains should be knowledgeable about religion and spirituality. This allows them to serve their patients well.

  • Is trustworthy

Chaplains should be honest and reliable. Patients and their family members trust them because they know that they will never lie to them.

  • Has empathy

Empathy means understanding the feelings of others. A good hospital chaplain understands the emotions of his/her patients.

Hospital Chaplain Salary

According to, the starting compensation for a hospital chaplain/pastor ranges from $56,100 to $68,300, with a basic income of $62,300 on average.

However, according to PayScale, hospital chaplains make a median yearly pay of $47,100.

Hospital Chaplain Job Outlook

According to the BLS, the number of hospital chaplains will increase by 16% through 2026, which is substantially faster than the national average.


A hospital chaplain is someone who provides pastoral care to patients and their family members.

This person helps them deal with their problems and emotional issues. As such, he/she has many responsibilities.  

To be successful as a hospital chaplain, one needs to have good communication skills, be compassionate, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

This post has provided detailed information about the hospital chaplain career, including the education you need to have to become one.