Chaplain Job Description
Chaplains provide spiritual guidance, counseling, and solace to people of all ages and belief systems. Mental health, medical health, and government facilities hire chaplains to work full-time shifts, usually during regular daytime business hours. Chaplains may be required to work on-call hours during nights and weekends so they’re available during emergencies and crisis situations. Travel is not generally required for this job, as chaplains conduct their work within the hiring facility.
Chaplain Duties and Responsibilities
A chaplain’s job duties vary based on the hiring facility’s size and the number of patients and staff members they care for. However, there are several core job tasks associated with this job despite these factors, including:
Counsel Patients and Families
Chaplains provide counseling services to people going through personal and emotional challenges of all sorts.
Provide Spiritual Support
Chaplains answer faith-based questions and provide spiritual guidance to patients and staff members across various religious belief systems.
Perform Religious Services
Chaplains perform religious ceremonies including weddings, funerals, and baptismal events. They also perform prayer and meditation services in group and one-on-one settings.
Oversee Education Programs
Chaplains lead and manage faith-based education programs, like Sunday school.
Create Care Plans
Chaplains design spiritual care plans for patients and collaborate on treatment plans with medical and mental health staff members.
Chaplains evaluate patients and document findings from these evaluations in medical charts.
Provide Crisis Intervention
Chaplains provide crisis intervention services in times of death and other tragic events.
Chaplain Skills and Qualifications
Chaplains are excellent listeners and compassionate professionals with extensive spiritual knowledge who provide counseling and guidance to those in times of crisis and emotional instability. Facilities that hire chaplains look for professionals who have the following essential skills:
- Spiritual knowledge – chaplains must understand multiple faiths in order to administer services to people of all belief systems and perform rituals of all religions
- Public speaking – as chaplains conduct religious services and ceremonies, good public speaking skills are essential for professionals in this role
- Teaching – chaplains conduct educational services, which requires some teaching ability
- Communication skills – chaplains need excellent listening and verbal communication skills in order to speak with people in times of tragedy, crisis, and emotional upheaval
- Analytical thinking – because chaplains evaluate patients and assess their spiritual needs, strong analytical thinking skills are a must-have for this job
- Interpersonal skills – chaplains use well-honed interpersonal skills to speak with people of all ages and faiths and help them open up about their most intimate problems and emotions
Chaplain Education and Training
Employers require chaplains to have a master’s degree in spirituality, theology, divinity, religious studies, or a related field of study. In addition to education, chaplains must be certified or be eligible for board certification through the Association of Jewish Chaplains (NAJC), the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC), or a similar faith-based organization. Many hiring companies also require chaplains to have past experience administering spiritual services in a clinical setting of some type.
Little training is provided to chaplains, who already have the knowledge and education needed to perform their core job functions. Chaplains may go through a brief orientation once hired, which typically lasts less than one week, in order to become familiar with the facility and the staff members who work within it.
Chaplain Salary and Outlook
According to data from PayScale, chaplains earn $48,384 in median yearly income. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that social workers earn a median income of $47,980 yearly and $23.07 hourly. Like chaplains, social workers help people manage their emotional problems and cope with daily life during tragedy, and also evaluate emotional and mental health issues. The BLS estimates that employment in this field will grow 16 percent by 2026, a rate that’s much faster than the national average.
A majority of chaplains receive healthcare benefits that include medical and dental coverage. Paid vacation days and holidays are also standard benefits offered by most employers.
Learn how to become a chaplain and find success in this career path with certification programs, spiritual techniques, job openings, and strategies provided in these books and websites:
Association of Professional Chaplains – learn more about chaplain certification programs, look for professional resources, and browse various publications at this website designed for chaplains of all faiths
The Work of the Chaplain – this book provides an overview of what it’s like to be a professional chaplain, serving as an introductory guide for those starting out in this career field
American Chaplains Association – read newsletters, browse certification programs, look for upcoming events, and find out more about becoming a chaplain at the ACA website
Handbook for Chaplains: Comfort My People – this handbook’s outline of major faiths around the world helps chaplains design religious ceremonies and cater their spiritual counseling to people of varying belief systems
Spiritual Care Association – explore the learning center, browse resources, and learn more about upcoming spiritual events at this site dedicated to all spiritual leaders and caregivers
Essential Chaplain Skill Sets: Discovering Effective Ways to Provide Excellent Spiritual Care – this easy-to-read book contains practical tips and resources for chaplains to help them master the art of administering spiritual care
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