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Informal Perspectives on CPE
and Careers in Chaplaincy


The following ten questions cover basic information about Clinical Pastoral Education and the relationship of CPE to careers in professional chaplaincy.
You may click on a question in the list to go directly to that topic.
More information may be found on the web site of The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (www.acpe.edu), especially the section on Prospective Student Information and Frequently Asked Questions. 1) What is Clinical Pastoral Education?
2) What is the value of CPE?
3) How does one become a chaplain?
4) Are there any recognized standards for chaplaincy?
5) What are the requisite qualifications for membership in such chaplaincy organizations?
6) Do religious groups or denominations certify chaplains?
7) Does the ACPE have membership?
8) What are some of the other pastoral care and chaplaincy related organizations?
9) How can one learn of professional opportunities in pastoral care and chaplaincy?
10) What are the requirements for certification as an ACPE Supervisor?


1) What is Clinical Pastoral Education?

CPE is interfaith professional education for ministry. It is a closely supervised, small-group, experiential educational process for effectiveness in ministry.

CPE is not certification for professional chaplaincy. In the same way that Seminary or Bible School courses help prepare one for ministry, but do not make one a minister, so CPE helps prepare one for chaplaincy but does not make one a chaplain. The ACPE accredits Centers to offer ACPE programs and certifies Supervisors as the "educators" in the movement.

2) What is the value of CPE?

CPE helps provide a knowledge base regarding pastoral ministry and specific settings for ministry, to develop skills for pastoral ministry, and to explore gifts and motivations for ministry.

CPE learning is considered transferable to ministry settings beyond institutional chaplaincy and is required by some seminaries for graduation and by some religious groups for ordination or endorsement.

3) How does one become a chaplain?

There is no simple answer to this question. Unlike medicine and nursing, there are no licensing laws for chaplains in Pennsylvania or most other states. Therefore, anyone can call himself or herself a chaplain, and any institution can have whomever they please as a chaplain. Institutions accredited by the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) are encouraged to provide formally qualified persons to function as chaplaincy department directors.

4) Are there any recognized standards for chaplaincy?

Several national chaplaincy organizations certify chaplains according to their own standards and procedures. Membership in these organizations seems to have an increasing value as a qualification for institutional chaplaincy. But the value of membership may still be more as a support to chaplains in their ministry through collegial relationships and continuing education, than they are as a requirement for being hired as an institutional chaplain. It is not uncommon to see advertisements for chaplaincy positions requiring one to four units of CPE as a qualification without explicitly requiring "certified chaplain" credentials.

5) What are the requisite qualifications for membership in such chaplaincy organizations?

The largest single chaplaincy membership group in the United States is the Association for Professional Chaplains. The APC accepts members from many faith groups. APC Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) requirements include four units of Clinical Pastoral Education, three years of approved theological education, ordination and endorsement by a faith group, and one year experience as a chaplain. The National Association of Catholic Chaplains and the National Association of Jewish Chaplains have similar membership requirements. Each organization should be contacted directly regarding accurate and current information on their requirements, procedures, services, etc.

6) Do religious groups or denominations certify chaplains?

Many religious bodies have endorsing processes for chaplaincy based on their own qualifications and procedures. This is especially true of endorsement for military chaplaincy by religious bodies and denominations.

7) Does the ACPE have membership?

The ACPE has several categories of membership, which allow individuals and institutions to participate in the education mission of the ACPE. Contact the ACPE for further information. Click on the "Other Sites" link (in the header of this page) for a direct link to the ACPE.

8) What are some of the other pastoral care and chaplaincy related organizations?

A list of direct internet links to other organizations related to pastoral care and chaplaincy may be found by clicking on the "Other Sites" link (in the header of this page). Any questions about the activities, qualifications, and procedures of the various organizations should be directed to those organizations.

9) How can one learn of professional opportunities in pastoral care and chaplaincy?

The newsletters and web sites of various professional chaplaincy organizations often list job opportunities at a national level. Various denominational boards and agencies often maintain lists of professional opportunities. Informal networking through membership and participation in various professional organizations, as well as volunteer activities with local institutions, may provide access to opportunities. Keeping your training programs aware of your needs, interests, and current status may also serve to identify opportunities.

10) What are the requirements for certification as an ACPE Supervisor?

CPE Supervisors must have a Masters of Divinity degree or equivalent, ordination or commission to function in ministry by appropriate religious authority, faith group endorsement, and pastoral experience. ACPE standards define the competencies that Supervisors must demonstrate and the steps necessary to be certified by the ACPE.