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Presbyterian Chaplains

Becoming a Chaplain


Contemplating ministry

A call to serve as a chaplain must be approached with an openness to God’s leading, and as Presbyterians, a commitment to listen to the voice of the Church throughout the process of discernment.  We pray that reading through this section will assist you in discerning the ministry to which God is calling you.

Ministry in the federal chaplaincies is both unique and challenging. Chaplains work in an interfaith environment that requires a commitment to ensuring that the rights of all personnel to practice the faith of their choosing, or to practice no faith at all, must be respected and upheld.

As you think about this you might like to check out the FAQs page.

1) The first place to start this process is talking to your home church pastor, or friend.

This is a discussion between you, God, your family, and the Church. Pray about it, talk it over with your family, your pastor, or a trusted friend in ministry, then pray some more.  Of course, you must meet your denomination’s requirements for ordination.  Please include your Presbytery in the discussion — your Committee on Ministry or Committee on Preparation for Ministry is a good place to start. Your pastor will know how to get in contact with the appropriate Presbytery committee.

2) The federal government requires that you have a minimum of an earned graduate degree from an accredited college or university with at less 72-semester hours or 108-quarter hours of graduate credit in theological or religious studies.

The standard is a Master of Divinity degree. If your degree is from a foreign educational institution, it will have to be evaluated in order to determine its equivalency with a degree earned in an accredited school located in the United States.  The Program of Alternative Studies certificate is not an equivalent degree program recognized by the Federal Government for chaplains.

3) You must have at least 2 years of post-ordination experience as a pastor.

The Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Veterans Affairs all  requires this.  They do so to ensure that individuals considering federal chaplaincy are well grounded in the faith traditions and pastoral practices of their faith groups.  Some individuals,  upon completion of seminary, may enter the Reserve or National Guard chaplaincies, but service standards vary.  The PCCMP is in the process of developing minimum standards for post-ordination experience.  They will be published here when they are approved.

4) Department of Veterans Affairs Chaplains must have a minimum of 2 units of Clinical Pastoral Education.

Two units is the minimum requirement; having four or more units increases your chances of being hired.  Special training and certification also improves your position in the hiring process.  Several VA medical centers around the country have CPE programs.  Several individuals have completed four CPE units within a VA CPE program, and then have been hired by the VA. This is not a guarantee; at this time, it is unusual for an individual to get hired for the first job they apply for. Typically, it takes several attempts and a willingness to move to where the job is located. VA jobs are posted on

5) If you are enrolled in seminary or have been accepted into seminary, you may be eligible for a Military Chaplain Candidate Program.

This is a great avenue for learning about military chaplaincy while you complete your theological education. As a commissioned officer, you will receive duty pay during your active training time. Some seminaries and presbyteries may also consider this as part of your education experience. Find out more on the Seminary Student Page.

6) In order to receive an endorsement from the PCCMP, you must be an ordained pastor in one of the four denominations we represent.

Please call us if you have any questions about this.

7) PCCMP endorsement does not guarantee a federal job.

The Department of Defense, the Department of Justice and the Department of Veterans Affairs are highly selective and often have many more applicants than positions.

Links for additional information

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