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Chaplain: Job Description

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Chaplains typically serve in either the military services or as in-house spiritual counselors in hospitals or other medical care facilities. Military communities and hospitals often rely on chaplains to offer spiritual and religious advice, just like clergy members in other parts of society.


Military and hospital chaplains are responsible for counseling and advising service personnel or patients and their family members on religious or spiritual matters. Military chaplains can preside over weddings, christenings, funerals or other ceremonies. They can lead military groups in worship services, conduct study groups and serve as grief counselors.

Unlike other clergy, military and hospital chaplains can be from any faith, and be called on to counsel those from faiths other than their own. Hospital chaplains serve as advisers and counselors to patients, family members and hospital employees dealing with the effects of injuries, illnesses or death.


Like other clergy members, chaplains can come from diverse backgrounds. Most are formally educated at a university or seminary, while others may ascend to their positions with little formal education. Military chaplains are officers, and must meet the requirements of officer candidates before they can enter the armed forces, which include having a bachelor's degree. Hospital and health care chaplain requirements vary by the facility.


Chaplains, like other clergy, must be empathetic and able to handle situations of great stress and sadness. They are often involved in some of the most intimate moments of a person's life, and must be able to provide emotional support and stability in times of both happiness and grief. Chaplains can be called on to participate in formal ceremonies, and the ability to maintain a professional demeanor appropriate to the situation is required.

Daily Life

Chaplains can generally be expected to work whenever their services are needed, though most hospital chaplains keep relatively steady work weeks. Because religious services are often held on the weekends or holidays, these professionals typically work at such times. Military chaplains can work on bases, or be deployed with troops in combat areas.


According to Salary.com, the average salary for a chaplain in the United States in 2009 was about $45,000. The top 25 percent earned more than $48,000, while the lowest 25 percent earned less than $42,000. Military chaplain salaries are dependent on rank and years of service. As officers, chaplains can earn between $2,655 and $12,172 a month.