Chaplaincy Specialization

Help foster God’s presence

in times of distress and pain


Chaplaincy is the ministry of presence. It’s about being in the room, unrushed, and attuned to someone else’s needs – whether that means engaging in a conversation about the meaning of life or fetching someone a coffee while they sit with an injured family member.

Chaplains are best known for their work in healthcare settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes and hospice centers, but they also serve law enforcement officers, first responders, military personnel, and prison inmates. Recently, there has been a surge in chaplains hired to serve employees at large corporations.

Chaplains do essential work by nurturing the heart of a person in a way no one else can:

  • In a hospital, they dedicate time to patients that busy medical personnel can’t spare
  • In a corporate office, they ask the deep questions that coworkers find awkward
  • In the military, they provide a space where vulnerability is safe

In short, their job is to help others process suffering and grief, find meaning in the midst of hardship and loss, and be a companion to people who feel alone and isolated. This spiritual care and support in a moment or season of crisis can have an enormous impact and be deeply satisfying.

Portland Seminary offers chaplain training as a part of our ATS-accredited Master of Divinity program.

Pursue this specialization if ...

  • You have a heart for being present with people in crisis, perhaps because you have experienced loss or trauma yourself
  • You are a retired pastor who wants to continue using your gifts
  • You want to serve in a healthcare, law enforcement, or military setting, but not in a typical role
  • You want to work in an ecumenical context

Hospital Chaplaincy

people praying together

Clinical Pastoral Education

We require students in our chaplaincy program to undergo Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), which is essential for ordination and board certification but is not standard at evangelical seminaries.

CPE brings seminary students into supervised ministry with people in crisis, usually in a hospital setting. As part of the CPE program, you will learn ministry through reflection, discussion and evaluation with other students and a certified CPE supervisor at an Association of Clinical Pastoral Education-accredited training center (Portland Seminary is an ACPE member).

As part of our Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree program, you may choose to do your internship in a CPE setting (requires application to and acceptance by a local CPE center; spaces are limited).

Hospital Chaplaincy Path

Following are the steps to take to become a hospital chaplain:

  1. Acceptance into the MDiv degree program

    Some hospitals are beginning to accept people pursuing 72-hour seminary MA degrees as chaplains, but the MDiv is preferred.

  2. A chaplaincy student would take PSTD 563/564/565 (3 hours) in lieu of internship. CPE units are typically offered in two formats:

    1. Summer (11-week full-time internship): One unit (100 hours of structured training and 300 hours of clinical practice; a stipend is offered by some hospitals)
    2. Fall or Spring (part-time extended unit): One unit spread over four to five months (designed for those working full time; no stipend offered)
  3. Ordination or similar endorsement from the student's denomination
  4. After completion of the MDiv, the individual would apply for a year of residency at an approved CPE training hospital. These are full-time paid positions during which the individual completes an additional three to four units of CPE. Application should be made one year before desired placement.

  5. After fulfilling additional requirements from the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC), the individual would apply for board certification. Students are encouraged to become student members of APC.
The seminary CPE director posts information about several residency programs; students may also contact centers directly through

Military Chaplaincy

military chaplain talking with a soldier

Military Chaplaincy

If you feel called to become a military chaplain, contact the branch of service in which you want to serve. The chaplain representative/recruiter for the area will acquaint you with the scholarships, requirements and steps toward accomplishing this objective.

Most branches of the military require the master of divinity (MDiv) degree for their chaplains. The MDiv course is designed to enable you to prepare for ordination. Each student looking forward to ordination in a particular denomination must secure recommendation from, and follow procedures already established in, that church for such recognition. The seminary assumes no responsibility of this nature.

Those students who attend military chaplaincy school may receive 8 hours of advanced standing depending on the training.


Haley Holman

Haley Holman

Admissions Counselor, Portland Seminary