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Chaplaincy Specialization

Chaplaincy Specialization

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 soda 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. Their job is to help others process grief, find meaning in the midst of hardship, and know they are not alone.

At Portland Seminary, faculty are dedicated to preparing students for success. Instead of studying chaplaincy in the abstract, students work with a professor who has years of hands-on experience as a chaplain and connections to chaplains in a variety of fields. The seminary also requires students in the chaplaincy program to undergo Clinical Pastoral Education, which is essential for ordination and board certification but is not standard at evangelical seminaries.

Note: Students considering military chaplaincy should contact a recruiter for the branch of interest. The recruiter will provide detailed information about requirements and scholarships.


Offered With


Who It’s For

  • Students who have a heart for being present with people in crisis, perhaps because they have experienced loss or trauma themselves
  • Retired pastors who want to continue using their gifts
  • Students who want to serve in a healthcare, law enforcement, or military setting, but not in a typical role
  • Students who want to work in an ecumenical context

Hospital Chaplaincy Training

Clinical Pastoral Education

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) brings seminary students into supervised ministry with people in crisis, usually in a hospital setting. Portland Seminary is a member of the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education. The heart of CPE is ministry with people and learning from that ministry through reflection, discussion, and evaluation with other students and a certified CPE supervisor at an ACPE accredited training center. Any Portland Seminary student in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree program may choose to do his or her internship in a CPE setting (requires application to and acceptance by a local CPE center; spaces are limited).

Students pay regular seminary tuition for seminary credits awarded for CPE units, and also pay tuition at the CPE center. However, students may be eligible to be reimbursed for the tuition paid to the hospital for the first 1.5 CPE units (9 semester hours). Reimbursement is limited to 75% of the seminary tuition paid for the credits awarded for CPE experience. Students can apply for reimbursement by submitting receipts upon successful completion of the CPE program.

Hospital Chaplaincy Path

    1. Acceptance into the MDiv degree program (some hospitals are beginning to accept people with 72-hour seminary MA degrees as chaplains, but the MDiv is preferred).
    2. Completion of a unit of CPE training at an approved training site. A chaplaincy student would take PSTD 562/3 CPE training (6 hours) in lieu of internship. CPE units are typically offered in two formats:
      1. Summer: 11-week full-time internship = 1 unit (100 hours of structured training and 300 hours of clinical practice—stipend offered by some hospitals)
      2. Fall or Spring: part-time extended unit = 1 unit spread over 4-5 months (designed for those working full-time—no stipend)
    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 3-4 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.
    6. The seminary CPE director posts information about several residency programs; students may also contact centers directly through acpe.edu.

Military Chaplaincy

Those who feel called to military chaplaincy should contact the branch of service in which they desire 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 the student 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 as substitute for PSTD 501 Pastoral Counseling, PSTD 575 Pastoral Internship (2 hours), and another PSTD course, depending on the training.


Course Requirements

PSTD 562 Clinical Pastoral Education: Practicum 4
PSTD 563 Chaplaincy Integrative Seminar I: Continued Practicum 2
PSTD 564 Chaplaincy Integrative Seminar II: Grief and Loss 2
Elective studio 4
For students with specialization in Chaplaincy, the required Apprenticeship hours are replaced with an elective studio.

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