Career and Job Search Guide

Military Chaplain

The U.S. military provides chaplains for each branch to assist service members who experience any type of trauma and those involved with combat. To prepare for dangerous missions or cope with mental duress, service members often seek spiritual guidance from chaplains representing their faith. Even service members who do not embrace a specific faith often seek guidance from chaplains.

Chaplains help members of the military deal with a variety of issues including, deaths of colleagues, coping with debilitating injuries, homesickness, and questions regarding morality. Many soldiers meet with chaplains to reconcile their religious beliefs with actions taken during war that seem contradictory to these beliefs.

Many chaplains administer religious ordinances and provide spiritual counseling to service members not of their faith. For example, it would not be uncommon for a Catholic chaplain to console a Protestant soldier after a difficult battle. This same Catholic chaplain could also be called upon by an Atheist for spiritual counsel. Many chaplains meeting with non-religious service members or those not of their faith provide basic counseling in place of spiritual advice. Chaplains do not actively proselytize their faith; rather, they are available to provide spiritual advice to any service member seeking it.

Before serving as a chaplain, candidates must complete a multi-week training program. Programs vary in each branch. The chaplain training program administered by the Army is longer than the Navy's program. All chaplain training for each branch occurs at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Those interested in a career as a military chaplain must complete a graduate program. 36 credits in their program of choice must be in theological related subjects. Prospective candidates must also receive an endorsement from a clergy member of their respective faith. If these requirements are met, potential chaplains can apply to one of the military's chaplain training programs.

Chaplains are available from most religions in the military. During times of war, military chaplains will always be in high demand. When there are not enough chaplains to meet demand, chaplains are not available from some faiths.

Because of the high proportion of Catholics in the military, Catholic chaplains are usually in demand. This is often compounded by the fact that Catholic service members often have large families living on base that rely on priests. Demand also exists for Muslim imams and Jewish rabbis.

Whenever shortages exist for chaplains, military personnel belonging to faiths short of chaplains often must commemorate religious holidays or ordinances by themselves or with other service members belonging to the same religion. Chaplains stationed in combat zones will often make special arrangements to be with soldiers during religious holidays.

Frequently, military chaplains preside over non-denominational services. During sermons, they refrain from discussing theology specific to certain religions. For example, during one of these services the chaplain would not share a passage from a religious text specific to one religion.

Chaplains have similar duties as other clergymen overseeing a congregation. They are responsible for delivering sermons, setting up education programs, such as Sunday school, and counseling in private with individual service members.

Chaplains are needed in each branch of the armed forces. Those who enlist in the military to become chaplains can receive student loan repayment or tuition subsidies and signing bonuses. Chaplains are essential for maintaining high morale in the military. Those interested in providing spiritual support for service members should consider a career as a chaplain.