Preparing for a Career in Chaplaincy
through St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute
Although there are a number of groups that certify chaplains, the largest and most recognized is the Board of Chaplaincy Certification, Inc. (hereafter, BCCI). The BCCI is an affiliate of the Association of Professional Chaplains. The BCCI grants two levels of certification: board certified chaplain (BCC) and associate certified chaplain (ACC).
Educational & Experience Requirements for the Two Levels of Certification
|Board Certified Chaplain (BCC)||Associate Certified Chaplain (ACC)|
|An accredited theological master’s degree: e.g., MA in Theology and/or MA in Church Ministry||An accredited theological master’s degree: e.g., MA in Theology or MA in Church Ministry|
|72 total credits at master’s level||48 total credits at master’s level|
|4 units of Clinical Pastoral Education (each unit is 400 hours)*||2 units of Clinical Pastoral Education (each unit is 400 hours)*|
|2,000 hours work experience in chaplaincy (over and above CPE)||2,000 hours work experience in chaplaincy (over and above CPE)|
*The EI does not offer CPE but can provide contact information for local CPE programs.
Education at the Ecumenical Institute for the Two Levels of Certification
For BCC status, taking both EI master’s degrees achieves the 72 master’s-level credits needed, while providing both foundational studies in a faith tradition and ministry courses that prepare one for chaplaincy. (Alternatively, someone who has completed a master’s degree in psychology, social work, or counseling can petition the BCCI to count up to 24 credits of that work toward the 72 required credits. Such “equivalencies,” as they are called, are made on a case-by-case basis by the BCCI.)
For ACC status, taking either the Master of Arts in Theology or the Master of Arts in Church Ministry achieves the 48 master’s-level credits needed. Students would work with an advisor to select their optimal degree program, and the most appropriate electives.
Both the BCC and the ACC require that 24 of one’s credits be in history of the faith, tenets of the faith, sacred texts, and moral tenets or ethics. Either Ecumenical Institute master’s degree provides these (provided that an MA in Church Ministries student takes one elective in history).
BCC or ACC?
While a few settings will hire a non-certified chaplain, most require or strongly prefer certification. As a rule, most large healthcare facilities prefer BCC to ACC status, or want an ACC chaplain who intends to pursue BCC status. Other institutions seeking chaplains (e.g., small community hospitals or healthcare facilities, prisons, certain schools) might be satisfied with ACC status. Students interested in such settings should investigate their requirements for staff chaplains.