What does it take to be a chaplain? The list of qualifications is long. Because of this, many chaplains tend to be older than the servicemen and women they minister among. Here is a list of qualifications for the military chaplaincy that I found on the website for the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces website:
1. Ecclesiastical endorsement (certifies experience and degree requirements meet the standards of the respective ecclesiastical group)
2. Two years religious leadership consistent with clergy in applicantís tradition (strongly recommended)
3. United States citizenship
4. Bachelorís degree (120 semester hours or 180 quarter hours)
5. A graduate degree to include a minimum of 72 semester hours (or equivalent) from a qualifying (accredited) institution. Not less than 36 hours must be in theological/ministry and related studies, consistent with the respective religious tradition of the applicant.
Endorsers are free to exceed the DoD standard per ecclesiastical requirements, but cannot go below the minimal DoD requirements, e.g. many endorsers specifically require the Master of Divinity degree
Active Duty Chaplains
* Army: Commissioned prior to age 40 (Age waiver availability may vary from year to year)
* Air Force and Navy: Commissioned and on active duty by age 42 (Some consideration may be made for prior service)
* Pass a military commissioning physical
* Pass a security background investigation
* Ability to work in the DoD directed religious accommodation environment.
In addition to these qualifications, many of my chaplains took further training in order to understand and be able to minister alongside their comrades. For instance, one chaplain trained in airborne, so he could go along on missions.
Chaplains make a huge commitment of time in order to fulfill their calling. They don't just wander away from the pulpit and into the field. They're highly qualified and, beyond that, extremely empathetic and devoted. I loved the year I spent talking with chaplains about their ministry.