Frequently Asked Questions

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Why do chaplains serve in the Armed Forces and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, and what do they do?

The primary purpose of military and VA chaplains is to protect the Constitutional guarantee of “the free exercise of religion” for the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces. Every chaplain comes from a particular faith group and is responsible for meeting the religious needs of those who adhere to that faith. However, chaplains are also responsible for ensuring that members of other faith groups are equally well served, and that the rights of those who have no religious faith are protected. Finally, chaplains provide care to all military personnel, as well as their family members, and play a critical role in advising commanders on how best to address the moral, spiritual, and ethical issues that confront our people every day.

Military Chaplains: First, a chaplain is a person of faith who demonstrates care and concern for the welfare of others. Second, Presbyterian ministers must possess an M.Div. degree and be in good standing with their Presbyteries. Third,  physical fitness is mandatory. A chaplain must be able to keep up with 19 to 25 year olds, run from 1.5 miles to 4 miles on a regular basis, do sit ups, push ups, and maintain weight standards for that particular service. Fourth, personal and professional relationships must be above reproach. Finally, education and training must be a consistent and ongoing discipline. Chaplains are expected to constantly improve their knowledge and understanding both of the military and the faith communities from which they come.

VA Chaplains: Much the same applies. Presbyterian ministers seeking to serve the VA must possess an M.Div. degree and be in good standing with their Presbyteries. Personal conduct must be above reproach. The differences are as follows: At less 2 units of CPE are required, and there are no physical fitness standards within the VA. Within the VA, you do not have to move, but your chances of obtaining the positions you want may be increased by a willingness to go where the jobs are.

What is a Chaplain Candidate?

If you are in the process of starting or completing your Seminary education, you can potentially enter the Chaplain Candidate Program. Each service, Army, Navy and Air Force offers similar programs to allow individuals contemplating serves as a military chaplains the chance to learn about this through internship type program. Some States also offer a National Guard Chaplain Candidate Program.

Note: Approval and participation in the Chaplain Candidate Program is not a guarantee that you will be a Military Chaplain. Upon competition of Seminary, you must apply for an Ecclesiastical Endorsement, must be ordained by your Presbytery, and be accepted by the military service you wish to serve.

How do I become a Chaplain?

  • First, you must be an ordained minister, or be accepted to a Seminary for a Master of Divinity Degree and working with your Presbytery on becoming an ordained minister.
  • Second, you must complete the appropriate application and the approval/endorsement process with the Presbyterian Federal Chaplaincy.
  • Applicants for military service: you must work with a chaplain recruiter to complete the military side of the application process.
  • Applicants for the VA: you will find more information at this website.

Who should apply?

Anyone who believes God may be calling him or her to this work. The Presbyterian Federal Chaplaincy is here to help you through the process of discerning your call.

A quick note on the VA Chaplaincy. The VA chaplaincy is a hospital chaplaincy with high standards. Military experience is not required, but you must have at least 2 units of CPE. You may enhance your employment prospects with specialized training, volunteer work, or accepting a part time position. Typically, VA Chaplaincy positions (listed on close very quickly; we recommend that you start the endorsement process as soon as possible. Once you have an endorsement, you will be ready to apply when the job posts on For more information on VA process, click here.

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1) If I am accepted in a Seminary and enrolled in a Master of Divinity program for the next school year, may I apply for the Chaplain Candidate Program?

Yes, you may begin the process of obtaining ecclesiastical approval. On the application, list the seminary you plan to attend. In section G, please explain your circumstances.

2) If I am not in a relationship with a presbytery, but attending a seminary, may I apply for the ecclesiastical approval?

No. As a Presbyterian from one of our four denominations, you must be in a relationship with a Presbytery in order to apply for ecclesiastical approval. If you have questions, please contact our office .

3) If I have an ecclesiastical approval to serve as a Chaplain Candidate, am I eligible to move into active or reserve chaplaincy upon my ordination?

No. Approval and endorsement are separate and distinct processes. The purpose of the approval process is to help you explore ministry in the military as a vocational option. Chaplain Candidates are commissioned officers, but they are not chaplains. Endorsement, on the other hand, is a necessary part of an application to serve as a chaplain in either the Armed Forces or the VA.  Without ecclesiastical endorsement, one cannot serve as a chaplain.

4) Are the Army Chaplain Candidate and National Guard Chaplain Candidate programs the same?

The programs are not the same and have different requirements.

5) Is it true that you are paid to be a chaplain candidate?

Chaplain Candidates are military officers and are paid accordingly for active training and duty days. As noted above, however, they are not chaplains and therefore are not entitled either to represent themselves as chaplains or to perform pastoral functions reserved for chaplains.

Seminary Students

Approved to Receive a Call (Not Ordained)


Dennis Hysom

Doug Slater


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