The ability to minister outside of the conventional setting. The chance to interact with members of diverse faith groups. The opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of individuals on a regular basis. These are some of the things that make the work of Navy Chaplains so rewarding and so unique.
The Navy Chaplain Corps is made up of over 800 Navy Chaplains. Chaplains come from more than 100 different faith groups currently represented (including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and many others). Each Chaplain is also a Navy Officer – meaning each holds an important leadership role.
Together, Navy Chaplains enable the free practice of religion for all the Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who serve. But their impact goes far beyond the mere exercise of religion.
As a Navy Chaplain, you will nurture the spiritual well-being of those around you. Living with them. Working with them. Eating with them. Praying with them. Understanding their needs and challenges like no one else – in a ministry that is truly 24/7.
In this role, you will offer everything from faith leadership to personal advice to much-needed solace. Using your own faith to prop up others. Expanding the depth and reach of your ministry. All while living up to the guiding principles of the Chaplain Mission:
- Providing religious ministry and support to those of your own faith
- Facilitating the religious requirements of those from all faiths
- Caring for all servicemembers and their families, including those subscribing to no specific faith
- Advising the command to ensure the free exercise of religion
As a Navy Chaplain, you will be the one servicemembers seek when they need someone to listen or someone to guide them. You will be a trusted outlet when they struggle with personal issues or search for answers at crucial moments in their lives. And often, you will be the constant support for young people away from home for the first time.
The job of a Chaplain spans a broad range of duties and a great diversity of backgrounds. It involves seeing people through some of their most joyful moments to their most personally challenging, and it could include any of these responsibilities:
- Conduct worship services in a variety of settings
- Perform religious rites and ceremonies such as weddings, funeral services and baptisms
- Counsel individuals who seek guidance
- Oversee religious education programs, such as Sunday school and youth groups
- Visit and provide spiritual guidance and care to hospitalized personnel and/or their family members
- Train lay leaders who conduct religious education programs
- Promote attendance at religious services, retreats and conferences
- Advise leaders at all levels regarding morale, ethics and spiritual well-being
When you’re deployed, you’ll be immersed in the daily lives of Navy personnel. Serving God. Serving country. Serving faithfully alongside your congregation. In what can be best described as a ministry of presence, you will be there to offer guidance and insight in the moment, whenever you’re needed.
At times, this will involve ministering to group audiences in a scheduled worship setting. But often, this will involve ministering to individuals on a very personal level. Under these circumstances, you’ll have the ability to build meaningful relationships and to become a trusted advisor.
Where you fulfill your higher calling could be anywhere on land or at sea. You could be presiding over religious ceremonies on a base. Conducting services from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Or even performing baptisms somewhere in the middle of the desert. Your job as a Navy Chaplain could literally take you anywhere in the world.
Navy Chaplains are expected to support and ensure the free practice of religion for all. Therefore, you must be:
- Willing to function in the diverse and pluralistic environment of the military
- Tolerant of diverse religious traditions
- Respectful of the rights of individuals to determine their own religious convictions
The specialized environment of the military requires Navy Chaplains to embrace these guidelines without compromising the tenets of their own religious traditions. Also, it is important to note that Navy Chaplains are officially considered noncombatants and not authorized to bear arms.
Training, Education and Advancement
To become a Navy Chaplain, those who meet the qualifications complete five weeks of initial training at the Officer Development School in Newport, R.I., and then finish with seven weeks at the Naval Chaplain School in Fort Jackson, S.C.
Chaplain School is a seven-week program that includes four weeks of Basic School and three weeks of RMTEX (Religious Ministry Team Exercise) and TEAMS (Tools, Empowerment and Ministry Skills). The Chaplain School program includes both classroom instruction and on-the-job training that offer leadership and professional development while preparing you to provide religious ministry wherever Navy Chaplains serve – at sea, at home or overseas.
After Chaplain School, you can continue your education throughout your career as a Navy Chaplain. There are opportunities for continuing education through the funded Graduate Education Program while being paid full-time as a Navy Officer. Plus, participate in clinical pastoral education and receive tuition assistance for other off-duty educational programs.
Also keep in mind: If you’re in the process of starting or completing your graduate theological degree, you could potentially enter the Navy Chaplain Candidate Program (CCPO) as a student.
Whether you’re beginning your career as a faith leader, wanting to expand your ministry or hoping to take it in a new direction, the Navy is a great way to follow your calling. There are both full-time and part-time service options available.
Full-time, Active Duty service – In this position, you can take full advantage of the available career and leadership opportunities. You can impact the lives of many – all over the world. Enjoy the broad range of benefits. And experience possibilities of travel and adventure to the utmost.
Part-time, Reserve service – In this position, you will commit to as few as two days a month and two weeks a year with opportunities for additional service and pay. This gives you the flexibility to minister in the Navy and still continue to have a ministerial career outside of the Navy. You can enjoy many of the benefits and advantages of full-time service. Receive a potential sign-on bonus. And experience the rewards of military chaplaincy while maintaining responsibilities to your congregation at home.
The precepts of godly service aren’t tied to material wealth. Nevertheless, serving as a Chaplain in the Navy qualifies you for benefits that are valuable by any standard. You can look forward to:
- Competitive salary
- Scheduled pay raises and cost-of-living increases
- Comprehensive health-care coverage for you and your family
- Outstanding retirement benefits and a 401(k)-like savings plan
- Food and housing allowances
- Tax-free shopping privileges
- Generous vacation time and world travel opportunities
All this while you discover the pride, purpose and satisfaction of serving your country. Enjoy respect as a religious leader and an Officer. And make enduring connections that will last a lifetime.
To be eligible to become a Navy Chaplain, you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen at least 21 years of age and be able to complete 20 years of service before age 62
- Meet certain medical and physical fitness standards
- Hold a BA or BS degree with not less than 120 semester hours from a qualified educational institution; and hold a post-baccalaureate graduate degree of not less than 72 semester hours in theological or related studies
- Hold an ecclesiastical endorsement from a religious faith organization registered with the Department of Defense (DOD)
After the Navy
Regardless of denomination, the full scope of ministry you’ll practice in the Navy immerses you in virtually all aspects of traditional ministry – and takes you beyond. It exposes you to opportunities not available in everyday civilian settings.
Your time as a Chaplain will give you unique experiences and fulfillment to draw from and take with you in future religious undertakings. The people you’ll meet, the lives you’ll touch and the places you’ll visit will stay in your memory and in your heart for a lifetime.
Consider Your Service Options
There are different ways that you can commit to serve in America's Navy. Besides full-time opportunities in Active Duty, part-time Reserve positions are also available in this career area.