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What is a Military Chaplain? (Roles & Responsibilities)

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

what is a military chaplain

Ever wondered, “What is a military chaplain?” This person has a unique role in the armed forces. The military chaplain serves as a spiritual guide and counselor for service members of all faiths.

Chaplains in the military are rock-solid sources of spiritual support for their fellow service members. In good times and bad, they help soldiers find direction and comfort from their leaders.

Today, we explore chaplains’ vital role in the lives of service members and their families and their essential contributions.

All About Military Chaplain


The military chaplain is a respected religious leader who has made it their mission to aid service members and their families.

Chaplains minister to service members and their families wherever they are deployed, in both peace and conflict.

The role of a chaplain is threefold:

  • comfort the the severice members and families
  • treat the wounded
  • remember these who passed away

Chaplains in the military help service members cope with the stresses of military life by fostering a feeling of community via shared religious values and a dedication to service.

They ensure that all service members, regardless of their religious beliefs, have access to emotional support and spiritual assistance during their deployment.

When it comes to the spiritual and emotional well-being of military communities around the world, chaplains are the embodiment of compassion, resilience, and inclusivity.

Benefits of Military Chaplain Jobs


All chaplains have the protocol military rank of colonel or captain (army or navy) and enjoy the following benefits.

  • Salary
    • Chaplains are under the broader category of military clergy, and the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) reports that their average compensation is $50,400 to $86,970 per year. A chaplain’s income might vary depending on several criteria, including their amount of experience, education, and location.
    • Free housing that is provided on-site or a housing allowance
    • Medical benefits
    • Retirement benefits
    • Pay for time off/vacation, along with bonus pay and other incentives
  • The ability to create a positive change in another person’s life – Chaplains are in a special position to offer spiritual comfort and advice to those who want it.
  • Gaining knowledge about different religions – The vast majority of chaplains work across religious lines, offering their services to people of all beliefs.
  • Helps to achieve better service and efficiency – The chaplain’s ability to counsel and direct not only service members but also the staff is crucial to the success of any organization.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Military Chaplain

Across all branches, military chaplains lead worship, ser cf e as preacher or priest in the army that presides over sacraments. They also organize and lead religious-based classes and programs.

1. Army


  • Serving as a spiritual resource for service members and their families.
  • Counseling superiors on moral, ethical, and spiritual issues.
  • The United States Army chaplain also helps to coordinate religious events and supplies for the entire squad.

2. Navy

  • Offering moral, ethical, and spiritual guidance to superiors.
  • Funerals and memorial services are examples of religious rites and ceremonies.
  • Supporting the Navy’s efforts to coordinate religious services and events.

3. Air Force


  • Counseling superiors on moral, ethical, and spiritual issues.
  • Supporting the Air Force community’s efforts to coordinate religious resources and events.
  • Engaging in conversations across faiths and advocating for mutual respect amongst faiths.

4. Marines


  • Helping to coordinate Marine Corps religious events and resources.
  • Marine chaplains counsel superiors on moral, ethical, and spiritual issues.
  • Organizing and delivering courses in religious education.

Requirements for Becoming a Military Chaplain

  • Only citizens of the United States need to apply.
  • Must have a security clearance.
  • Pass a medical examination
  • Must be at least 21 years old and younger than 42.
  • Must have an undergraduate degree with a minimum of 120 credit hours.
  • A minimum of 72 graduate credit hours is required for a master’s degree in religious studies or theology.
  • Have a Master’s degree in divinity or a similar advanced degree in theology from a recognized religious institution to be part of the chaplain candidate program
  • Completed at least two years of relevant work experience in their religious community or denomination following completion of their theological studies.
  • Must have been ordained and approved to do so by their religious community.
  • Be a member of a recognized religious organization and have served for at least two years in a full-time professional capacity (this criterion does not apply to members of the Army Reserve or Army National Guard).


Learning what is a military chaplain gives us better insight into their importance in the armed forces. Chaplains are there for soldiers through the good times and the bad, offering comfort and guidance based on their strong faith and extensive knowledge of military life.

That is why the requirements to become an army chaplain are quite stringent. Their role in the military isn’t that simple, as they look out for the mental and spiritual well-being of our valiant service members.

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