SCA’s Chaplain Credentialing and Certification Standards Are Evidence Based

For Chaplains: The title of Credentialed Chaplain (CC) will attest to your level of competence in the profession.
For Institutions: A Credentialed Chaplain (CC) has demonstrated the competencies to perform normal chaplaincy tasks in non-complex settings and under the supervision of a Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) in complex settings.

Requirements for Credentialing

1. An official transcript of a Bachelor’s degree from a CHEA accredited (or international equivalent) institution in a content area relevant to chaplaincy.
Acceptable concentrations would include but would not be limited to theology, study of sacred texts, medical or professional ethics, psychology, sociology, family systems, counseling, social work, nursing, world religions and belief systems, organizational development, gerontology, communication, and the relationship of spirituality and health.

Official documentation will normally consist of an official transcript with a full course list and seal.

  • The Council on Higher Education Accreditation is an organization of higher education certifying bodies that meet a high standard for rigor in their accrediting standards. If candidates are not sure whether their degree program is accredited by a CHEA recognized accrediting body, they should check the list available on the CHEA website ( If their degree program is not listed or the candidate does not have a Bachelor’s degree, the candidate needs to apply for an equivalency.
  • To apply for an equivalency:
    1. If the candidate does not have a CHEA accredited Bachelor’s degree but was admitted to a graduate level program that requires an accredited Bachelor’s degree, the candidate should submit a transcript from that institution and proof that a Bachelor’s degree was required.
    2. If the candidate has an unaccredited Bachelor’s degree, the candidate should demonstrate that the institution meets the standards for CHEA accreditation.
  • If the candidate does not have an accredited Bachelor’s degree but does have an accredited Associate Degree in a relevant concentration, the candidate should submit the transcript for the AA and a list of other graduate level trainings taken. With each training the candidate should include a full description of the activity, the number of hours spent, the qualifications of the instructor, and the requirements for completion of the training.
  • If your degree is not in a content area relevant to chaplaincy, there are no equivalency options. You must enroll in a BA program from a CHEA-accredited institution (or international equivalent) in an area relevant to chaplaincy. This is crucial training necessary to become a professional chaplain.
2. At least 400 hours of clinical training in spiritual/pastoral care, such as Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)

Rationale: We have given considerable thought to the minimum number of hours of clinical training in spiritual/pastoral care, such as CPE, and have concluded that – together with the other requirements – at least 400 hours are sufficient for Credentialed Chaplain and at least 800 hours are sufficient for Board Certified Chaplain. Some candidates will need more clinical training to pass the competency tests. We expect that determination will be made by the candidate and his or her training supervisor.
  1. If the training was accredited by ICPT, ACPE, NACC, CPSP, CPEI or CASC, documentation would consist of a letter on the letterhead of the training center attesting to the completion of the units of CPE, and listing the accrediting organization and the name of the training supervisor.
  2. If the training was accredited by an organization other than ICPT, ACPE, NACC, CPSP, CPEI or CASC, documentation must include the name of the certifying body and a copy of or link to that body’s standards for training programs. The standards must show that the training is in chaplaincy care; includes at least 300 hours of client contact for each 400 hours of training, at least 100 hours of knowledge and skills training, and regular supervision by a senior practitioner.
  3. If the training is not accredited, the candidate needs to apply for an equivalency. To apply for an equivalency:          i. The candidate must document with official documents from the training program (1) that the training is in health care chaplaincy; (2) includes at least 300 hours of client contact for each 400 hours of training (enclose name of training site and types of clients seen) and at least 100 hours of knowledge and skills training (enclose curriculum), and (3) regular supervision by a senior spiritual care practitioner (enclose his or her resume).
3. Employer letter(s) verifying proof of working a minimum of 1,000 hours as a chaplain since completion of clinical training
  1. The work as a chaplain must have been accrued since the candidate finished his or her clinical training.
  2. The work can be unpaid but it has to be work normally done by a professional chaplain as opposed, for instance, to work normally done by a congregational religious professional.
  3. Most recent employer letter must specify that the candidate works as a chaplain. If the candidate has not worked as a chaplain for 1,000 hours for the current or most recent employer, the letter must specify how many hours the candidate has worked as a chaplain over the course of their employment.
  4. The candidate can submit letters from as many past employers as necessary to reach the total of 1,000 hours as long as all the hours were accrued since clinical training.
  5. However SCA will award Provisional Credentialing to any candidate who meets all of the requirements except the requirement for 1,000 work hours. Provisional Credentialing is good for two years from issuance at which point the candidate must either provide documentation of meeting the work requirement or reapply.
4. Three (3) letters of recommendation from a) an administrator in the institution where the chaplain is currently employed or has been most recently employed b) BCC chaplain or director of spiritual care in the institution where the chaplain is currently employed or was most recently employed and c) a non-chaplain health care professional colleague such as a physician, nurse or social worker.
  1. The letters should attest to the chaplain’s ability to operate competently within the Scope of Practice as defined in the Scope of Practice
  2. If you do not work with now or are supervised now/or have not previously worked with or have not been supervised by a BCC chaplain or director of spiritual care, ask a BCC that you know (or even one who does not know you) to interview you and then to write a recommendation letter on your behalf.
5. The SCA Code of Ethics requires that all members correctly represent their credentials. In the service of that requirement, if you claim ordination from a particular faith group, please include a letter from the faith group attesting to this ordination and that it is still valid.

6. Demonstration of competency by taking the Standardized Patient Exam (simulated patient encounter)

7. Taking and passing SCA’s Standardized Clinical Knowledge Test.

8. Accountability for Ethical Conduct.

9. As described above, equivalencies will be offered and are subject to review on an individual case-by-case basis.

10. All documentation that is required must be submitted in the candidate’s application package. All documents should be submitted as scans of originals or readable copies. Scans of photographs of documents are most often unreadable and will cause a delay in the approval of the application. Applications will not be reviewed until all required paperwork has been submitted.

11. SCA’s credentialing and certification process does not require faith group endorsement. This endorsement is not an evidence-based indicator of the person’s competency as a chaplain.
Please be aware that many faith groups require anyone (lay or clergy) working as a chaplain to be endorsed by the faith group in order to maintain good standing in the denomination. If you belong to a faith group, we strongly suggest you check with the national or regional offices of that group to determine if such a process exists and how it might apply to you.
Rationale: Faith group endorsement is a relationship between a chaplain and his or her religious/spiritual/existential community. It is largely a Christian structure that is not practiced by most non-Christian groups. This reality has often meant that otherwise qualified and competent persons who are not from a tradition that endorses chaplains have either been denied the opportunity for certification or have had to compromise their own tradition in order to obtain an endorsement from another group in order to qualify. This is an exclusive practice that has failed to truly embrace diversity. While we do not require this endorsement, a chaplain may include such documentation for his or her file if desired.

12. Active SCA membership is required.

13. Fee:

The application fee for Credentialed Chaplain is listed on the Fees page. This is a non-refundable fee, regardless of outcome. It is due at the time of application.

14. Application Process & Timing
  1. The length of time varies greatly from candidate to candidate, depending greatly on the candidate’s own timeline to take the Standardized Clinical Knowledge Test. The entire process could take as short as 4 months (for those candidates ready to take the Standardized Clinical Knowledge Test right away) to as long as 8 months for some.
  2. There is no filing deadline. Applications are accepted throughout the year.
  3. SCA cannot provide mentoring on preparing materials but will refer the candidate to sources on the website where the information can be found.
  4. All applications are reviewed in the order they are received and deemed complete.
  5. Candidates can expect email notification when an application has been received. Further, candidates will be notified of their application status as it moves through the process.
  6. Candidates whose documentations are rejected will receive brief feedback on the areas found deficient. There will be an opportunity for the candidate to re-submit.
  7. Once an application is complete and documentation accepted, the candidate will receive instructions on proceeding to the next phase. Next, the candidate must: a) successfully pass the Standardized Clinical Knowledge Test and b) successfully pass the Standardized Patient Exam through a Simulated Patient Encounter (in no particular order). Both the test and the exam must be successfully completed within 6 months from this point. Failure to complete both will end the certification process.
  8. The candidate will be offered some dates of upcoming Standardized Patient Exam sessions to choose from. If the candidate fails the exam, he/she may re-take the exam again. There is a fee to re-take the exam.
  9. Once the candidate receives the link to the test, the candidate will have six (6) months to take the test. If the candidate does not achieve a passing grade on the test, he or she will be allowed to re-take the test again at no additional cost. If the candidates still does not pass the test, he or she may retake the test again but there will be a fee for each re-take. All re-take attempts must occur within 6 months of the first time the candidate attempted to pass the test. If a candidate does not successfully pass the test within the 6-month time-frame, the application process will end.
15. Appeals Process
Rejection of application files is not appealable except on the grounds that the review did not take into account or misinterpreted significant facts in the application. The appeal should state clearly the facts that the candidate feels were not taken into account or misinterpreted. Verbatim or standardized patient scores and test scores are not appealable.
16. Professionalism
We are committed to acting in a professional manner and treating each other and all those applying for certification with dignity and respect. We expect that applicants will treat all SCA staff with the same dignity and respect. We reserve the right to refund the application fees and withdraw the application of any candidate who does not abide by this standard.
While we are not able to answer questions specific to your personal situation, we are happy to answer general questions about the requirements and process. Feel free to contact us at
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