How to become a prison chaplain

Written by ryn gargulinski
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How to become a prison chaplain
Prison candles may be battery operated (Photo by Ryn Gargulinski)

You want a career that is fulfilling, helpful and has a great need. You may find it as a prison chaplain. Unlike some other prison positions, you do need a series of specialised qualifications and previous experience as a religious or spiritual leader. Some steps will get you started on your new career.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Obtain the educational requirements. Get a bachelor's degree from an accredited college and university. Move on to a master's of divinity from an accredited seminary or school of theology.

  2. 2

    Get ordained. Find a religious institute of which you want to be a part. The institute must be ecclesiastically recognised.

  3. 3

    Gather experience. Hold the role of a religious or spiritual leader of a parish for at least two years.

  4. 4

    Obtain an endorsement. Have the institute where you've worked provide a glowing recommendation letter that explains why you would be perfect as a prison chaplain.

  5. 5

    Keep an open mind and heart. Not only do you have to be qualified to lead in your own faith, but you will need to be open to advising, guiding and assisting those of any faith in prison.

  6. 6

    Apply to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Send your resume, endorsement and salary history to Federal Bureau of Prisons, Attention: Chaplaincy Services, 320 First Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20534. E-mail it at BOP-CPD/ Visit the BOP web site to research individual opportunities (see Resources) or different state websites to find openings in their prison systems.

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