FAQs Regarding Certification

**Notice about BCCI Certification**

APC/BCCI issues two types of certification verification.

  1. Ratification Letters– These letters are issued to those candidates that have earned a new status of certification including Provisional, Associate, Board, and specialty certification.  These letters are proof of the chaplain’s certification status.
  2. Verification of Certification Letters– These letters are issued at the request of the chaplain or by request of the chaplain’s employer.  These letters verify that the chaplain is certified and in good standing with APC and/or BCCI.

Certification Certificates are not an accurate verification of certification because they are not issued annually. Some Human Resource Departments have incorrectly identified BCCI Certificates to be equal to government issued licenses, however certificates are intended to be for ceremonial and display purposes only. A BCCI certificate only confirms that the chaplain was recognized as certified by BCCI on the date the certificate was issued.

Please note: As of June 30, 2023, all applications for Board Certification must be submitted through the new online portal. If you have started filling out the paper forms, you will need to transfer the information to the online portal.

Please refer to the “How to Complete the Online Application” section for instructions on using the new online application portal.

Certification FAQs

Certification and the Application Process

Q1: How do I become a board certified chaplain (BCC) or associate certified chaplain (ACC)?

A: Becoming a certified chaplain isn’t an overnight process. It requires a master degree with graduate-level theological education, clinical pastoral education, endorsement/support from a recognized faith group and demonstrated competency in functioning as a chaplain. This is detailed in the document, Qualifications for Board Certified and Associate Certified Chaplains. Once you have fulfilled these requirements, you are ready to apply for certification.

Q2: What is the difference between a Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) and an Associate Certified Chaplain (ACC)?

A: This is detailed in the document, Qualifications for Board Certified and Associate Certified Chaplains and is described in the table below.

Q3: What are the requirements for becoming certified by the Board of Chaplaincy Certification Inc. (BCCI)?

A: Below is a table that outlines the requirements for certification as a board certified chaplain, provisional board certified chaplain,  associate certified chaplain and provisional associate certified chaplain.

Board Certified Chaplain 
Provisional Board-Certified Chaplain 
Associate Certified Chaplain 
Provisional Associate Certified Chaplain 
Undergraduate degree from CHEA-accredited school No No No No
Qualifying graduate education from CHEA-accredited school (See Q37)72 semester hours or credits
(108 quarter credits)
72 semester
hours or credit
(108 quarter credits)
48 semester hours
(72 quarter credits)
48 semester hours
(72 quarter credits)
Clinical pastoral education (CPE) through ACPE, NACC, CASC 4 units 4 units2 units2 units
Work experience2,000 hoursNone (or less than 2,000 hours)2,000 hoursNone (or less than 2,000 hours)
Current letter of endorsement/support from recognized spiritual/faith group



Number of Professional Chaplain Competencies candidate must meet




For details about these requirements, please carefully review the BCCI Application Materials section of the BCCI Website. See the Application Checklist for a complete list of required supporting documents to submit with your application form.

Q4: How do I know whether my spiritual/faith group is “recognized?”

A: Your spiritual/faith group is recognized if it is listed in the Department of Defense (Armed Forces Chaplains Board) or previously reviewed and approved by the BCCI.  If your spiritual/faith group is not listed on one of these sources, please contact the BCCI office for further assistance.

Q5: How long are my application and supporting documents good for once I submit them to BCCI?

A: Complete application and supporting documents are valid for 12 months from the date they were received.

Q6: How long does the certification process take?

A: The process from submitting a complete application to being granted certification can take less than six months or up to 12 months, depending on whether you wish to travel to a certification committee meeting. (See Interview Schedule & Application Deadlines)

Q7: What is considered a complete application?

A: An application is complete when all supporting documents are submitted, all equivalencies are approved and the application fee is paid. Refer to the Application Checklist for a list of required documents. This can be found in the BCCI Application Materials section of the BCCI Web site.

Q8: Do all professional competencies need to be addressed in writing?

A: No, 29 of the professional competencies must be addressed in writing. Two competencies, PIC8 and PIC9, are observable competencies that will be evaluated by the committee during your interview.

Q9: How can I get assistance so that I can have some assurance that my materials will meet the requirements for certification?

A: The APC strongly recommends working with a mentor as you are putting your application materials together. It is always good to have another set of eyes to look at your materials, and especially someone who has successfully been through the process. Please see the Mentoring Program page for more information. We also recommend reading all the application materials carefully. Be sure to submit a complete application and all required supporting documents. BCCI will review them and notify you if anything else is needed and how to proceed.

Q10: Do I have to be ordained or commissioned to qualify for certification?

A: No, but you must meet all requirements set up by your faith group to get endorsed. Ordination may or may not be required for endorsement. Please check with your faith group for details.

Q11: Can I get endorsed by an online religious group?

A: No, BCCI does not accept endorsement from online religious groups.

Q12: What are the deadlines to apply for certification?

A: There are multiple deadlines per year from which to select. See the Interview Schedule & Application Deadlines map.
PLEASE NOTE: A complete application must be submitted by the deadline, including prior approval of any equivalencies.

Q13: May I submit application materials if I am still finishing a degree or a CPE unit?

A: No. Before you submit your application, you must have your degree and four units of CPE for board certified and provisional board certified chaplain applicants, or your degree and two units of CPE for associate certified  and provisional associate certified chaplain applicants.

Q14: Must I be currently employed as a chaplain to apply for certification?

A: No, you do NOT need to be employed to apply for certification as a board certified chaplain or associate certified chaplain.

Q15: What do I need to submit to prove my work experience?

A: A letter from the administrator or a letter from the human resources department, documenting the dates of employment and the number of hours worked. These should be collected by you and submitted with your application. Volunteering hours count as well as long as they are supervised and can be verified in a letter. Parish ministry hours don’t count. Hours must be counted AFTER the completion of the 4th unit of CPE.

Q16: Do I need to send my application in duplicate?

A: No, one single sided copy is all that is required. Please do not send it with plastic sleeves, folders, binders, clips, paperclips or staples.

Q17: Do my transcripts need to be in a sealed envelope?

A: One set of original official transcripts ARE required, but they do not need to be in a sealed envelope. A second set of transcripts is not needed.

Q18: Can I send photocopies of my transcripts?

A: No. One set of official transcripts is required.

Q19: Can I send photocopies of my letter of endorsement/support?

A: No. These must be originals and must be sent directly to the BCCI office by your recognized spiritual/faith group.

Q20: Do my recommendation letters need to be sent directly to BCCI?

A: No. The recommendation letters should be sent to you, and you should send them to BCCI with your application. Please make sure the letters are signed. The only document that must be sent directly to BCCI is the letter of endorsement/support from your faith group.

Q21: How do I obtain a current letter of endorsement/support?

A: Contact your spiritual/faith group. Ask them to send a letter endorsing/supporting your work as a chaplain directly to the BCCI office at:
BCCI, 2800 W. Higgins Rd. Suite 295, Hoffman Estates, IL 60169

Q22: Does the letter have to be addressed to someone specific?

A: No. The letter can simply be addressed to BCCI.

Q23: What if my spiritual/faith group does not have a Religious Endorsing Body?

A: Contact your spiritual/faith group’s national office to ask who the official endorser for your faith group is. If your spiritual/faith group does not have a national office, contact your local church, synagogue, rabbinical school or temple to find out the procedures.

Q24: How long will it take to review my application?

A: Up to 45 business days.

Q25: How long after submitting my application can I get an interview?

A: After your application is reviewed and determined complete, you will be e-mailed an interview schedule to select your desired geographical area and date range. (See Interview Schedule & Application Deadlines)

Q26: Can I request a specific site, date or time for my interview?

A: No. You cannot request a specific town, site, date or time. In-person interviews are now only available at the APC annual conference (different location each year), and you can only request a timeframe from those listed on the Interview Schedule & Application Deadlines page. However, committees do their best to schedule interviews at dates and times that are as convenient as possible to the candidates, as well as the volunteer committee members. You will be contacted by the committee chair with the interview specifics three to four weeks before the selected timeframe.

Q27: Do you have to reside within the region to request that your interview be scheduled there?

A: No. In-person interviews are now only available at the APC annual conference. You may choose this option, but travel there will be your own cost. (See Interview Schedule & Application Deadlines)

Q28: Do I get reimbursed for travel, lodging and other expenses incurred to interview for certification?

A: No. Applicants must pay their own expenses.

Q29: Can I submit an equivalency with my application?

A: Yes. Equivalency forms can be submitted with your application. However, we recommend sending in an equivalency prior to submitting the application. An equivalency takes an additional amount of time to review, and your application will not be reviewed unless the equivalency is granted.

Q30: If I submit an application and an equivalency at the same time, does that mean I’ve met the deadline?

A: No. Your equivalencies must be reviewed and accepted before your application is considered complete.

Q31: How long will it take for my equivalency form to be reviewed and approved?

A: It may take 30 to 180 days (four weeks to six months).

Q32: If I have completed an interview and I am recommended for certification, am I certified?

A: No. The recommendation must be first approved by the Commission on Certification and then ratified by the board of directors.

Q33: When will I receive my certificate?

A: During the next annual conference, or it will be mailed afterward if you cannot be present. However, you will receive a congratulatory letter verifying your certification after approval of the Commission on Certification and then ratification by the board of directors. Typically, board ratification occurs within 2 months after the interview.

Q34: When applying for a subsequent appearance do I have to submit a complete application?

A: No. Please follow the checklist that you received with your subsequent appearance application.

Q35: What if I am already certified by another chaplaincy organization?

A: There is a separate application for those who are already certified by:

  • Neshama Association of Jewish Chaplains (NAJC) as a board certified chaplain
  • National Association of Veterans Affairs Chaplains (NAVAC) as a board certified chaplain
  • Canadian Association for Spiritual Care (CASC) as a supervisor or specialist
  • Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) as a supervisor or associate supervisor
  • National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC) as a board certified chaplain, supervisor or associate supervisor

Please complete the Board Certified Chaplain Organizational Partner application. If you do not meet the above criteria, you must apply for BCCI certification as a Regular Applicant. Both application forms can be found on the BCCI Application Materials page of the BCCI website.

Education, Degrees, Training and Schools

Q36: Do I need to take a special course or seminar before I apply for BCCI certification?

A: No. The only requirements for certification are stated above in Q3. APC offers an informational webinar as helpful resource (see BCCI Resources page). This webinar is not required for certification. Other entities may offer preparatory information and education. Such courses are neither required for certification nor endorsed by APC.

Q37: Do I need to have a master of divinity (MDiv) degree to apply?

A: No. You do need to hold a qualifying graduate degree. The degree must be conferred by a CHEA accredited institution in one of three academic disciplines: Theology, Philosophy, and Psychology. The degree needs to demonstrate a minimum of 30 semester hours of coursework. If your degree was earned at a non-CHEA accredited institution, you must submit a Graduate Education Equivalency Worksheet with your application. All equivalency worksheets must be reviewed and approved before your interview can be scheduled. Candidates who trained in non-academic traditions, including Buddhist and Indigenous lineages, may be eligible for consideration under the Mentored Education guidelines. Contact the BCCI office for details at bcci@apchaplains.org.

Q38: What course work meets the education standards for certification?

A: If applying for BCC, you need a total of 72 semester hours and credits. ACC applicants need a total of 48 semester hours. The total hours must include a qualifying degree (see Q37) and can include courses from other degrees or non-degree graduate courses relevant to chaplaincy. Whether applying for BCC or ACC, you need to have 24 semester hours in 3 of 4 Professional Competence courses: history of a religious or philosophical tradition, sacred texts or foundational documents, practical ministry or spiritual care, and world religions. All coursework must be completed at CHEA accredited institutions.

Q39: What if my theological degree does not meet the 72 graduate semester hour credit requirements?

A: BCC applicants can meet the 72 hour requirement by including chaplaincy-relevant, graduate coursework from other degrees or earning in non-degree study at CHEA accredited institutions. You can accrue up to 24 equivalent education credits for non-academic learning experiences. Applicants requesting equivalent education credits must submit a Graduate Education Equivalency Worksheet with your application. Equivalency worksheets must be reviewed and approved before your interview can be scheduled.

Q40: How can I tell whether a course is from an accredited college or university?

A: Go to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) website: www.chea.org.

Q41: If I got my degree from a school not approved by CHEA, may I still apply?

A: Yes, but you must submit a Graduate Education Equivalency Worksheet with your application.

Q42: Are online degrees acceptable for certification?

A: An online degree is acceptable if the school is accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). To confirm accreditation, go to the CHEA website: www.chea.org

Q43: I do not have a bachelor’s degree, but I completed training for becoming a deacon. Would this training count for a bachelor’s degree?

A: No.

Q44: I have a degree from a foreign country. How can I verify that it meets the requirements for a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in the United States?

A: If you have a bachelor’s degree from a foreign country but a master’s degree from a CHEA-accredited school that meets our education requirements, no further documentation is needed. However, if both your bachelor’s and master’s degree are from a foreign country, OR your master’s degree alone is from a foreign country, you must contact a professional educational credential evaluation agency that is a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (www.NACES.org), such as Educational Credential Evaluators (www.ECE.org) or World Education Services (www.WES.org). They will provide you with a report on your foreign degree(s) that needs to be submitted with the Theological Equivalency Form and other required documents to BCCI for review and approval. Please note the detailed instructions on pages 1 and 2 of the form.

Q45: I have many years of experience in ministry, and have taught theology or religion in schools. Does this give me the equivalency of a theological degree?

A: We may grant up to 15 semester credit hours for professional experience. Please refer to the Graduate Education Equivalency Worksheet for more details and instructions.

Q46: What is Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)?

A: Clinical Pastoral Education is interfaith professional education for ministry. CPE is to chaplains what residency is to doctors. It brings theological students and ministers of all faiths into supervised encounter with persons in crisis. Out of an intense involvement with persons in need, and the feedback from peers and teachers, students develop new awareness of themselves as persons and of the needs of those to whom they minister. They develop professional skills and function as part of an interdisciplinary team.

Q47: Can I use units of CPE from a College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP) accredited institution?

A: You can submit a CPE Equivalency Form for ONE unit of CPSP CPE. One unit might be accepted upon review of your CPE equivalency form. The other three CPE units must come from institutions that are accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE), the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC) or the Canadian Association for Spiritual Care (CASC). Like APC/BCCI, these organizations adhere to the Common Standards for Professional Chaplaincy.

Q48: I have taken a program in spiritual direction. Would this course be equal to a unit of CPE?

A: No.

Q49: Can I get CPE credit for previous work/ministry experience?

A: No.

Q50: Can I get academic credit for CPE?

A: Only one (1) unit of properly accredited CPE may be used for both academic credit and the CPE requirements for certification at the same time.

Q51: If I have five units of CPE, what units should I submit?

A: List on the application the 4 most recent units, unless you are using a unit towards an equivalency.  If one unit is for a graduate education or work hours equivalency, then list the first 4 units.

Q52: If I don’t have my evaluations from CPE, may I still be certified?

A: Yes!  CPE student and supervisor evaluations are no longer required.  ACPE offers an ACPE Verification Transcript, which is the best form of documentation showing completed CPE units.  You can access their website at www.acpe.edu and follow the instructions to print your own transcript.  A member of the ACPE staff is available for assistance as well.

Reinstatement of Certification

Q53: What must I do if I have let my certification lapse?

A: Send a letter of request to the BCCI office, including all current contact information, requesting reinstatement of your certification. The BCCI office will tell you what next steps are required after reviewing your certification records.