Academic Standards & Professional Competency Courses

All applicants for certification will demonstrate these academic accomplishments. (information about each is available by clicking on bar for each section below)

The Qualifying Degree standard

Any graduate degree awarded by a CHEA accredited institution in the academic disciplines of Theology, Philosophy, or Psychology.  The qualifying degree must contain a minimum of 30 graduate semester hours of credit.

The qualifying degree is the academic foundation, demonstrating that applicants have completed a recognized graduate study program. The academic disciplines recognized under this standard educate their graduates with an emphasis on the spiritual, emotional, and/or social needs of persons and groups in their care.  These academic disciplines were selected because they support the following APC Competencies: 

  • ITP2: Incorporate a working knowledge of psychological and sociological disciplines and religious beliefs and practices in the provision of spiritual care
  • ITP3: Incorporate the spiritual and emotional dimensions of human development into one’s practice of care.
  • ITP4: Incorporate a working knowledge of different ethical theories appropriate to one’s professional context.
  • ITP5: Articulate a conceptual understanding of group dynamics and organizational behavior.
  • ITP6: Articulate how primary research and research literature inform the profession of chaplaincy and one’s spiritual care practice

Graduate degrees that do not fall into the disciplines described above may be considered but should be evaluated according to the standards established in the BCCI Theological Education Equivalency program.

Total hours requirements and credit for non-academic learning modalities will be determined by the standards distinct to the various certification designations; ACC (48 credits), BCC (72 credits).

The Religious Competence standard

All applicants must demonstrate a total 24 graduate semester hours of CHEA accredited coursework earned in three of four subject areas: World Religions, Spiritual Practices-Practical Ministry, History of a Religious-Philosophical Tradition, Sacred-Foundational Texts. At least one course must be completed in each of three subject areas and documented on an academic transcript. Religious competence courses may be earned outside of the Qualifying Degree.

Graduate level study in subjects associated with spiritual and religious belief systems directly support professional competence among chaplains.

  • ITP1, “…rooted in one’s faith/spirituality tradition…integrated with a theory of professional practice.”
  • ITP5, “…an understanding of group dynamics and organizational behavior.”
  • PIC5, “…professional authority as a spiritual care provider”
  • PPS6, “Provide religious/spiritual resources”
  • PPS7, “…public worship/spiritual practices”
  • PPS8, “…theological/spiritual reflection

Total Hours standard

Applicants seeking the Board Certified Chaplain (BCC) designation must demonstrate a minimum of 72 graduate semester hours or equivalent credits. Applicants seeking the Associate Certified Chaplain (ACC) designation must demonstrate a minimum of 48 graduate semester hours. Equivalent credits are not available for ACC applicants.

Full time graduate work is typically understood as 24 semester hours per year. Associate Certified Chaplains need to have completed 2years of graduate level education, making the standard 48 hours. Board Certified Chaplains need to have completed 3 years of graduate level education, making the standard 72 hours. 

Professional Competency Courses

All applicants must demonstrate graduate level study in three of four subject areas deemed essential to professional care of persons in a religious or philosophical institution. The courses may be included in the Qualifying Degree or can be completed outside of the qualifying degree. When graduate semester hours are combined, a minimum of 24 hours must be earned in the competency subjects. At least one course from each of three subject areas must be represented on a transcript. The four subject areas are: Spiritual Practices-Practical Ministry, History of a Religious or Philosophical Tradition, Sacred or Foundational Texts, World Religion-Philosophy.

  • Courses in Spiritual Practices-Practical Ministry focus on the practical arts and skills of religious or spiritual care of persons or groups within the applicant’s religious or philosophical tradition. This broad-ranging subject area can include worship leadership, ritual care, pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, religious education of adults or children, and social justice leadership. The BCCI reviewer will consider any course that teaches expertise in care to persons in spiritual or religious distress and any course that builds expertise in the promotion of spiritual or religious growth in persons or groups.
  • Courses in History of a Religious or Philosophical Tradition ground the applicant in the tradition’s formative leaders, movements, and/or beliefs that give shape and meaning to the tradition across time.
  • Courses in Sacred or Foundational Texts study the documents that serve as authoritative references for the structure and meaning of the applicant’s practices and beliefs. This subject area can also include the study of authoritative oral traditions that preserve and interpret the tradition’s practices and beliefs.
  • Courses in World Religion-Philosophy may be graduate level survey courses studying multiple religions or philosophical traditions. Courses offering in-depth study of a religion or philosophical tradition outside of the broadly understood religion or tradition of the applicant’s identified belief system can also be accepted. For example, an applicant trained in a tradition identified with Christianity should have completed a course in a non-Christian religion like Islam or Buddhism.

If you have any questions regarding the certification process, please contact the national office at 847.240.1014 or