Chaplaincy Studies and Pastoral Work Courses

By Mariza Halliday - Last update

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What is Chaplaincy Studies and Pastoral Work?

A Chaplain is a certified clergy member who provides spiritual care for individuals in a non-religious organisation, rather than a church congregation.

Chaplains can work in government roles and serve members of the military in different locations. They can serve patients in healthcare or hospice facilities. Working in police departments, fire departments, and prisons is also common for chaplains. Since chaplains are ordained ministers, they can officiate ceremonies such as weddings and funerals. They can lead baptism services and provide final rites for patients who are passing away. Chaplains can also take on the role of a spiritual leader for individuals who do not belong to a specific religious community.

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering courses in Chaplaincy Studies and Pastoral Work in the following subject areas:

  • MA In Chaplaincy Studies and Pastoral Work – This course provides academic, pastoral, spiritual, personal and professional development for those already working or wishing to work in the contexts below who seek to enrich their skills in the areas of Faith Development, Chaplaincy and Chaplaincy Coordination.
  • Certificate in Religious Studies – The aim of the programme is to equip teachers with the necessary knowledge and skills to teach religious education in Catholic primary schools.
  • MEd in Religious Education – Religious Education plays an important role in developing religious literacy, identity and imagination; promoting creative and critical thinking; offering a space for questioning and reflection; and fostering spiritual development, respect, openness, empathy and justice. It provides a space for dialogue and encounters between faith traditions and people of different belief traditions.

Studying Chaplaincy Studies and Pastoral Work

There are many courses in Chaplaincy Studies and Pastoral Work that may take place over a few days, weeks or even 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like.

Courses will cover theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials and taught modules. Assessments will take place on a continuous basis with written examinations and practical assignments combined in order to achieve a qualification.

You could also consider work experience or a work shadow in the industry. It’s essential to have prior work experience before gaining a role as a member of a chaplaincy team. This can be paid or voluntary but needs to include working with people in a caring, counselling or pastoral capacity. Types of relevant work including youth work, advisory work such as career guidance and personal counselling, teaching, care work and social work. Voluntary work is widely available in chaplaincy teams, especially in hospitals and other health and social care settings, for example, hospices and residential care.

Work Experience will not only give you the opportunity to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other industry professionals and gain valuable contacts for the future.

Career options

After completing a Chaplaincy Studies and Pastoral Work course you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of faith or philosophical beliefs to provide guidance and counselling to those in need in secular organisations.

A career in chaplaincy would suit you if you’re interested in helping people, are a good listener and have the capacity to deal with a range of challenges presented by individuals seeking pastoral care. You should also enjoy giving practical help and support, often during times of crisis or personal difficulty.

Chaplains work in a range of settings, including hospitals and other health and social care establishments, such as residential care and hospices; universities, schools and colleges; prisons; sports organisations, especially with football, cricket and rugby teams; industry – a number of very large companies employ chaplains; community-based work, including community churches as well as commercial sites such as airports; the Armed Forces but you are required to be ordained by a church and have experience to join.

Many chaplains in large organisations work as part of a full chaplaincy team that covers a range of faiths, known as multi-faith chaplaincy. Larger teams are often found in hospitals, universities and prisons.

Working hours will depend on whether you are self-employed, employed by a company with set business hours or if you are contracted to various businesses or companies. The normal working day will be office hours from 9 am until 5.30 pm, Monday to Friday. However, chaplains will usually have to work beyond this regime including evenings and weekends. This will be part of a rota system if you’re in a substantive team, for example, if you work in a healthcare setting.

Related jobs include:

  • Chaplain
  • Mediator
  • Counsellor
  • Community development worker
  • International aid/development worker
  • Higher education lecturer
  • Primary school teacher
  • Secondary school teacher
  • Advice worker
  • Charity fundraiser
  • Civil Service administrator
  • Police officer
  • Youth worker

Further study

After completing a course in Chaplaincy Studies and Pastoral Work you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skill set. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practise in certain career areas such as Sociology, Social work, Psychology, Health and well-being, Counselling, Philosophy, Humanistic pastoral care and World religions.


What is the difference between a Chaplain and a Pastor?

Chaplains and pastors minister to individuals regularly by leading religious services or offering spiritual guidance. The core responsibilities of the two roles are similar; Chaplains and pastors play a significant role in the lives of diverse groups of people. They are both theologically educated and certified ministers. An easy way to remember the difference is that while all chaplains are pastors, not all pastors are chaplains.

Rather than preaching messages directed toward one religious group, chaplains lead non-denominational religious services that can benefit individuals from a variety of religious or spiritual backgrounds. Chaplains who hold positions at different institutions can also minister to staff members. For example, chaplains at hospitals can provide spiritual care to nurses, doctors, and administrators, as well as to patients and their families.

Where can I study Chaplaincy Studies and Pastoral Work?

Explore your options here

 Did You Know?

  • Chaplains are in the military but they do not fight in combat. Chaplains are non-combatants as defined by the Geneva Convention. Chaplains may not be deliberately or indiscriminately attacked and, unless their retention by the enemy is required to provide for the religious needs of prisoners of war, chaplains must not become POWs. If they are captured, they must be repatriated at the earliest opportunity.
  • Chaplains in the military represent more than 200 different denominations.
  • A Korean War chaplain is being considered by the Vatican for sainthood. Chaplain Emil J.Kapaun moved from foxhole to foxhole under direct fire to provide aid and reassurance to soldiers fighting in the Battle of Unsan. He recovered wounded men and dragged them to safety or he dug trenches to shield them from enemy fire. He was captured and tortured by the Chinese, but even then he continued to resist and provide comfort to his fellow prisoners. He died in captivity on May 23, 1951.
  • Christians were the largest religious group in the world in 2015, making up nearly a third (31%) of Earth’s 7.3 billion people. Muslims were second, with 1.8 billion people, or 24% of the global population, followed by religious “nones” (16%), Hindus (15%) and Buddhists (7%).

Mariza Halliday

Ethical & Multidenominational Education Courses
Guidance Counselling Courses


  1. Catherine Bourke 5th February 2022 at 2:36 pm

    I am looking for information on Pastoral Care Courses and I would appreciate receiving same.

  2. Victor Akhamefule 20th September 2022 at 11:54 am

    I want do the course, do you have office in Ireland?

  3. Annie 9th February 2023 at 10:13 pm

    I’m interested in a chaplaincy course, preferably in limerick. I am a secondary school teacher of English and History currently. I qualified in 2014.

  4. Michelle Stubbs 5th March 2023 at 9:36 pm

    Looking for info on Pastoral Care/Chaplaincy Courses for Care of the elderly.

  5. Robert Percy 21st June 2023 at 9:41 pm

    I am interested in pursuing a course in chaplaincy . I am semi retired and am seeking a new challenge. I would appreciate any information available on chaplaincy courses based in Limerick and Dublin . With thanks , Robert Percy , Nenagh

  6. Michelle Coyne 3rd May 2024 at 7:15 am

    I am interested in your pastoral care course. Do you have an office in Ireland

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