Requirements for Advanced Board Certification

An Advanced Practice Board Certified Chaplain (APBCC) has demonstrated advanced skills in the provision of and leadership in spiritual and chaplaincy care by successfully completing a standardized test of core knowledge derived from evidence-based quality indicators for spiritual care as well as a simulated patient exam that evaluates competency in direct patient care. Advanced Practice Board Certified Chaplains (APBCC) have been trained and tested in standardized curriculum based on the latest evidence in areas including department management, HIPAA regulations, the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of spiritual distress, cultural competency, advance care directives, patient clinical care, staff support, grief, and bereavement among other essential topics.


1. Official documentation of completion Master’s degree of at least 30 credits 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.

  1. Official documentation will normally consist of an official transcript with a full course list and seal.
  2. 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 you are not sure whether your degree program is accredited by a CHEA recognized accrediting body, they should check the list available on the CHEA website (www.CHEA.org).
  3. If your degree program is not listed or the candidate does not have an Master's degree, you need to apply for a Masters Degree Equivalency:
    1. If the candidate does not have a Masters degree from a CHEA accredited institution the candidate will document that he or she has at least 30 credits of graduate level education at a CHEA accredited institution in an area of study relevant to chaplaincy.
    2. OR - The candidate will document that he or she has a Masters of at least 30 credits of graduate level study at a non-CHEA accredited institution and demonstrate that the institution meets the standards for CHEA accreditation.
    3. OR - The candidate will demonstrate that, because of the normative training of his or her faith group or other stated reason, he or she has equivalent training. This training would normally be computed as 100 hours of study at the graduate level for each credit. "Graduate level" would normally be defined as a level which (1) presumes bachelor's level education (2) requires a level of student commitment normally required in graduate education (3) requires a level of evaluation normally required of graduate courses. Note- It is up to the candidate to document that the conditions have been met.
    4. If your degree is not in a content area relevant to chaplaincy, there are no equivalency options. You must enroll in an MA program from a CHEA-accredited institution (or international equivalent). Please note that SCA only requires 30 credits. This is crucial training necessary to become a professional chaplain.
  4. If your degree is not in a content area relevant to chaplaincy, there are no equivalency options. You must enroll in an MA program from a CHEA-accredited institution (or international equivalent). Please note that SCA only requires 30 credits. This is crucial training necessary to become a professional chaplain.

 

2. Within or beyond their Masters, one credit or the equivalent in at least three of the following areas: a) quality improvement; b)research; c) spiritual assessment, care planning, and documentation; d) cultural competency/inclusion; e) end of life; f) grief/bereavement; g) ethics; h)religious faith systems; i) communication; or j) basic pathophysiology. Please note: one credit must involve at least twenty (20) contact hours in the particular content area.

  1. If credits being claimed were part of the candidate's Masters and the course has the same title as the content area being claimed, (i.e.. the transcript shows a course in ethics of at least one credit), no further documentation is necessary.
  2. If the credits being claimed were part of the content in a course in the candidates Masters of more than one credit with broader content, a course syllabus must be submitted with the relevant content highlighted.
  3. If the credits being claimed were not part of the Masters but part of a graduate level course at a CHEA accredited institution, a transcript and course syllabus should be submitted according to the guidelines above.
  4. If one chooses to fulfill the requirement by completing one or more courses in SCA’s Online Learning Center, each completed course counts as one credit.
  5. Completion of the Palliative Care Chaplaincy Specialty Certificate and the Advanced Palliative Care Chaplaincy Specialty Certificate offered by HCCN each counts as one credit.
  6. If the credits being claimed were not part of a CHEA accredited graduate level course or part of another continuing education program, the candidate must apply for a Masters Credits Equivalency:
    1. If credits being claimed were part of a program for which the candidate is applying for a Master’s equivalent and the course has the same title as the content area being claimed, (i.e.. the transcript shows a course in ethics of at least one credit), no further documentation is necessary.
    2. If the credits being claimed were part of the content included in a course in a program for which the candidate is applying for a Master’s equivalent and the course is of more than one credit with broader content, a course syllabus must be submitted with the relevant content highlighted.
    3. If the credits being claimed are not from an accredited program and not part of Master's level training, the candidate will demonstrate that, because of the normative training of his or her faith group or other stated reason, he or she has equivalent training. This training would normally be computed as 20 hours of study at the graduate level for each credit. "Graduate level" would normally be defined as a level which (1) presumes Bachelor's level education (2) requires a level of student commitment normally required in graduate education (3) requires a level of evaluation normally required of graduate courses. Note: It is up to the candidate to provide documentation that the conditions have been met.

 

3. At least 800 hours of clinical training in spiritual/pastoral care, such as CPE.

  1. If the training was accredited by ACPE, NACC, CPSP, ICPT 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 ACPE, NACC, CPSP, ICPT 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 a Clinical Training Equivalency:
    1. 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).
    2. One must document that this clinical training has been supervised in its entirety and if not document that one had a peer group and supervision in part of the training.

 

4. Employer letter(s) verifying proof of working a minimum of 2,000 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 2,000 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 2,000 hours as long as all the hours were accrued since clinical training.
  5. There is no equivalency for work hours.
  6. There is no Provisional Certification available for APBCC.

 

5. 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 document.
  2. If you do not work with now or are not supervised now/or have not previously worked with or have not been supervised by a BCC or 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.

 

6. 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.

 

7. Demonstration of competency through a standardized patient exam (simulated patient encounter)

  1. See point 14g below regarding exam/encounter timing and prep

 

SCA’s Standardized Clinical Knowledge Test Rationale: Two key features of this new process is the test and the exam (simulated patient encounter). Both of these components are standard practice in many other disciplines and professions. Both were developed using subject matter experts and the most rigorous standards, and both are able to be scored objectively. In both cases, the skills, knowledge, and behaviors to be tested are publicly available, thus allowing educators and candidates to fully prepare without any uncertainty about the content to be tested. For example, modules in the test include health care ethics, basics of world religious/spiritual systems, and spiritual assessment models.

 

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. Fee:

The application fee for Advanced Practice Board Certification is $300. This is a non-refundable fee regardless of outcome. It is due at the time of application.

 

13. SCA membership is required. When you are a member, please log into your account to begin the application process.

 

14. Application Process.

  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. Regarding the exam: the candidate will be offered several dates to choose from to be scheduled for the exam. The candidate must select one of these dates. If the candidate does not pass the exam, he or she will be allowed to re-take the exam again but there will be a cost of $100 to re-take the exam.
  9. Regarding the test: 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 $75 fee for each re-take. All re-take attempts must occur within the 6-month time-frame. If the candidate does not successfully pass the test within this 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. Standardized patient scores and test scores are not appealable.

 

Questions?

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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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