Chaplains are responsible for fostering the religious and pastoral care of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and their families, regardless of religious affiliation.
A Chaplain has privileged access to all CAF members of all ranks, has no commanding authority, and is prohibited from bearing arms under the Geneva Conventions. Their responsibilities include:
- Officiating at special functions, religious services and ceremonies
- Advising the Commanding Officer regarding religious accommodations issues, ethical dilemmas, as well as spiritual and morale issues of the unit
- Liaising with civilian religious faith groups
- Referring members to other care providers such as social workers, psychologists, or medical personnel
- Providing directed care after significant life incidents
- Providing notifications to a member's next-of-kin when directed
- Apply knowledge in general military administration and chaplain branch policies
A Chaplain can work in all military environments with members of the Navy, Army and the Air Force. Chaplains provide a ministry of presence and offer spiritual teaching programs. Ceremonies typically require the chaplain to offer prayers, and church services in public and unit parades. Liaison with other spiritual leaders in the civilian community is expected. Chaplains can work in Canada or may be required to go abroad during operations.
Pay and career development
The starting salary for a fully trained Chaplain Officer, at the rank of Lieutenant (Navy) or Captain, is approximately $77,000 per year; however, depending on previous experience and training the starting salary may be higher. Regular promotions through the junior officer ranks take place based on the completion of required training and on the length of service as an officer. Chaplains who demonstrate the required ability, dedication and potential are selected for opportunities for career progression, promotion and advanced training.
A Chaplain normally starts his or her ministry as a Unit chaplain for the first three to four years. Some may be appointed Chapel Life Coordinator. A variety of experiences in the Navy, Army and Air Force will give the Chaplain the necessary experience to better serve and to undertake more significant responsibilities. On promotion to Lieutenant Commander or Major, a Chaplain becomes the normal supervisor of peers as a Brigade Chaplain or Staff Officer Chaplain in different areas of responsibilities in the Chaplaincy. At the more senior ranks, Chaplains are normally assigned to Operational and Strategic levels within the Chaplaincy.
See the Chaplaincy page for more information.
Related civilian occupations
- Professional Church Worker
- Youth Minister
- Special Social Minister such as Street Ministry
- Pastoral Counseling Educator
- Hospital, School and University Chaplain
Basic military officer qualification
After being posted, you start basic officer training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec for four weeks, followed by two weeks of Distance Learning. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the CAF, basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.
Additional training for Chaplains includes pastoral counselling and ethics.
Chaplains must be ordained or mandated by a nationally registered faith group, and have a Master of Divinity degree preparing for ministry (or equivalent). As part of the application, the Chaplain candidate must provide proof of support from the local ecclesiastical authority. They must also receive support from a representative of the Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy (ICCMC), the endorsement of the ICCMC and be selected by the Chaplain General. The ICCMC expects applicants to have at least two years of supervised experience in a civilian ministry.
If you already have a Master of Divinity and two years’ experience in a civilian ministry, the CAF may place you directly into the required on-the-job training program following basic training. Basic training and military officer qualification training are required before being assigned.
This occupation is available part-time within the following environments: Navy, Army, Air Force
Serve with the Reserve Force
This position is available for part-time employment with the Primary Reserve at certain locations across Canada. Reserve Force members usually serve part time at Reserve Unit in their community, and may serve while going to school or working at a civilian job. They are paid during their training. They are not posted or required to do a military move. However, they may volunteer for deployment on a military mission within or outside Canada.
Chaplains may serve with the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army or the Royal Canadian Air Force and experience the unique challenges associated with these environments. They provide religious ministration and spiritual ministry to military members, regardless of religious affiliation. When they are employed on a part-time or casual full-time basis they usually serve at CAF bases, wings, home ports and units at locations within Canada.
Reserve Force training
Reserve Force members are trained to the same level as their Regular Force counterparts. They usually begin training with their home unit to ensure that they meet the required basic professional military standards. Basic training consists of two required components: basic officer training and basic occupational training. Additional courses may be available over the course of a Chaplain’s career.
Reserve Force members usually serve part-time with their home unit for scheduled evenings and weekends, although they may also serve in full-time positions at some units for fixed terms, depending on the type of work that they do. They are paid 85 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a reasonable benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.
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