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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

Work environment

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.





CAPTAIN RYAN CARTER: I’m Captain Ryan Carter from Scarborough, Ontario, and I’m a Chaplain, currently serving at the Royal Military College of Canada.

Chaplains are spiritual leaders in the Canadian Armed Forces who support military personnel in their careers both at home and abroad. Chaplains care for and advise members of the Forces on spiritual expression that includes all types of world religions.

CARTER: Me, as a Muslim, I’m grounded in my faith tradition, I’m educated in my faith tradition, I’m part of my faith community. That’s my foundation. But certainly I work with people of all different backgrounds. And people seek our assistance for various reasons. Chaplains are advocates. We walk with people through their difficulties and their challenges. People trust us. We’re that impartial member of the military where people can seek support and assistance through. And that, I think, is the essence of what Chaplains do.

This can include supporting families and their loved ones, offering counselling services, and helping members with their spiritual needs. They serve on bases across Canada, and in deployed theatres of operation like humanitarian missions or antiterrorism operations.

Chaplains may also work with civilian religious faith groups in the course of their duties.

CARTER: I think that’s what I love the most about my job is every day is different. It’s very dynamic. A day could consist of me doing physical training with the troops, serving food, and just interacting with the members on the ground. Or it could be me performing religious services, doing a parade. And one of the things I love doing is connecting with the chain of command to inform them of the pulse, the morale of the unit and see how things are going. And I think that’s a function which is central to what I do – is to make sure everyone is doing OK.

Chaplains typically begin their ministries as a unit chaplain with the Navy, Army or Air Force for the first three to four years of service.

CARTER: A big part of what we do is what we call ministry of presence. Chaplains have to be present in all aspects of the unit life. Which could mean having a coffee with the members, you know, see how things are going, having lunch with them. A big part of understanding military life is simply: walk with the troops. And at the core of what we do, that ministry of presence is what makes us unique as a military occupation.

Chaplains are highly skilled in active listening and have a sense of adventure.

They have an open attitude and promote diversity within the Canadian Armed Forces by providing an environment that is caring and compassionate.

CARTER: Some of us are clinical chaplains – mental health chaplains who work in the clinic alongside the mental health workers. We have other chaplains that specialize in conflict. Other chaplains that specialize in pluralism and in ethics. So there are many options available later on in your career where you can specialize in these unique areas of ministry and advocacy.

CARTER: When I look around myself, I see myself in position where I can respond to where I see the gaps – things that are missing. Part of it is education. We all need to learn about difference, we all need to learn about diversity, and we all need to learn about each other. And one of the greatest joys I participated in is to set up and to establish educational opportunities for members here at my unit. To set up opportunities, to experience other religions, other cultures. And I think this has been one of the greatest joys of my career is to have this opportunity where I can teach, where I can be part of the change, and advocate where advocacy is needed.


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.

Learn more about Basic Training here.

Available professional training

Additional training for Chaplains includes pastoral counselling and ethics.

Required education

Chaplains must be ordained or mandated by a nationally registered faith group, and have a Graduate professional degree in ministry formation (MDiv or equivalent). As part of the application, the Chaplain candidate must provide proof of support from the local faith group 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.

Direct entry options

If you already have a Graduate professional degree in ministry formation (MDiv or equivalent) 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.

Paid education options

If you wish to become a Chaplain for the CAF, you can apply for Subsidized Education for Entry Level Masters (SEELM).

If you have a bachelor's degree in any discipline from a recognized Canadian university, the CAF will pay you to complete a Graduate professional degree in ministry formation (MDiv or equivalent) program at a Canadian university.

You will receive a salary, medical and dental care, and paid vacation. In exchange, you must work for the CAF for a period of time. To apply, you must have been accepted without condition to a graduate professional degree in ministry formation program at a Canadian university in a program recognized by the CAF.

For more information about entry plans and becoming a Chaplain, you may send an e-mail to ChaplainMain-AumoneriePrincipale@forces.gc.ca, or call 1-866-502-2203 between the hours of 7:00am to 5:00pm.

Learn more about our Paid Education programs here.

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.

Part time employment

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 located in 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 Working Environment

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 92.8 percent of Regular Force rates of pay, receive a competitive benefits package and may qualify to contribute to a pension plan.