The question of the necessity of certification is common today among chaplains, especially those who are already working as a chaplain in the field. During my CPE experience all of us were encouraged to go on to be certified. It was the “gold standard” and would put you ahead of someone who isn’t certified. After completing my four units and having all of the paperwork I needed mostly done (verbatims, theology papers, biography) I didn’t bother getting certified for several years. It just didn’t seem necessary.
In my particular situation, it wasn’t necessary. I already had a job as a hospice chaplain. My employer at the time didn’t require or even encourage certification. In fact, I had to push to be able to take CPE in the first place. None of my colleagues were certified, and some had no CPE at all. Couple the lack of interest in certification by my employer with the time, expense and difficulty involved in going through the certification process itself and there really was no real reason for me to become certified.
This apathy towards chaplain training and certification often rubs those who have gone through the process and become certified raw. One of my colleagues in my CPSP group told us that their new owner (their hospice was recently bought by a much larger company) does not require certification or CPE for their chaplains. It is myopic not to see the value of training and credentialing for all members of the healthcare staff, not just aides and nurses. It’s also frustrating and devaluing for those who are already certified. However it’s hard to make employers and managers see the value of certification, especially when the chaplain is one of the least understood (even if it’s not the least appreciated) members of the team.
If you’re a chaplain you may be asking yourself whether or not it’s worth it to become certified. From where I stand now, I feel it has made a difference and will make a difference in years to come. Here’s why I think all chaplains considering certification should pursue it.
- Future employability: Even if your current employer doesn’t require certification, your future one might. When you’re looking for a job in this highly competitive job market is not the time to start working on your certification. Even when certification isn’t required in the job description, it can push your resume higher in the stack over those who aren’t. Never assume that you’ll be at your current job forever and therefore will never need certification, no matter how secure you feel your position is.
- Future opportunities: Certification can open up other doors beyond that of your typical chaplain position. Most notably it opens the door up to becoming a CPE supervisor. This requires further training and time of course, but if you enjoy teaching and appreciate the CPE model supervision is a great next step.
- Authority: Most interestingly I can say that certification definitely changed how I viewed myself, my position and my calling. Even though it’s “just a piece of paper” what that paper signifies gives me more self-confidence than I had before. In CPE-speak we would call this “claiming my authority”. I didn’t think it would make a difference in how I viewed myself, but it does. I take my job more seriously as well, and see myself as more of an active participant in a narrower field of players than before.
If you think that certification doesn’t really mean anything, it does. Think of it as a contract with yourself, as a sign of what you have accomplished already and what you can accomplish if you set your mind to it. If you’re not sure if chaplaincy is going to be a good fit for you down the road though, talk about it with your CPE supervisor or others in the field.