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CPE Frequently Asked Questions and Additional Information

Home | CPE | CPE FAQ's | Employment Info |What Do Chaplains Do | History of VA Chaplaincy |

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) FAQs - Information for CPE Residents

What is Clinical Pastoral Education?

  • Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is interfaith professional education for ministry. The textbooks for CPE include in-depth study of the living human documents. By living human documents, we mean both the people who receive care as well as a study of ourselves, the givers of care.
  • Through the practice of ministry and the reflection thereon with supervisor and peers, the experiential learning that is CPE takes place. It brings theological students and ministers into supervised encounters with persons in crisis. Out of an intense involvement with persons in need and the feedback from peers and teachers, students develop a new awareness of themselves as persons and of the needs for whom they minister.
  • From theological reflection on specific human situations, students gain a new understanding of ministry. Within the interdisciplinary team process of helping persons, students develop skills in interpersonal and interprofessional relationships.

What are the Accreditation Requirements for VA CPE Programs?

  • Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)  programs are established in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) according to VHA Educational Relationships, VHA Handbook 1400.03.  The guidelines of the Supervision of Associated Health Trainees, VHA Handbook 1400.04, Education of Associated Health Professions, VHA Handbook 1400.08, and the annual program announcements for the trainee support in associated health professions. 
  • VHA policy requires that CPE programs be accredited by a national accreditation body officially recognized by the U. S. Department of Education.  "The Office of Academic Affairs recognizes these nationally recognized accrediting agencies for associated health and nursing programs are designated by the United States Department of Education (ED) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). 
  • The list of ED-recognized accrediting agencies for associated health professions education programs is found at .
  • The list of specialized and professional accrediting organizations published by CHEA is found at (VHA Handbook 1400.03). 
  • CPE Programs in the VHA are accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc. (ACPE). The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education is nationally recognized as an accrediting agency in the field of clinical pastoral education by the U.S. Secretary of Education through the U.S. Department of Education and by the Veterans Health Administration’s Office of Academic Affiliation.(ACPE)

The Essential Elements in CPE Include:

  • The actual practice of ministry to persons
  • Detailed reporting and evaluation of that practice
  • Pastoral Supervision by a certified CPE Supervisor
  • A process conception of learning
  • A theoretical perspective on all elements of the program
  • A small group of peers in a common learning experience
  • A specific time period
  • An individual contract for learning

The Individual Learning Contract.

The CPE participant's contract is developed around the learning goals of:

  • Pastoral Reflection - reflection on one's self as a person and pastor in relationship to persons in crisis, the supervisor, and peer group members, as well as the curriculum and institutional setting.
  • Pastoral Formation - focus on personal and pastoral identity issues in learning and ministry.
  • Pastoral Competence - deepening and unfloding of competence in pastoral function, pastoral skills, and knowledge of theology and the behavioral sciences.
  • Some centers also offer Pastoral Specialization, focusing on the student's desire to become competent and knowledgeable in a particular area of ministry, e.g. oncology, urban ministry, parish ministry, hospice ministry, etc.

What Does CPE Prepare a Person to Do?

  • CPE serves as part of one's preparation for parish ministry, chaplaincy, lay ministry, teaching and counseling. A student's learning contract may be focused toward integration of theological, psychological and pastoral insights into parish ministry. Or, the contract may be designed with a career goal of chaplaincy or pastoral counseling.
  • Some students, after completing several units of CPE, choose to enroll in Supervisory CPE, working toward certification as a CPE Supervisor. In Supervisory CPE the student learns the theory and practice of supervision and has the experience of supervising CPE students under the guidance and with the consultation of a CPE Supervisor.
  • CPE develops the capacity for the pastoral and spiritual care of individuals, families and systems.
  • Many theological schools require one unit of CPE as a part of a theological degree program.  Other schools accept a year of CPE as the required intern year of ministry for a theological degree program. A number of theological schools have graduate degree programs that combine academic study and Supervisory CPE.

Who is Eligible to Enroll in CPE?


  • An individual who, through a written application and an admissions interview, has demonstrated the ability to participate in CPE - usually one who has successfully completed at least one year of theological school.
  • Such other requirements or education and experience as a specific CPE Center may require.


  • I understand that upon successful completion of a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) residency (4 units of CPE), or completion of a year of Fellowship (Specialty) CPE at a VA medical center,,I will be eligible for consideration for employment as a VA staff chaplain without numerical rating. I will have this eligibility only for the General Schedule grade or grades for which I meet all of the qualification requirements. This eligibility does not apply when applying for Supervisory Chaplain positions.
  • I understand that this eligibility for consideration without rating and ranking lasts for one year from the date that I complete the residency; and it does not guarantee that I will be offered a job. 
  • I understand that persons entitled to veteran preference must be selected ahead of persons without preference.
  • I understand that all permanent VA chaplain jobs are filled from announcements issued by the National VA Chaplain Center.   To be considered I must apply to job announcements as they are issued on the Federal job website:
  • I understand that to be hired as a VA chaplain I must meet all of the minimum Qualification Standards for employment as a VA Chaplain.  (I must have an ecclesiastical endorsement dated within the past year signed by the nationally designated endorsing official of my faith group or religious organization.  I must have a Master of Divinity Degree or equivalency.  I must have a minimum of two years of ministry experience after the completion of my Master of Divinity degree to qualify for a GS-11 job or three years of ministry experience after the completion of the Master of Divinity degree for a GS-12 position.  I must have completed a minimum of two units of ACPE CPE or equivalent.)
  • I understand that if my faith group or religious organization has not designated an endorsing official, my endorsement cannot be accepted until my faith group or religious organization designates an endorsing official in accordance with VHA Regulation 38 CFR Chapter I, Part 17, Section 17.655 (

Supervisory Education:

  • An individual who wishes to enroll in Supervisory CPE shall have successfully completed several units of CPE and demonstrated a readiness to pursue Supervisory CPE. The applicant will usually have completed a theological degree and have several years of pastoral experience.

How May I Enroll in CPE?

  • Complete the application and mail it to the CPE Center to which you wish to apply.
  • ACPE - Application Form Page*
  • Arrange for an interview with a CPE Supervisor or other person approved by the center to which you are applying.

 Any CPE Supervisor, Regional Director, or CPE Seminary Liaison Professor is available for consultation concerning opportunities. 

*Link will take you outside of the Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA)Website. VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked websites. The link will open in a new window.