Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is a transformative, supervised contextual learning experience in the spiritual care of others. 

Many denominational or adjudicatory bodies require CPE for ordination, and students who are discerning or seeking ordination should contact their adjudicatory body to learn whether CPE is a requirement for them.

CPE is a cornerstone component of the Divinity School’s vocational pathway toward chaplaincy. For more information on this pathway, see below.

The essential elements of CPE include:

  • the actual practice of ministry to persons
  • detailed reporting and evaluation of that practice
  • pastoral supervision
  • 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 consistent with the objectives of CPE
  • the CPE program must be conducted under the auspices of an Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE)-certified supervisor (faculty) attached to an ACPE-accredited CPE center.

Students can take a basic unit of CPE over one term (usually Fall, Spring, or Summer) or in an extended unit (usually over two terms).

Master of Divinity students may use a basic unit of CPE to meet up to half of their field education requirement. Students may also elect to receive academic course credit for CPE. Divinity students may receive credit upon completion of any accredited CPE program. More information about CPE, including a directory of accredited programs, can be found at the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE).

Preparing Students for Vocational Chaplaincy

Certificate in Chaplaincy

Duke Divinity offers a robust approach to chaplaincy through academic and formation experiences and high-quality contextual learning opportunities with partners including Duke University Hospital, Duke Chapel, and others. This certificate can be earned as part of a residential master's degree program.


Field Education & Clinical Pastoral Education

All students interested in vocational chaplaincy should strongly consider completing a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) while at Divinity School. Certain types of chaplaincy require five units of CPE, most often met by completing a basic unit of CPE (completed during Divinity School) followed by a yearlong residency (completed after graduation).

More information about CPE can be found at the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE).

More Information

Information for current students on CPE for academic credit, not for academic credit, and for parish-based CPE is available on the Divinity School Intranet (NetID required).