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M.A. in Theology & Religious Studies


Ministry of Presence

Chaplains walk with others through some of the most sacred moments of their lives. Become a living reminder of God’s presence and love to those who need it most.

Professional Partnership

John Carroll University partners with the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Spiritual Care to provide the theological foundation and pastoral skills necessary to become a board-certified chaplain—equipping you for a meaningful career in virtually any hospital, hospice, health-care, or other setting.

Learn More

To learn more about the program and admissions requirements contact a member of the Graduate School Team at or 216-397-4451. 

JCU's Master of Arts in Theology & Religious Studies with a Concentration in Chaplaincy offers full-time and part-time pathways toward Board Certification, allowing students to complete the academic and CPE requirements in a few as two years.

The Cleveland Clinic offers Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) through summer intensive or fall/spring extended units. The residency option provides a stipend for qualified applicants seeking to complete four CPE units over the course of one calendar year.

John Carroll University offers all graduate courses both in person and fully online. Once-a-week synchronous classes meet in the evenings, allowing students to earn their academic and CPE credit simultaneously

John Carroll Graduate Tuition
  • $625 per credit hour (2024-25 rates)
  • 32 credit hours: $14,640
  • Total JCU Cost: $20,000
Cleveland Clinic CPE Tuition
  • 1st CPE Unit: $550
  • 3 subsequent units ($400 each): $1,200
  • Total CC Cost: $1,750
Total Program Cost: $21,750


The Theology & Religious Studies tuition rate reflects John Carroll's commitment to supporting individuals called to serve within the church of Cleveland and beyond. For more information on cost per credit hour or financial aid, contact Student Enrollment and Financial Services at (216) 397-4248.

The Center for Spiritual Care at the Cleveland Clinic offers a limited number of residency positions for qualified applicants. Residents receive a $30,000 for the year. For more information visit the CSC website or call (216) 444-2518.

The M.A. Program in Theology & Religious Studies in firmly grounded in the Jesuit Catholic tradition of the university and radically inclusive of diverse religious and spiritual worldviews. Courses offered include:

  • Scripture & Revelation (TRS 5100)
  • Abraham: Father of Many Nations (TRS 5110)
  • Constructing Religious Identity (TRS 5200)
  • Origins of Christianity (TRS 5240)
  • Christ & the Pascal Mystery (TRS 5320)
  • Church & Sacrament (TRS 5340)
  • The Rabbis on Sex & Gender (TRS 5416)
  • Islam in America (TRS 5441)
  • Islamic Spirituality (TRS 5444)
  • Ancient Jewish Prayer (TRS 5499)
  • Catholic Moral Theology (TRS 5530)
  • Cross-Cultural Ethics (TRS 5550)
  • Bioethics (TRS 5563)

Prospective students apply separately to the M.A. in Theology & Religious Studies at John Carroll University and the Clinical Pastoral Education program at the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Spiritual Care. Admission to one program does not guarantee admission to the other.

John Carroll University Application
  • Application Form
  • Undergraduate Academic Transcripts
  • Personal Statement
  • Two Letters of Reference
  • No Application Fee
Cleveland Clinic Application
  • Application Form
  • Questionnaire (Personal, Professional, Religious/Spiritual History)
  • Two References
  • Interview
  • Application Fee
Ecumenical * Catholic * Interreligious

Program Highlights

To assist you in becoming a Board-Certified Chaplain, John Carroll University works with two national organizations that provide certification: The National Association of Catholic Chaplains (for Roman Catholics) and The Association of Professional Chaplains (for all denominations and religious traditions).

While each organization has its own specific requirements, both require the same basic elements:

To present oneself for Board Certification, candidates must have completed a graduate-level degree in theology, divinity, religious studies, or related field. The degree requirements for the NACC and APC differ:

National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC) requires a graduate-level degree in theology, divinity, religious studies, pastoral ministry, pastoral studies, or spirituality (see NACC criteria). Satisfied by JCU’s 30-hour M.A. Degree in Theology & Religious Studies + 2 additional credits or equivalencies.

Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) requires a qualifying master’s degree in theology, philosophy, or psychology. The degree must be a minimum 30 semester hours, with 24 of those hours in three of four subject areas: history of religious/philosophical tradition; spiritual practices/practical ministry; sacred texts; world religions. Above and beyond the qualifying degree, the APC requires an additional 42 graduate-level semester hours in any field. Up to 24 hours may be met by graduate education equivalent credits (e.g., continuing education, mentoring, ministerial experience). JCU’s M.A. satisfies the requirement of the qualifying degree; however, prior or addition graduate coursework or experience will be needed for APC certification (see APC criteria).

Satisfactory completion of four CPE Units is required for Board Certification. Each Unit consists of 400 hours in the clinical setting, a supervised training experience that includes clinical time with patients and families, vebatim seminars, didactic sessions, interpersonal relations group, and individual supervisory consultation. CPE Units can be taken at any time. Satisfied by the Cleveland Clinic CPE Program.

Both the NACC and the APC require individual candidates to submit a comprehensive portfolio that include a number of common elements: application form; autobiography; examples of theological integration; reflection essays; letters of recommendation; transcripts; and application fee. Specific requirements can be found on the websites for the NACC and the APC.

The Association of Professional Chaplains requires current documentation of endorsement or of good standing issued by any recognized religious/spiritual/faith group.

The National Association of Catholic Chaplains requires of Catholic candidates a current letter of ecclesiastical endorsement. For lay persons, this is typically the Bishop of the candidate’s diocese, or his delegate.

Once all portfolio materials have been submitted, candidates can request an appointment for an in-person interview before the appropriate certification board. This the final step to becoming a Board-Certified Chaplain. For specific procedures and timelines, see the NACC and APC websites.

At John Carroll University

  • Each class meets one evening a week (5:00-7:40pm) for 14 weeks during the fall and spring semesters.
  • Classes are taught on the John Carroll campus in a HyFlex format, allowing students to choose each week whether they will participate in person or via video-conference link to the classroom.
  • All classes can be completed remotely.
  • There are no asynchronous courses.
  • Students build their curriculum around their interests and needs, from course offerings such as: Scripture & Revelation; Catholic Moral Theology; Islamic Spirituality; Ancient Jewish Prayer; Cross-Cultural Ethics.

The Cleveland Clinic offers two different formats for CPE training: summer intensive units and fall or spring extended units.

  • The summer intensive unit meets 40 hours each week (including class and clinical time), Monday through Friday, for ten weeks.
  • The fall/spring extended unit meets one day each week (8 hours), with an additional 16 hours of clinical time (including evening and weekend on-call shifts), for 16 weeks.

Whether pursued as an intensive or extended program, weekly training is led by ACPE Certified Educators on staff at the Center for Spiritual Care. Training consists of clinical time with patients, verbatim seminars, didactic sessions, interpersonal relations group, and individual supervisory consultation.

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is a well-established, ecumenical and interreligious process of ministerial formation in which students learn through the practical experience of providing and reflecting on spiritual care in a clinical environment. Working under the supervision of a Certified Educator, students learn not only how to help other people draw on their own spiritual resources in the journey of healing, but also how to face their own strengths and weaknesses so as to a companion and not an obstacle to others on their journey.

National standards organize CPE training into “Units.” Typically, one CPE Unit is completed over the course of a semester (four months) or through a more intensive summer session (ten weeks). Regardless, each CPE Unit consists of 400 hours in the training environment, with a minimum of 100 hours of education activities, a minimum of 250 hours performing clinical pastoral duties, and the remaining 50 hours in either. Training consists of clinical time with patients and families, vebatim seminars, didactic sessions, interpersonal relations group, and individual supervisory consultation. Four (4) CPE Units are required for Board Certification.

The Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Spiritual Care offers CPE supervision by ACPE Certified Educators at sites in both Cleveland and Akron.

JCU Course Descriptions

For a list of upcoming graduate courses and course descriptions, click here or visit the JCU Bulletin.

APC Logo

Association of Professional Chaplains

For members of any religious or spiritual tradition, the APC sponsors the Board of Chaplaincy Certification, Inc. (BCCI), which administers a robust interreligious and ecumenical certification.


National Association of Catholic Chaplains

NACC Chaplains are Catholics who manifest proficiency in Catholic theology and spiritual care praxis, and develop competence in the areas of Theory, Practice, Professional Identity and Conduct, Professional Practice Skills and Organizational Leadership.