Case study

Assistant chaplain — James Wallace

After his theology degree James worked as a careers adviser. He then took a one-year MA in sports chaplaincy before gaining his assistant chaplain post at a university

How did you get you job?

I'm a chaplain and senior residential tutor. As a chaplain, I have pastoral conversations with students and staff, as well as organise events. I also supervise residential students out of hours and manage a team of student residential advisers.

I saw the role advertised on the university's website and applied online.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

My degree, theology at Cliffe College, Derbyshire (validated by The University of Manchester), focused on world faiths, ethics and helping and supporting people pastorally.

What are your main work activities?

My day is varied with lots of meetings with students and staff members around pastoral issues.

I work on student engagement, connecting with students in all the different faculties on the campus and leading chaplaincy events, including services. I'm involved in campus and university committees, provide out of hours pastoral support and manage a team residential advisors.

How has your role developed?

My role has developed outside of chaplaincy and I am now essential to the support of students on campus, both out of hours as well as during normal operational hours.

This has increased my transferable skills to be able to consider more senior roles. My career ambitions involve looking into ordained ministry in the Church of England.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The varied nature. I like being able to work with people on a long-term basis and see their development.

What are the challenges?

Student engagement, as chaplaincy is perceived as just being for Christians and not for everyone.

Getting other members of staff to understand what I do can also be a challenge. In this role there are links with counseling, but this is completely separate from other student services and our line manager is a dean.

Any advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

Don't rush into it, make sure it is relevant to your career plans and something you're passionate about.  I had 18 months' work as a careers adviser, which was most useful. I started work with sports students so up-skilled by taking a pastoral-based Masters (social sciences), which was very hands on. I completed a reflective practice dissertation on the topic of student gambling.

Any experience of working with people will be helpful. Understanding different cultures and faith backgrounds in essential. Experience in a large organisation or school is important.

Find out more

  • Learn more about the role of a chaplain.