How to Become a Child Life Specialist in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a child life specialist. Learn about the education, training, job outlook and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Child Care Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

Child life specialists help infants, children and adolescents cope with staying in hospitals. The following table provides detailed information for this career:

Degree Required Bachelor's or master's degree and internship
Education Field of Study Education, psychology, human growth and development
Key Responsibilities Elevate quality of life for hospitalized children, provide support for families and caregivers
Certification Certified Child Life Specialist
Job Growth (2012-22) 15% for all child, family and school social workers*
Average Salary (2012) $41,334 (bachelor's degree)/$44,985 (master's degree)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Child Life Council

Step 1: Research Child Life Specialists Duties and Education Requirements

Child life specialists work with hospitalized children and their families. In this position, you use play and self-expression activities to help children cope with challenges and provide both emotional and informational support to family members. You also work to educate caregivers, hospital administrators and the public about the needs of sick children. Understanding the demands that you need to undertake and being sure you're capable of working in such conditions is important before you embark on your education and training in this field.

Step 2: Earn Your Degree

According to the Child Life Council (CLC), child life specialists generally earn a bachelor's or master's degree in education, psychology or human growth and development (www.childlife.org). You may choose to complete a 4-year bachelor's degree program or a 5-year dual degree program in child life, human development, social work, child development or similar majors. The dual-degree program results in both a bachelor's and master's degree.

Step 3: Complete an Internship

Many hospitals offer internships working with children. These can provide valuable opportunities for hands-on experience. As an intern, you may assist an experienced child life specialist with assessing patient needs and preparing patients for hospital procedures. Internship application requirements may include current enrollment or completion of a related degree program. You may also need to satisfy specific coursework required to take the Child Life Specialist certification exam.

Step 4: Consider Certification

The only certification available in this field is the Certified Child Life Specialist credential offered by the CLC. Obtaining this credential can have many significant benefits such as validating your knowledge and skills as a child life specialist, preparing you for career advancement and increasing your salary potential. Application requirements include completion of a bachelor's degree program, ten college-level courses in child life or a related subject, 480 hours of clinical experience in child life and passing a certification exam.

Step 5: Find a Job

According to the Mayo School of Health Sciences, child life jobs are becoming more prevalent. Almost all children's hospitals in the U.S. have a child life department and staff (www.mayo.edu). A 2012 survey from the CLC reported that child life specialists with a bachelor's degree earned a mean annual salary of $41,334, while those with a master's degree earned a mean annual salary of $44,985.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:

Popular Schools

  • Southern New Hampshire University

    Southern New Hampshire University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Southern New Hampshire University:

    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • University of Phoenix

    University of Phoenix responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at University of Phoenix:

    Online and Campus-Based Programs Available:

    View All Locations
    • Anywhere: Online Campus
    • Arizona: Online Campus, Tempe, Tucson
    • California: Online Campus, Tempe, Tucson, Costa Mesa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose
    • Colorado: Online Campus, Tempe, Tucson, Costa Mesa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Colorado Springs
    • Columbia (D.C.): Online Campus, Tempe, Tucson, Costa Mesa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Colorado Springs, Washington
    • Georgia: Online Campus, Tempe, Tucson, Costa Mesa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Colorado Springs, Washington, Augusta, Columbus, Sandy Springs
    • Louisiana: Online Campus, Tempe, Tucson, Costa Mesa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Colorado Springs, Washington, Augusta, Columbus, Sandy Springs, Baton Rouge, Metairie
    • Massachusetts: Online Campus, Tempe, Tucson, Costa Mesa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Colorado Springs, Washington, Augusta, Columbus, Sandy Springs, Baton Rouge, Metairie, Braintree
    • Minnesota: Online Campus, Tempe, Tucson, Costa Mesa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Colorado Springs, Washington, Augusta, Columbus, Sandy Springs, Baton Rouge, Metairie, Braintree, St Louis Park
    • Missouri: Online Campus, Tempe, Tucson, Costa Mesa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Colorado Springs, Washington, Augusta, Columbus, Sandy Springs, Baton Rouge, Metairie, Braintree, St Louis Park, Kansas City, Maryland Heights
    • New Mexico: Online Campus, Tempe, Tucson, Costa Mesa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Colorado Springs, Washington, Augusta, Columbus, Sandy Springs, Baton Rouge, Metairie, Braintree, St Louis Park, Kansas City, Maryland Heights, Albuquerque
    • Nevada: Online Campus, Tempe, Tucson, Costa Mesa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Colorado Springs, Washington, Augusta, Columbus, Sandy Springs, Baton Rouge, Metairie, Braintree, St Louis Park, Kansas City, Maryland Heights, Albuquerque, Las Vegas
    • Puerto Rico: Online Campus, Tempe, Tucson, Costa Mesa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Colorado Springs, Washington, Augusta, Columbus, Sandy Springs, Baton Rouge, Metairie, Braintree, St Louis Park, Kansas City, Maryland Heights, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Guaynabo
    • Tennessee: Online Campus, Tempe, Tucson, Costa Mesa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Colorado Springs, Washington, Augusta, Columbus, Sandy Springs, Baton Rouge, Metairie, Braintree, St Louis Park, Kansas City, Maryland Heights, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Guaynabo, Chattanooga, Cordova, Nashville
    • Virginia: Online Campus, Tempe, Tucson, Costa Mesa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Colorado Springs, Washington, Augusta, Columbus, Sandy Springs, Baton Rouge, Metairie, Braintree, St Louis Park, Kansas City, Maryland Heights, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Guaynabo, Chattanooga, Cordova, Nashville, Arlington, Glen Allen
    • Washington: Online Campus, Tempe, Tucson, Costa Mesa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Colorado Springs, Washington, Augusta, Columbus, Sandy Springs, Baton Rouge, Metairie, Braintree, St Louis Park, Kansas City, Maryland Heights, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Guaynabo, Chattanooga, Cordova, Nashville, Arlington, Glen Allen, Tukwila
    • Wisconsin: Online Campus, Tempe, Tucson, Costa Mesa, Fresno, Sacramento, San Diego, San Jose, Colorado Springs, Washington, Augusta, Columbus, Sandy Springs, Baton Rouge, Metairie, Braintree, St Louis Park, Kansas City, Maryland Heights, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Guaynabo, Chattanooga, Cordova, Nashville, Arlington, Glen Allen, Tukwila, Milwaukee
  • Penn Foster Career School

    Penn Foster Career School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster Career School:

    Online Programs Available

  • Walden University

    Walden University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Walden University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Baker College Online

    Baker College Online responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Baker College Online:

    Online Programs Available

  • Post University

    Post University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Post University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Kaplan University

    Kaplan University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Kaplan University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Colorado Technical University

    Colorado Technical University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Colorado Technical University:

    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Colorado State University Global

    Colorado State University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Colorado State University Global:

    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Medaille College

    Medaille College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Medaille College:

    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Associate Programs

    Online Programs Available

  • Grantham University

    Grantham University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grantham University:

    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Associate Programs

    Online Programs Available

  • University of the Rockies

    University of the Rockies responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at University of the Rockies:

    • Doctoral

    Online Programs Available

  • Johns Hopkins University

    Johns Hopkins University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Johns Hopkins University:

    • Master

    Campus Locations:

    • Maryland: Baltimore
  • Azusa Pacific University College

    Azusa Pacific University College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Azusa Pacific University College:

    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available