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Child Life Specialist Certification and Training

Child life specialists help children and their families deal with the stresses of medical treatment. Majors and concentrations at the undergraduate level can prepare you for certification, and online options are available. Read on to learn about specific classes and details of these programs.

What Is a Child Life Specialist?

As a child life specialist, you will work with children and their families to help them through the process of hospitalization. Often, child life specialists work at children's hospitals.

You can help educate, prepare and support children and their families throughout medical procedures. You will be part of a child's health care team and work with other health care professionals on their treatment. This career may also require you to work with children and help them positively cope with their experiences while in a medical environment.

Work Environment Often in hospitals as part of a child's health care team during medical treatment
Degree Levels Bachelor's
Common Classes Psychology, child development, anatomy, family counseling
Certification Requirements Completed or nearly-completed bachelor's degree with relevant coursework, clinical experience, passage of certification exam
Median Salary (2018) $23,240 (for all childcare workesrs
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 7% growth (for all childcare workesrs

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

What Training Will I Need?

Child life specialist training programs are usually offered at the undergraduate level, either as a bachelor's degree or a concentration within another degree program, such as family and child studies, sociology or psychology. You will be able to complete training online or through a campus-based program.

Additionally, some programs and hospitals may offer internships in the child life area. You may find related degree programs in areas that include child development, family studies and early childhood education if your school does not offer a child life specialist program.

What Classes Will I Take?

The number of credits varies between concentrations and degrees, but you will take a combination of psychology, counseling and biology courses. These may include classes like child development, family studies, anatomy and physiology, life sciences, family counseling and behavioral science. You may also take classes that deal with coping strategies for children, such as children's literature, music or art therapy.

How Do I Get Certified?

You can find the Child Life Certification through the Child Life Council (www.childlife.org). You will need to have a bachelor's degree or be in your last semester of study, as well as complete at least ten courses in child life or a related area.

Prior to sitting for the certification exam, you will also need to complete supervised child life clinical experience hours with a certified child life specialist. The multiple-choice exam covers intervention, professional responsibility and assessment topics of child life practice.