Child Life Specialist Graduate Programs

Child life specialists are advocates for children dealing with illness or facing long-term hospitalization. A master's degree can help you prepare for certification and provide valuable practical experiences in the field. Schools offering Child Care Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Graduate Degrees Are Available for Child Life Specialists?

As an aspiring child life specialist, you can earn a master's degree that can prepare you to work with children and families facing challenging situations. Master's degree programs are available through on-campus study and can typically be completed in two years; programs include field experience opportunities in healthcare facilities. Because of this, child life specialist degree programs are unlikely to be offered online. Most programs require completion of a thesis, portfolio or other project that showcases the knowledge gained through your completed coursework and field training.

Degree Requirements Graduate thesis, portfolio or final project may be required
Certification Requirements 480 hours of experience and fulfillment of educational requirements
Common Course Topics Counseling children, play therapy, identifying child abuse
Median Salary (2019) $41,708* per year
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 16% growth (for all social workers)**
  • Source: Payscale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Can This Program Prepare Me For Certification?

While becoming a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) is not a requirement for finding a job, certification may improve your job prospects and salary levels by showcasing your specialized knowledge and training in child development and family support. Most master's programs prepare you for the certification exam through focused child life training and practical experience in clinical internships. To be eligible for the exam, you must complete 480 hours of direct experience in addition to fulfilling educational requirements.

What Can I Learn?

Through both theory and practical application, you learn basic techniques for working with children who face hospitalization, terminal illness or trauma. Coursework includes methods for helping children cope with anxiety or grief, including play therapy and counseling. You may also study characteristics and social aptitudes of children with special healthcare needs.

Your coursework can include training on identification and reporting of child abuse, as well as treatment for individuals abused as children. Supervised fieldwork opportunities take place in hospitals or other clinical settings where you can work with children and teens applying the methodologies learned through your coursework.

Where Can I Use This Degree?

According to the Child Life Council, you can work in hospital emergency rooms, pediatric centers or outpatient facilities. Child life specialists can advocate for family-focused care, prepare children for medical procedures or provide support for children dealing with bereavement ( According to, the median salary for a child life specialist in August 2019 was $41,708.

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:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Northcentral University

    Northcentral University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Northcentral University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Liberty University

    Liberty University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Liberty University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master

    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

  • Capella University

    Capella University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Capella University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Stanford University

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Stanford
  • Harvard University

    Campus Locations:

    • Massachusetts: Cambridge
  • University of Pennsylvania

    Campus Locations:

    • Pennsylvania: Philadelphia
  • University of Alaska Southeast

    Campus Locations:

    • Alaska: Juneau
  • Duke University

    Campus Locations:

    • North Carolina: Durham