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Child Life Specialist: Job Duties, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for a child life specialist. Get the facts about the required education, the job duties, employment outlook and salary potential to determine if this is the right career for you.

What Is A Child Life Specialist?

Child life specialists are trained to provide care to children and adolescents who may be facing issues such as medical procedures or illness. They may work in hospitals, clinics, or doctor's offices. These professionals are trained to identify children with needs and help address those needs through play or counseling. Child life specialists may also provide support to the families of children who are facing illness or injury and require medical care.

Degree Required Bachelor's or master's degree
Education Field of Study Child life, child and family studies, early childhood education, human development or psychology
Key Skills Facilitation of daily interaction between patients and hospital staff, coordinating special events for patients and their families, providing family members with educational materials and emotional guidance
Licensure Required Certification required in some states
Job Growth (2018-2018)* 7% (child, family and school social workers)
Average Salary (2018)* $49,760 (child, family and school social workers)

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties of a Child Specialist

As a child life specialist, you will work within the field of pediatrics, usually in hospitals as part of a team that provides health care for children or adolescents. You will use play, conversation, art and other forms of self-expression to prepare children for upsetting events, most commonly medical procedures ranging from routine tests to complicated surgeries.

It will also be your job to support patients' family members by providing educational materials and emotional guidance. You will be responsible for facilitating daily interaction between patients and hospital staff members, while managing regular support groups or coordinating special events for patients and their families. In addition to hospitals, you might work at doctor's offices, private clinics, funeral homes, hospices, rehabilitation sites, schools, specialized camps or within the court system.

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of child, family and school social workers, which is the category child life specialists falls under, is projected to grow 7% from 2018 to 2028. This is due to the need to assist parents to maximize the well-being of their children. Data from the BLS shows the average salary for child, family and school social workers was $49,760 in May 2018. The 10th percentile earned $29,550 and the 90th percentile earned $76,750 that year.

Education Requirements

To become a child life specialist, you will be required to earn a bachelor's or master's degree in child life, child and family studies, early childhood education, human development or psychology. Most states will also require you to become certified. In addition to state-level certification, graduates may decide to become a Certified Child Life Specialist by completing a clinical internship and passing a national examination administered by the Child Life Council (www.childlife.org). To maintain certification as a Certified Child Life Specialist, you must participate in continued professional development.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Healthcare social workers may work with individuals of all ages who are facing illness or injury and provide counseling services and support to those individuals and their families. Rehabilitation counselors support individuals with mental, physical or emotional disabilities and help them overcome issues so that they can successfully live independently. School counselors may also provide support to children facing personal or medical issues and help them address those issues in their life.