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Information on Graduate Degree Programs in Child Life Specialist

Majors Overview November 12, 2015

This article talks about graduate degree programs in child life specialist and their educational requirements, coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and certification and continuing education choices.

Graduate Programs in Child Life Specialist

Children can trust child life specialists to help in dealing with injury, illness or the loss of a loved one. Colleges or departments of education commonly offer master’s degree programs in child life, though some programs are under the school’s psychology divisions. A dual degree option is available at some schools where students can find a combination of child life and social work. Students may also be able to choose a child life concentration within a master’s degree program in psychology or education.

Students enrolled in master’s degree programs in child life are imparted the skills necessary for working with children going through traumatic illnesses or injuries in various health care settings including hospitals. Internships are in the coursework of most programs, whereby students get experience working in a variety of situations. Students may also be required to complete a research project. The length of a program may vary, ranging between 36 and 72 credit hours. The program may qualify graduates to seek professional certification, which while not mandatory, could aid in career advancement.

Educational Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree in any field of study. Applicants for admission to many schools are required to have a strong grasp of math, especially statistics, to help prepare for research training. Applicants must also be proficient in English.


Program coursework typically covers courses in child and family therapy aimed at training students to help a child’s family too. Research projects are in some programs, internships are in most. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Applications of play therapy
•Social research methods and tools
•Techniques in crisis intervention counseling
•Child life program administration and development
•Treatment and diagnosis of family crisis
•Theory of family systems

Career Choices

Program graduates may seek work in a dental office, hospital, outpatient clinic or any place where children can find treatment.

Job and Wage Outlook

In November 2013, child life specialists brought in an average annual wage of $38,627.

Certification and Continuing Education Choices

Program graduates can opt for professional certification from the Child Life Council, which offers a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) designation, in addition to continuing education and other professional resources. To qualify for the certification, candidates have to pass a rigorous exam, and meet certain experience and education standards.

Admission criteria require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree, in addition to having completed at least ten college-level classes in child life or a related area. Additionally, applicants are required to have a minimum of 480 hours of clinical work experience supervised by a certified child life specialist.

Individuals aspiring to careers in education or research can enroll in related doctoral programs in psychology and child development. Schools do not offer any Ph.D. degree programs specifically in child life.

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