How to Become a Child Life Specialist

Child life specialists work with children who have various medical conditions and illnesses. Specialists help provide emotional support, information and guidance to children, their siblings and parents. Responsibilities may include providing education on medical treatments or illnesses. Child life workers may also provide activities and games to help children cope with hospital stays. Most specialists work with children in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, hospices and specialized camp programs.


  1. Image titled Become a Child Life Specialist Step 1
    Earn a bachelor's degree in child life or a closely related field. A list of colleges, which have a 4-year degree program in child life, can be found on the Child Life Council's (CLC) website. A bachelor's degree in a closely related field, such as child development or social work is also acceptable. Consider taking electives in therapeutic recreation, death and dying and culture diversity.
  2. Image titled Become a Child Life Specialist Step 2
    Complete an internship to gain clinical experience. Contact the child life or social work departments of hospitals with a pediatric unit. Call pediatric rehabilitation and burn centers as well as pediatric hospices. Complete at least 480 hours of clinical work as a child life intern.
  3. Image titled Become a Child Life Specialist Step 3
    Earn certification from the CLC. This international non-profit agency offers a voluntary certification for child life professionals who meet certain criteria. Earning the certification indicates the individual met a certain level of education, experience and proficiency in the field. Many hospitals prefer to hire a CLC certified child life specialist.
    • Meet the eligibility requirements, which include a bachelor's degree with 10 classes in child development, education, social work, nursing or related fields.
    • Provide verification of completion of a 480-hour internship in a child life department.
    • Pay the required fees. Check the CLC website for the most up-to-date fee information.
    • Take and pass the credentialing exam. A study guide is available to prepare for the multiple-choice exam.
  4. Image titled Become a Child Life Specialist Step 4
    Locate jobs and places of employment. The CLC has listings of employment opportunities for child life specialists. Contact the human resource department at hospitals and clinics. Specialty camps for children with illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes and burns, may also hire child life workers.


  • Consider earning a master's degree. Child life specialists who wish to advance in the field, such as managing a child life department, may need a master's degree. Workers may also receive higher compensation with a master's degree.
  • Expect to take continuing education classes to stay current in the field and renew certification through the CLC every 5 years. Child life professionals can also keep up to date in their field by subscribing to newsletters and attending conferences through the CLC.


  • Working with children who have life threatening conditions can be emotionally challenging. Child life workers deal with very difficult situations, such as child abuse, children's death and families dealing with grief.
  • Depending on the place of employment, child life workers may need to be required to work evenings or weekends.

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Categories: Health Care