What Child Life Specialists Do

A child life specialist's primary function is to work with children facing hospitalization or medical challenges to ensure that their lives remain as normal as possible. This includes explaining relevant procedures to a child using language he or she can understand, supporting or distracting a child during the procedure, and providing support and information for a child's parents, siblings, and other family members. Child life specialists also help children cope with hospitalization or illness by offering opportunities for self-expression and creative play. The goal of a child life specialist is to assist each child and family in recovering.

Types of Work Environments

  • General pediatric inpatient units
  • Emergency rooms
  • Surgical and intensive care units
  • Increasingly present in community outreach programs and special needs camps

Education and Training Requirements

Child life specialists have at least a bachelor's degree in child life, child psychology, or another closely related field to human development. Some people may choose to pursue their education further, getting a Master of Science degree in Child Life Studies or a closely related field. The Association of Child Life Professionals certifies child life specialists, and most employers require this certification. To become certified, applicants must have a bachelor's degree, 10 college-level courses in child life or a related field (including a minimum of one child life course taught by a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) and must have completed an internship or fellowship of 480 hours under the direct supervision of a certified child life specialist. *These requirements will be changing. After 2019, a 600-hour internship must be completed.


According to salary.com, the median salary for child life specialists is approximately $59,915 per year.

Professional Organization

Association of Child Life Professionals

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