Since many people aren’t familiar with child life, here’s a run down on the requirements for becoming a certified child life specialist (CCLS):
1. Bachelor’s Degree- Child life specialists need to have at least a four year degree in Child Life, Human Development, Psychology, Education or a related field. A listing of suggested coursework is available on the Child Life Council website
2. Experience working with children: Most practicum and internship programs require students to have previous experience working with children (150 hours is a common requirement). Some programs specify that at least part of an applicant’s experience be volunteering/working with children in a hospital/healthcare setting.
3. Practicum- A practicum is an introductory student experience, generally 30-150 hours of observation of a child life specialist/s working in the hospital. While not technically “required” for certification, practicum experience is great preparation for internship and some hospitals will not accept students for internship without a practicum.
4. Internship- The Child Life Council requires a minimum of 480 hours of guided practice in the hospital under the supervision of a CCLS (who has 4000 hours of paid work experience). Hospitals throughout the country have internship programs and each hospital structures the internship a little differently. However, it is common for interns to have rotations in at least two areas of the hospital working with different patient populations. Applying for internship can be very competitive and applicants should familiarize themselves with the unique requirements of any programs to which they are applying.
5. Certification Exam- The Child Life Certification Exam is offered twice a year by the Child Life Council. It is offered in multiple cities. Candidates that wish to sit for the exam must first establish that they have met all of the eligibility requirements (bachelor’s degree, met coursework criteria, completed internship) in order to register. Many hospitals will hire child life specialists directly out of internship with the requirement that the person pass the certification exam within a year of hire.