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Child Life Profession Frequently Asked Questions

What is a child life specialist?

The goal of a certified child life specialist (CCLS) is to reduce the stress and anxiety childrenand families experience related to healthcare and hospitalization. CCLSs are experts in child development. They promote effective coping through education, preparation, and play.

What interventions do child life specialists provide?

  • Preparation for tests, surgery, and procedures
  • Procedural support and distraction
  • Non-pharmacological pain management
  • Education regarding new or existing diagnoses
  • Medical play
  • Developmental play
  • Emotional support
  • Sibling and family support
  • Bereavement support
  • Preoperative tours
  • Patient advocacy

What are the typical responsibilities of a child life specialist?

  • Communication with interdisciplinary team members
  • Educational opportunities for medical and nursing staff
  • Daily charting for consultations and significant interactions
  • Daily statistics for all interventions
  • Involvement with special events/activities and donations
  • Supervision and education of child life students and volunteers
  • Participation in meetings/committees relevant to profession/unit
  • Creation of preparation tools/resources for use by patients and families
  • Professional involvement with other organizations (i.e. Association of Child Life Professionals)

Do I need a degree in child life to become a child life specialist?

No. To become certified, a bachelor’s degree in child life, child development, or a related field is required. In 2019 a master’s degrees in Child Life will be required for certification. Click here for a list of recommended curriculum.

What degrees do most child life specialists have?

  • Child Life
  • Child/Family Development
  • Human Development
  • Family Dynamics
  • Expressive Therapies (play, music, dance, art)
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Therapeutic Recreation
  • Education

What colleges in my area offer a child life program?

For a list of colleges that offer a specific child life program, visit the Academic Program Directory at  Identify colleges that have a child development program.

If I do not have a degree that fits or I am making a career change, what do I do?

The Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) requires a total of 10 college-level courses in child life or a related field, which they approve in order to be eligible to sit for the Child Life Professional Certification Examination.

Do I have to be certified to become a child life specialist?

Most hospitals require child life professionals to be certified or at least to be eligible to sit for the Child Life Professional Certification Examination. For more information about becoming a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS), visit the ACLP website at

What are the career prospects for a child life specialist?

CCLSs are typically employed in hospitals. Some CCLSs are applying their skills in other areas such as outpatient clinics, doctors’ offices, hospice, schools, and funeral homes.

How many hours does a child life specialist work per week?

A full time CCLS works 40+ hours per week. Some sites may offer part time opportunities.

What is the average salary of a child life specialist?

The average salary of a child life specialist varies depending on position, years of experience, education level, and location. The salary calculator at (available to ACLP members) provides more information on salary. Other benefits may include healthcare coverage, 403b, tuition reimbursement, and conference reimbursement.

Can I shadow a child life specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan (CHM)?

No, shadowing opportunities are not available at CHM to protect our patients’ rights to confidentiality and privacy.

Do I have to have certification to be hired at CHM?

Candidates must be certified or eligible for certification. If candidates are not certified when hired, they have up to one year to obtain certification. Maintenance of certification is required.

What do I have to do to become a volunteer at CHM?

Click here to access the CHM volunteer application.

  • Child Life
  • Child/Family Developmen
  • Human Development
  • Family Dynamics
  • Expressive Therapies (play, music, dance, art)
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Therapeutic Recreation
  • Education