How to Become a Child Life Specialist: in Simple Steps

Discover the joy of shaping smiles and make every moment count by unlocking your potential to become a future Child Life Specialist?.

Did you know the average salary of a child life specialist is around $60,000 every year??

Choosing your career as a child life specialist can be rewarding. The demand for child life specialists has been steadily increasing due to several factors. They play a crucial role in tackling the challenges of medical treatment and hospitalization for children. 

Difficulties such as depression, anxiety attacks, and stress have been increasing; thus, the demand for Child Life Specialists has grown?. 

Here are some steps you can follow to become a child life specialist?. 

Who is a Child Life Specialist?

Child life Specialists are trained professionals who assist children with the challenges of hospitalization, medical procedures, and serious illnesses. Child life specialists focus on minimizing the stress and anxiety that children face during their rough times.

 A child life specialist uses different psychological techniques to ensure the mental well-being of children. They report to families about medical conditions and required treatments, and Child life specialists play a crucial role in creating a positive environment for children and less traumatic to ensure their overall comfort✅. 

How much can a Child Life Specialist earn??

A child life specialist’s salary depends on the geographic location they are working in. The salary of a child life specialist ranges between $30,000 to $50,000 every year. The average salary of a child life specialist is $60,000 every year.

 However, with advanced qualifications, certifications, and experience, a child life specialist can earn anywhere between $60,000-$1,00,000 every year.

Child life specialists who offer consulting services have a higher scope of generating higher earnings?. 

How to Become a Child Life Specialist (Tips)

To become a child life specialist, you need to gain a lot of knowledge, education, certifications, and experience. Moreover, it is the willingness you have to become a child life specialist. 

Be ready to equip the essential skills to embark on a journey to becoming a child life specialist. Here is a detailed structure of the steps you need to take to pursue a rewarding career as a child life specialist?.

Obtaining Minimum Education Qualifications

The initial step to becoming a child life specialist is by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as child life, child development, psychology, or any other related field. Few programs are specifically altered for aspiring Child Life Specialists. Seek programs that focus on topics that cover child development, medical terminology, and psychology. 

Obtaining a strong academic qualification will prepare you for the challenges of the role. Aspiring child life specialists who want to advance in their careers can consider pursuing a master’s degree in a relevant field, such as medical care or psychology✅. 

Enrolling In Courses and Programs

Universities provide a variety of programs and courses related to fields like child development, psychology, human development, and family studies. 

Enrolling in courses and programs can build a solid foundation in budding your career as a child life specialist. Research for programs that align with the academic and practical requirements for becoming a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS). 

Choose courses that comprise topics such as therapeutic play, coping strategies, grief and loss, medical ethics, etc. Enrolling in relevant courses will help you develop the skills necessary for aiding children and families facing medical challenges. Look for programs and courses that include study materials for certified exam preparation in their curriculum.

Appropriate programs and courses will prepare you to successfully pass the Child Life Professional Certification Examination administered under the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP). 

You may enroll in these programs at your convenience, as there are both online and hybrid options available, allowing you to balance your education with other commitments✅. 

Deciding To Specialize in a Particular Area

Deciding to specialize in a particular area allows you to focus your expertise and make a meaningful impact in a specific area. Evaluate the areas within Child Life that fascinate you the most. Identifying your interests can give you a clear perception of specializing in a particular area in the field. 

Research various specializations within the field. These could include areas like pediatric oncology, neonatal care, palliative care, surgical services, emergency departments, etc. 

Research what each specialization entails and the unique challenges and opportunities they offer. Choose a specialization that aligns with your interests and passions.

To provide the best facility to the children, specializing in an area you genuinely care about can impact in providing the best support to the children and families you work with✅.

Gaining Relevant Experience 

Suppose you are confused in choosing your area of specialization. Start seeking volunteering opportunities in different specializations to gain firsthand exposure before making a final decision once you have figured out your area of specialization. 

Start gaining relevant experience in that particular specialization as a Child Life Specialist. Find out internships or apprenticeships that align with your chosen specialization. Gaining hands-on experience in your desired area will provide valuable insights and help you determine if it’s the right fit. 

Do not be in a hurry, be patient and bold in seeking out opportunities that align with your specialization goals✅. 

Preparing For Certifications 

Certifications can give you global recognition. Enroll in programs that integrate certification exam preparation into the curriculum. Well-structured programs can prepare you to successfully pass the Child Life Professional Certification Examination administered by the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP). 

The eligibility to apply for the certification exam requires you to complete a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or University in a field related to child life, child development, or similar fields. It is required that you complete a child life internship of at least 480 hours under the supervision of a CCLS. 

Fill out and submit the application form to ACLP to take the certification exam. Application requirements typically include verification of completion of internship hours, transcripts, and other documentation.

 The certification exam is generally computer-based and can be taken at selective testing centers. Passing the exam successfully indicates your expertise and knowledge as a Child Life Specialist.

ACLP certification is a recognized standard in the field; becoming an ACLP-certified child life specialist signifies your dedication to excellence in child life practice✅. 

Responsibilities of a Child Life Specialist 

The role of a Child Life Specialist depends from situation to situation. The primary role of a child life specialist involves providing emotional support, education, and therapeutic solution to help children and families cope with the challenges of medical treatment and hospitalization. 

Here are some of the common responsibilities that a child life specialist needs to follow in their day-to-day life ?. 

Conducting Psychological and Social Assessments 

Child life specialists are fundamentally responsible for conducting psychological and social assessments. Child life specialists begin by building rapport and establishing a trusting relationship with the child and their family. 

To understand the child’s emotions, fears, anxiety, or any other medical condition, they constantly engage in conversations. 

Before conducting any assessment, child life specialists are responsible for considering their age factors and understanding their medical condition. Thereafter, they go ahead and, based on the assessment findings, child life specialists plan and implement personalized interventions and activities to address the child’s emotional needs and improve their overall well-being. 

To assure optimum safety, they share assessment outcomes with the healthcare team, including doctors, physicians, nurses, social workers, and therapists.

Child life specialists thus collaborate on care plans to combine psychosocial support✅. 

Preparing Children For Medical Treatment and Providing Accurate Information 

Child life specialists are responsible for preparing children and families for medical procedures, surgeries, and tests. They offer educational resources and information to families to understand the medical conditions and treatments. 

Usually, a child life specialist needs to engage in discussions to identify the child’s fears, weaknesses, misconceptions, and concerns about the upcoming medical procedure.

 To explain medical procedures, a child life specialist uses visual resources such as diagrams, pictures, videos, etc. With the new technology, specialists use virtual reality apps to represent the medical environment, encouraging the child to become more familiar with the procedure setting. 

Specialists provide accurate information to family members so they can support and comfort the child✅. 

Facilitating Therapeutic Playing Activities

A child life specialist has a responsibility to facilitate therapeutic play activities to help children cope with medical procedures, reduce anxiety, and promote personal well-being. Specialists begin by assessing each child’s age, developmental stage, medical condition, and psychological needs. 

Specialists are trained to divert the child’s attention and reduce stress while conducting medical procedures. They arrange group play sessions to encourage interaction among hospitalized children.

They build strong connections with children so that they can express their feelings without any hesitation ✅. 

Assuring Comfort To the Children During Medical Procedures 

It is one of the most important steps to ensure comfort to children during medical procedures. Specialists ensure that there is a calm environment, soft lighting, and comforting sounds during medical procedures. 

They teach deep-breathing exercises and several muscle relaxation techniques to help the child stay relaxed during the procedure. To make them feel comfortable, specialists need to offer cushions, blankets, or stuffed animals to make them feel more at ease. 

Generally, to avoid any complications, specialists suggest that they use tablets, iPads, smartphones, or virtual reality goggles to engage the child with games, videos, or stories during the procedure. 

To ensure that the child is comfortable, specialists are responsible for coordinating with doctors and nurses✅. 

Maintaining Accurate Reports and Documents 

Maintaining accurate reports and documents helps in ensuring proper communication, tracking progress, and providing quality care. They develop standardized forms and templates for documenting various aspects of work. 

To maintain a transparent record, they document comprehensive assessments of each child’s emotional, developmental, and psychosocial needs. 

Specialists document and regularly update and review plans. After the medical procedure is completed, they keep records of signed consent forms from parents, particularly if they involve sensitive activities or photographs. 

Nowadays, specialists use digital platforms or electronic health record systems to facilitate documentation processes and improve accessibility✅.

Top Schools in the World To Become A Child Life Specialist

There are several schools well renowned for providing the best teaching experience for its students. Education qualifications are necessary; thus, pursuing child life programs from top schools can do wonders in your career.

These schools are ranked according to their strong academic curriculum and achievements.

Here are a few top schools in the world where you can choose to pursue a career as a child life specialist?. 

Bank Street College Of Education, USA

The Bank Street College of Education in New York City, USA, is well known for its extensive curriculum. The college offers its child life program online. However, candidates who have enrolled in this program have achieved satisfactory results in their careers.

The program is designed online; however, the content of the program is so valuable that it can provide you with all the knowledge needed to become a child life specialist✅. 

McMaster University, Canada

McMaster University is known for providing a master’s program to pursue a career as a child life specialist. The University covers both academic teachings and clinical education to help aspiring child life specialists gain maximum knowledge out of the program.

 The program consists of 2 years, and the majority of the program is covered online✅. 

University College London, United Kingdom

The University College London is popular for providing a master’s in child development. Their master’s program is highly regarded in the industry. It allows you to choose your time availability for the program. 

You can choose a full-time, part-time, or flexible program according to your convenience. The duration of the program is of 1-year✅. 

Where to find a Child Life Specialist Job opportunity online?

Finding your desired job has now become easy with the enhanced technology and the internet. It is easier to find a job online by just searching for the type of job you are looking out for. 

Keep your resume and cover letter before applying for jobs online. Create a strong profile to stand out from your competitors to get your desired job.

There are a few popular job boards where you can find legitimate job opportunities online. Here are some of the popular job boards you can consider?. 

Child Life Specialist Job Boards

The official website of the Child life council also posts the latest job updates on their website. Since there are numerous job boards available online to help you get your desired job, you can find jobs at a hospital, nursing home, healthcare center, etc, through these job boards. 

Stay updated on these job boards every day. Nonetheless, if you gain essential skills and experience, you can also find remote clients to coach patients and earn money.

Here are a few top-listed job boards; you can try your luck?.





Online Networks With Professionals

There is an official Child Life Council Community online where you can connect with experienced child life specialists and build a good network with them. Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram have relevant groups dedicated to child life specialists. 

Building an online network with such professionals helps in gaining valuable insights into the field as well as it can offer several hidden opportunities to you. 

Apart from social media, visit and join the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) organization online for networking opportunities.

Networking can be very beneficial in building a successful career as a child life specialist✅.

Key takeaways

Obtaining minimum education qualification. Consider an advanced degree, if possible. Focus on the psychological and emotional needs of children and families. Ensure maximum safety of the children while beginning with medical procedures. 

Encourage the children when there is a panic situation due to any illness or treatment. Ensure regular checkups and adequate care within the healthcare system. 

Stay updated on the latest trends, techniques, methods, and procedures. Maintain accurate records to track the progress✅ 

All the best for your journey ?. 

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