How to Become a Child Life Specialist in 5 Steps
Child life specialists help infants, children and adolescents cope with staying in hospitals. Learn what education and training you'll need to succeed in this career. Schools offering Child Care Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Step 1: Research Child Life Specialists Duties and Education Requirements
Child life specialists work with hospitalized children and their families. In this position, you use play and self-expression activities to help children cope with challenges and provide both emotional and informational support to family members. You also work to educate caregivers, hospital administrators and the public about the needs of sick children. Understanding the demands that you need to undertake and being sure you're capable of working in such conditions is important before you embark on your education and training in this field.
Step 2: Earn Your Degree
According to the Child Life Council (CLC), child life specialists generally earn a bachelor's or master's degree in education, psychology or human growth and development (www.childlife.org). You may choose to complete a 4-year bachelor's degree program or a 5-year dual degree program in child life, human development, social work, child development or similar majors. The dual-degree program results in both a bachelor's and master's degree.
Step 3: Complete an Internship
Many hospitals offer internships working with children. These can provide valuable opportunities for hands-on experience. As an intern, you may assist an experienced child life specialist with assessing patient needs and preparing patients for hospital procedures. Internship application requirements may include current enrollment or completion of a related degree program. You may also need to satisfy specific coursework required to take the Child Life Specialist certification exam.
Step 4: Consider Certification
The only certification available in this field is the Certified Child Life Specialist credential offered by the CLC. Obtaining this credential can have many significant benefits such as validating your knowledge and skills as a child life specialist, preparing you for career advancement and increasing your salary potential. Application requirements include completion of a bachelor's degree program, ten college-level courses in child life or a related subject, 480 hours of clinical experience in child life and passing a certification exam.
Step 5: Find a Job
According to the Mayo School of Health Sciences, child life jobs are becoming more prevalent. Almost all children's hospitals in the U.S. have a child life department and staff (www.mayo.edu). A 2008 survey from the CLC reported that child life specialists with a bachelor's degree earned a mean annual salary of $38,870 while those with a master's degree earned a mean annual salary $41,479.
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