How to Become a Child Life Specialist

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How to Become a Child Life Specialist: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a child life specialist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a child life specialist:

 

• You have knowledge of child play behaviour, as well as grief and loss behaviour

• You are able to teach coping strategies that are age and procedure appropriate

• You are able to easily adapt and be flexible in a hectic work environment

• You have a keen interest in helping children and families

• You are very kind, patient and empathic

• You have a strong desire to work in a hospital or other health care facility

 

Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a child life specialist. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!

 

 

Education Needed to Become a Child Life Specialist

To qualify for writing the exam become a certified child life specialist (CCLS), you need a Bachelor's degree* from an accredited school, 10 courses in child life or related subjects (such as child and youth care, child development, child and family studies or child psychology), and 480 hours of a child life internship under a practicing CCLS.

 

*This requirement will soon be changing; steps are being taken to change the requirement of a bachelor’s degree to an advanced degree by 2025. 

 

 

 

Child Life Specialist Job Description

Child life specialists are responsible for educating, preparing and supporting children through difficult tests and procedures related to chronic or acute illness.

 

Child life specialists also advocate for the special needs of children and their families, and administer programs that provide children with opportunities to engage in normal play and recreational activities that promote growth, development and feelings of success and fulfillment.

 

 

Child Life Specialist Job Duties

• Promote the inclusion of parents in the pediatric ward of a hospital

• Provide an environment and programs that facilitate the primary role of family

• Provide support that encourages adjustment to the hospital and to health care through the childhood years

• Assist families and children with adjusting to the hospital environment

• Facilitate adjustment and coping through play, education and other activities

• Acknowledge the special emotional and educational needs of children

 

 

Who Creates Jobs for Child Life Specialists?

Certified child life specialists (CCLS) are typically only employed in children's hospitals or medical centers with large amounts of beds in their pediatric unit, although some child life specialist are employed in outpatient settings such as clinics, dental offices, hospice, camps or community intervention programs for children with special health care needs.

 

Because jobs are typically limited to large regional healthcare facilities, they are usually located in large urban centres. Job openings for certified child life specialists are also relatively rare, so those that are available are very competitive.

 

 

 

Find Child Life Specialist Job Opportunities

Child Life Specialist Jobs - Canada

 

Child Life Specialist Jobs - United States

 


 

 

 

 

Skills Needed to Become a Child Life Specialist

In order to become effective in a career as a child life specialist, and perform your job duties with competence, you need to posses a certain set of skills, including:

 

• Knowledge of medical terminology, as well as anatomy/physiology

• Knowledge of child play behaviour, as well as grief and loss behaviour

• Able to teach coping strategies that are age and procedure appropriate

• Able to easily adapt and be flexible in a hectic work environment

• Able to prioritize caseloads

• Able to work well both independently and within a multidisciplinary team

• Excellent communication, conflict resolution, team building and interpersonal skills

 

 

Characteristics Needed to Become a Child Life Specialist

In order to enjoy performing the duties of a child life specialist, you need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your duties as a child life specialist is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which can lead to having a long and successful career.

 

• A keen interest in helping children and families

• Must be very kind, patient and empathic

• A strong desire to work in a hospital or other health care facility

• Willing to serve as a child’s advocate in the hospital

• Enjoy working with doctors, nurses, physical therapists, social workers and other health care professionals

 

 

Child Life Specialist Salary

The salary level of child life specialists can vary, based on the following factors:

 

• Their level of education

• Their level of experience and aptitude

• The size and type of their employer

• The region in which they work

 

Child Life Specialist Salary Alberta: According to the 2013 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Psychiatric Nurses occupational group earn a mean annual wage of $63,922.

 

Child Life Specialist Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the median annual wage of Canadian workers in the Social Workers occupational group (which includes medical and psychiatric social workers) is $46,690 per year. Service Canada also states that workers in the Registered Nurses occupational group earn a mean annual salary of $51,038.

 

Child Life Specialist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage of American workers in the Healthcare Social Workers occupational group is $52,520 per year.

 

 

Child Life Specialist Jobs

Our job board below has "Child Life Specialist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Careers Similar to Child Life Specialist

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Child Life Specialist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.

 

Genetic Counselor

Pediatric Nurse

Psychiatric Nurse

Recreation Therapist

Social Worker

 

 

References: Child Life Specialist Career Information

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a child life specialist.

 

Alberta Learning and Information Service website: alis.alberta.ca

Child Life Council website: www.childlife.org

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website: www.bls.gov

 

 

Scholarships for Becoming a Child Life Specialist

The Applicable Majors section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a Child Life Specialist. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our All Scholarships by Major page.

 

Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!

 

 

Becoming a Child Life Specialist: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a child life specialist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!

 


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