Child Life Specialist Graduate Program Options

Oct 13, 2019

Master's degree programs in child life are commonly offered through colleges or departments of education. Learn more about the program requirements, the course curriculum and possibilities after graduation.

Essential Information

Master's degree programs in child life teach students the skills needed to work with children going through traumatic injuries, illnesses in hospitals or other health care settings, or the loss of a loved one. Some schools have a dual degree option combining child life with social work. The program requires a strong background in statistics and English proficiency. The program, which lasts 36-72 credit hours, offers internships and requires a research project. Graduates may qualify to apply for professional certification, which is not required but might help with career advancement.

Master Degree in Child Life

Students in a typical child life program take courses in child and family therapy to prepare for helping a child's family as well. Some class topics might include:

  • Child life program development and administration
  • Techniques in crisis intervention counseling
  • Social research tools and methods
  • Applications of play therapy
  • Theory of family systems
  • Diagnosis and treatment of family crisis

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

A child life specialist may work in a hospital, dental office, outpatient clinic or anywhere children may be treated. According to, child life specialists made a median salary of $41,757 as of January 2016.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

The Child Life Council ( offers a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) designation, along with continuing education and other resources for the profession. The certification involves a rigorous exam and meeting certain education and experience criteria. An applicant must have a bachelor's degree, and he or she must have taken at least 10 college-level courses in child life or a related area. Also, applicants should have at least 480 hours of clinical work experience under the supervision of a certified child life specialist.

For those who want to go into research or education for aspiring child life specialists, related doctoral programs in psychology and child development may serve this purpose. No Ph.D. degree programs are available specifically in child life.

Master's degree programs in child life equip students in handling children with traumatic injuries and illnesses through courses such as techniques in crisis intervention counseling, applications of play therapy and theory of family systems. After graduation, students may opt to pursue certification or a doctoral program in psychology or child development.

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