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Online Child Life Specialist Degree Program Information

Get info about online programs to become a child life specialist. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, and check out career and continuing education options.

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Essential Information

Child life specialists work in healthcare facilities and provide many types of support to families and sick or injured children. Many programs offer online courses at the bachelor's and master's degree levels, but there are no programs that can be completed totally online due to the program's clinical requirements. There are master's degree programs in early childhood education available in an on-line format that require a teaching practicum.

Students in a child life specialist program study child development, family relationships and how illness impacts a family. They need skills and knowledge from a wide variety of fields, including psychology, healthcare and social work.

Bachelor's Degree in Child Life Specialist

Bachelor's degree programs teach students to provide assistance and care to children and their families in hospitals and other health care settings. Students delve into clinical issues in child life, program development and administration and illness and loss. Internships and practicum courses are designed to provide valued hands-on experience. These programs are intended to provide students with a foundation for entry into the child life specialist field or pursuit of further study in the discipline.

Program Information and Requirements

Some institutions require students to complete prerequisite coursework in areas such as child development, psychology, education, or social work. Programs that are taught completely online are rare; however, many schools combine online classes with on-campus coursework. Most programs require students to complete a practicum or internship experience to earn their degree.

Course Topics

Bachelor's degree candidates examine the process of helping children and their families in environments such as hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and hospice. The curriculum covers both general education and program-specific courses.

Individual and Family Development

In this online course, students examine the fundamental principles and order of human development and the role the family plays in this sequence. Emphasis is placed on the elements that impact the lives of individuals and families, such as culture, health and education.

Early Childhood Development

This courses examines all aspects of the development of children from ages three through eight years, including physical, mental, emotional and social characteristics.


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Master's Degree in Child Life Specialist

Master's degree programs provide students with the necessary knowledge and expertise to become certified child life specialists. By 2022, a master's degree will be required to take the Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) exam.

Program Information and Requirements

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Most programs require students to have completed prerequisite coursework in a related discipline, such as family studies or human development. An internship is typically required by most institutions.

Course Topics

Students study the roles and responsibilities of the child life specialist. Particular emphasis is placed on planning the health care environment that supports a child's development while being hospitalized.

Program Administration

This online course examines how child development programs are implemented. Major topics covered include program development, personnel issues, financial management and legal and professional considerations.

Parent Education

In this course, students examine parenting techniques as determined by sociological and environmental characteristics. An evaluation of parent education programs also is included.

Child Life Internship

Students acquire field experience at a university-approved pediatric facility under the supervision of a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS). Program hours can be applied to fill the requirements to sit for the Certified Child Life Specialist exam.


Career Information

Graduates can pursue careers as certified child life specialists providing they have completed the necessary requirements to acquire certification as determined by the Child Life Council (CLC) (www.childlife.org). In November 2016, the median annual salary for a child life specialist was $49,205, according to Salary.com.

Those who've completed a master's degree and acquired certification might pursue such positions as a Certified Child Life Specialist or senior-level jobs such as child care center director. In November of 2016, Salary.com reported that the median annual salary for a child care center director, a position for which a master's degree is usually required, was $97,124.

Continuing Education Information

While child life specialists don't need a license, certification from the Child Life Council is recommended. Requirements include a bachelor's degree at minimum, at least 10 course credits in subjects related to this field and 480 hours or more of supervised child life experience.

Child life specialists provide an important service to sick or injured children and their families by working within healthcare facilities. There are online bachelor's and master's degree programs available that also require a clinical or teaching practicum.

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