Congratulations! You decided you want to become a Child Life Specialist!
Way back when I was a newbie Child Life prospect, I wish I had this checklist to help me navigate what I need in order to become a CCLS. Now, I’ve met people who discovered Child Life at the age of 14, all the way up to their thirties and want to pursue the field!
There is so much information out there, and yes, the Child Life Council is an excellent resource (I still recommend you checking it out!). However, I will be more specific here. Now that I have been on course to becoming a CCLS for the past 5 years, I can give you more specific information.
Now, I love checklists. Please use this list to help you navigate your searches or determine what you need to make your dreams of a CCLS happen!
Let’s start with your High School and Undergraduate years:
- Take Child Development Related Courses or complete a Child development related degree. This can include (but not limited to): Child and Family Development, Infant/Toddler Development, Child Psychology/Developmental Psychology, Family Dynamics, Education, Child Life (more are coming up now!), Lifespan Development, etc. Check out Community Colleges for Courses or your nearest campus/university for these courses.
- Start volunteering! Look into organizations that work with well children, healthcare needs children, or special needs children. This can include: camps, non-profit organizations, hospitals, after school programs, and special events like Teddy Bear Clinics or Family Education Related Events. Make sure you have a well rounded variety of these opportunities so you can explore all three of these populations. I highly encourage volunteering experiences because it can lead to employment experiences, future Practicum and Internship positions, and developing all types of skill sets!
- Begin looking at Masters programs in Child Life. As of 2020, the Child Life Council will require new up and coming Child Life Specialists to have a Master’s degree prior to certification and Internship placement.
- Get your BLS/CPR Certification through the American Heart Association. This will need to be renewed every couple of years, but always an important skill to have! DO NOT GO TO ANOTHER ORGANIZATION OR FACILITY. USE THE AHA. Many hospitals require only AHA.
When you are a Master’s Level Student:
- Continue volunteering! I continued to volunteer for a good year and a half even when I started my Master’s Program. If you want to seek out other programs, continue to do so!
- Look for employment opportunities working with children and families. Schools are usually a great option, as well as Child Life Assistant/Activities Coordinators/Patient Care Assistant related jobs (very direct to Child Life!), camp leaders, special needs programs, etc.
- Consider getting licenses or certifications in other areas that benefit your skills. This can include languages, baby sign language, massage therapy, conferences, play therapy associations, etc.
- Go to conferences on different subjects! I have gone to conferences on grief, death and dying, and traumatic death. Child Life symposiums and the Child Life Conference are always a must!
- Get certified via the Child Life Council! A student membership option is available if you are considered full-time or enrolled in an internship. Check this information out here
- Search for a Practicum (more information will be posted on this soon!) More hospitals are requiring a minimum of 100 hour practicum so make sure you read on your program’s requirements, as well as internships.
- Start checking out requirements for Internships. Every hospital is different, but make sure you qualify for every single one!
If there is something else I should add to this list, please feel free to email me. Good Luck and may your journey into Child Life be successful!