Career of a Child Life Specialist

The child life specialist is a job based on helping children and families deal physically and emotionally with the disruptions and changes caused by the child being hospitalized. The child life specialist uses their training in child development and related developmentally relevant interventions to help prepare children for the difficult tests, medical procedures and life changes that result from treatment of chronic or acute illnesses requiring hospitalization.

The child life specialist educates, prepares and supports the child and their family to deal with the medical processes they will undergo as part of their treatment. The child life professional acts as an advocate for the child and their family during the medical treatments based on the unique needs of each child. The child life specialist makes sure the child is given ample opportunity to play, learn and develop their feelings during their medical treatment. The child life professional also works to promote the family as partners within the child’s healing process promoting family and patient-focused care.

Featured Programs:
Sponsored School(s)

Sponsored Content

Some of the duties of the child life specialist can include:

  • Explaining complex medical terms and procedures to families and children
  • Helping children and families adjust emotionally to medical treatment
  • Advocating on behalf of the child and family with health care team
  • Empowering the child to feel they have a role in their own healing process
  • Making sure the child is able to grow, learn and play during the process of their medical treatments

How a Child Life Specialist is a Service to Society

The child life specialist provides a unique and incredibly valuable service to children and their families. Few things can be as frightening for families and the child as extensive medical treatments for chronic or acute illnesses. As many important medical procedures are invasive and painful, the fear of children can be immense. The child life specialist plays a key role in the child’s health outcomes by helping them to understand and emotionally adapt to the medical process they are traversing. By reducing stress in the family and child, the child life professional helps to increase not only the quality of life, but also the health outcome of the child.

The impact on society of the child life specialist is best measured at the level of the family and the child. The function of the child life specialist is incredibly important to society in that they perform such a vital task for children who are ill. The impact of this is subtle at the level of society and profound at the level of the individual and family.

For parents, few things are more frightening than the prospect of their child dealing with a chronic or acute illness. The stress levels can be enormous and the child life specialist is there to help them to cope with and overcome this stress. By helping to educate and empower the family, the child life specialist helps to defuse one of the most emotionally challenging experiences a family might encounter.

The benefit to the family is enormous both in terms of emotional relief and also that of health outcomes as stress can be a significant factor in the healing process. For the family, the child life specialist is an advocate and a counselor through one of the most potentially traumatic experiences they might have. The child life specialist has a massively positive impact on the family.

For the child, the medial process involved in treating acute and chronic illnesses is both frightening and bewildering. By using developmentally appropriate techniques, the child life specialist is able to help the child cope and even flourish under their extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

The child life specialist ensures that the child is not only empowered to deal emotionally with their medical treatment, but also allowed to be a child learning, growing and playing during their healing journey.

Education to Join the Workforce

To become a child life specialist you must first earn at least a Bachelor’s degree as a child life specialist. Then you must perform a 480-hour internship and take an exam to become certified by the Child Life Counsel. Earning your Master of Science in Child Life Specialist makes one’s resume stand out and greatly increases your chance of employment in this competitive field.

Range of Salaries for this Position

On a nationwide basis, the average salary of a child life specialist is $51,030.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2019. Represents national average for Child, Family and School Social WorkersSalaries based on national data not school specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2021.

What’s Next to Pursue this Career?

To become a child life specialist you need to start by getting a Bachelor of Science in Child Life Specialist. You will then need to get an internship and put in 480 hours so you can take your exam to become certified by the Child Life counsel. As always, having a Master’s degree in this field is a wise choice as your resume will stand out and you will greatly improve your technical knowledge of the field. Here are some local schools in your area that have appropriate degrees to start on your career path as a child life specialist.