Child Life Specialist Education and Career Pathway

By | July 16, 2023
Child Life Specialist Education
With a good child life specialist education, you can fit into various roles that care for children.

This post provides detailed information on the child life specialist education and career, including the qualities you need to be a successful child life specialist.

If you are interested in becoming a child life specialist, you will need to go through certain educational and career path to be qualified to practice and build a successful career.

Please, keep reading:

Why Choose Child Life Specialist Career?

Here are some of the reasons you may want to become a child life specialist:

  1. The child life specialist career has a high demand for jobs because of the increasing number of children being treated in hospital.

There are many different types of roles available within the field of child life specialist that you can get into.

2. The job offers good earning potential. The base income for a Child Life Specialist ranges from $49,285 to $61,904, with a median base compensation of $55,246.

3. Child life specialists have an opportunity to work with children from birth to adulthood. As such, they can develop skills that are useful throughout their careers.

4. Many parents find it difficult to leave their children during treatment. A child life specialist can help them cope with this situation by providing support and comfort.

5. Child life specialists often work closely with doctors and nurses. They learn about medical conditions and treatments through observation and discussion.

Through these interactions, they gain valuable experience in working with patients. 

Child Life Specialist Education Requirements

To become a child life specialist you must meet certain education requirements. These include:

  1. An Associate’s degree in early childhood development, social work, nursing, or related fields.
  2. Two years of postsecondary coursework in early childhood development, psychology, social work, or related fields.
  3. Certification from the American Association for Pediatric Occupational Therapy (AAPOT).
  4. Licensure in your state.
  5. Experience working with children.
  6. Demonstrated ability to communicate effectively with families and staff.
  7. Knowledge of pediatric medicine and procedures.
  8. Ability to establish rapport with people of all ages.

Child Life Specialist Continuing Education

Continuing education is important for any career path. It helps professionals stay up-to-date on new developments and trends in their industry. For example, you may want to take courses in areas like:

  1. Medical terminology.
  2. Clinical techniques.
  3. Professional ethics.
  4. Health policy.

Child Life Specialist Certification/License

In order to practice in some states, you may need to obtain certification or licensure.

You should check with your local licensing board to determine if you need to be licensed in your state.

Child Life Specialist Career Pathways

There are several career pathways available to those interested in becoming a child life specialist.

Some of these include:

  1. Nurse Manager

The nurse manager role involves managing a team of registered nurses. In addition to supervising the nurses, the manager also oversees other aspects of patient care.

2. Staff Development Specialist

Staff development specialists provide training programs for employees at various levels. They teach employees how to improve their performance.

3. Social Worker

Social workers assist clients who are dealing with problems such as divorce, family issues, mental health disorders, substance abuse, and physical disabilities.

4. Case Management Specialist

Case management specialists coordinate services for individuals with chronic illnesses. This includes helping to manage medications, scheduling appointments, and coordinating home visits.

5. Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical therapist assistants perform many tasks similar to those performed by physical therapists.

However, PTAs do not diagnose or treat injuries. Instead, they help patients recover from injuries and rehabilitate after surgery.

6. Speech Language Pathologist

Speech language pathologists use assessments and treatment methods to help children develop speech and language skills.

Others are: 

  • Social Worker
  • School Psychologist
  • Counselor
  • Teacher
  • Physician Assistant
  • Dietitian

How to Advance your Child Life Specialist Career

If you intend to advance your career as a child life specialist, here are some tips you can use:

  1. Network

Networking is an important tool to getting ahead in your career. Make connections with colleagues, employers, and others in your field. Ask them about opportunities that might interest you.

2. Take advantage of professional organizations

Professional organizations offer members access to information and resources. Learn about the organizations in your region. Join one, attend meetings, and participate in events.

3. Build relationships with mentors

Mentors can be invaluable sources of advice. Look for someone who has been where you are now and has achieved success in what you are trying to do. Respectfully ask them if they will be willing to serve as your mentor.

4. Keep learning

Continuing education is an essential part of any career. If you don’t keep yourself informed, you could find yourself behind your peers when it comes time to apply for promotions.

5. Stay current

Technology changes rapidly. The job market does too. Be sure to stay up-to-date on new trends and developments. 

How to Find a Good Child Life Specialist School

When searching for a good school, there are certain things you should look for, including:

  1. Interest

First, make sure the school offers classes that match your interests.

2. Ask around

Second, ask parents and teachers what they think of the school.

3. Accreditation

Look into the school’s academic ratings. You’ll want to know whether the school is accredited and if it meets state standards.

4. Tuition

Check to see if tuition costs are reasonable.

5. Location

Finally, consider where the school is located. Is it close to work? Does it have a great reputation?

Other factors to consider include: 

  • Size
  • Class size
  • Teacher quality
  • Student diversity
  • Parent involvement
  • Curriculum
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Safety
  • Sports teams
  • Food service

How to be Successful in your Child Life Specialist Career

The following tips will help you succeed in your career as a child life specialist:

  1. Positive attitude

A positive attitude will go far in your career. It helps you deal with challenges and setbacks.

Optimism regarding events, interactions, and oneself suggests a positive attitude.

Even in challenging times, people with positive attitudes stay optimistic and see the best in everything.

2. Self-confidence

Having self-confidence is important to succeeding in your child life specialist career. In the workplace, self-confidence means enables you to take charge of your own success.

Confidence also enables you to handle difficult situations without losing control.

3. Communication skills

Communication skills are necessary in every aspect of our lives. They enable us to interact effectively with other people.

As a child life specialist, communication skills are crucial because you need to communicate with patients, families, and staff.

4. Teamwork

Teamwork is another key skill needed by everyone. A team player works well with others, listens to their ideas, and respects their opinions.

He or she is willing to share responsibility and lead others.

5. Leadership skills

Leadership skills allow you to influence others and motivate them to achieve goals. As a leader, you must be decisive, organized, persistent, and flexible.

You must be able to manage change and maintain stability at the same time. 

What Does a Child Life Specialist Do?

As a child life specialist, you provide care for children who are ill or injured. This includes providing emotional support, physical comfort, and medical treatment.

Your duties may vary depending on the type of hospital you work in.

However, most child life specialists work in hospitals.

Qualities of a Good Child Life Specialist

Here are some qualities of a good child life specialist you need to develop:

  1. Knowledgeable

You need to be knowledgeable about the different types of illnesses and injuries that affect children.

You should know how to recognize these conditions and treat them appropriately.

2. Patient

When dealing with children, you ought to be patient. Children can be very demanding and sometimes they don’t understand what you’re saying.

Be calm and try not to become frustrated.

3. Empathetic

Empathy means feeling what someone else feels. It’s essential to be empathetic when working with children.

When you empathize with them, you feel what they feel.

4. Compassionate

Compassion is an emotion that makes you want to help others. It’s important to have compassion for children.

If you show compassion for them, they’ll trust you more easily.

5. Responsible

Responsibility is taking care of something so that it doesn’t fall apart or break down.

Responsibility is also doing things according to plan. Being responsible helps you stay focused and productive.

Child Life Specialist Salary

The base income for a Child Life Specialist ranges from $49,285 to $61,904, with a median base compensation of $55,246, according to 

Child Life Specialist Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of child, family, and school social workers, which includes child life experts, is expected to expand 13% between 2020 and 2030.

This is due to the necessity to support parents in maximizing their children’s well-being.


In this article, we learned about the career options available as a child life specialist. We discussed the education requirements, job outlook, and salary range associated with the profession. Hope you found it helpful.