Child Life Track

Choosing child life gives you the opportunity to complete coursework needed to become a Certified Child Life Specialist.

Child Life Specialists (CCLS) are professionals trained in child development who support children, adolescents and their families in hospitals and other healthcare settings. According to the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP), "In both healthcare and community settings, Certified Child Life Specialists help infants, children, youth and families cope with the stress and uncertainty of acute and chronic illness, injury, trauma, disability, loss and bereavement. They provide evidence-based, developmentally and psychologically appropriate interventions including therapeutic play, preparation for procedures, and education to reduce fear, anxiety, and pain."

Becoming a Certified Child Life Specialist requires coursework, experience with children in different settings, and clinical experience through a required child life internship and optional (but strongly recommended) child life practicum. For more specific information about certification requirements, see the ACLP Becoming Certified page.

There are two options for pursuing child life as a UGA undergraduate. The child life certificate enables you to complete all required coursework. The joint child life program provides both coursework and clinical experiences, including a year-long internship at Children's Hospital of Georgia in Augusta.

Learn more about the Undergraduate Child Life Certificate

Learn more about the Joint Child Life Program

Child Life 101

Coming soon! Learn about child life at UGA by watching this short video.

Coursework and Advising

Undergraduates in HDFS can complete the course requirements for child life certification by applying to the Undergraduate Child Life Certificate. The following specialized courses count as Group A Major Electives:

  • HDFS 4810: Psychosocial Care of the Hospitalized Child and the Family
  • HDFS 4820: Child Life Interventions for Children and Families in Health Care Settings
  • HDFS 4830 or 4830S: Grief, Loss, and Bereavement
  • HDFS 5130 or 5130S: Therapeutic Benefits of Play

Before signing up for courses, be sure to discuss your career plans with your undergraduate advisor. Julie Patterson is the HDFS advisor for all students interested in pursuing child life. You can set up an advising appointment with her on Sage

Experience with Children

One step in child life certification involves completing a child life internship at a hospital. Child life internships are awarded through a competitive application process. To be competitive for internships, students need to document substantial hours working directly with children. These experiences are divided into two categories:

  • Experience with infants, children, youth, and/or families in healthcare settings (e.g., hospital volunteering, formal child life practicum experiences)
  • Experience with infants, children, youth, and/or families outside the healthcare setting (e.g., camp counselor, teacher, child care provider, after-school program leader; camps for children with chronic illnesses such as Camp Twin Lakes or CHOA summer camps; programs for children with special needs such as ESP; advocacy programs, bereavement/hospice experiences such as Kate's Club in Atlanta)

All hospitals require substantial experience with children prior to internship. Keep in mind that just being a nanny or babysitter is not usually enough to make you competitive, even with many hours of experience. The most competitive applicants tend to have a wide range of experience with children of different ages in both categories. If you are planning a child life career, getting as much experience with children in different settings as you can (as a volunteer, paid staff member, or for course credit) will serve you well.

Meet a Student: Addie

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