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M.S. in Child Life

This program prepares students to support the social-emotional needs of children and families in health care settings.

MS in Child Life Information Sessions

Join us for MS in Child Life Information Sessions during fall semester 2021. Come with any questions about the Master of Science in Child Life program at UGA, the application process, life in Athens, or anything else you want to ask. Faculty and current graduate students will be available to answer your questions.

(Please choose one of these sessions; the content will be the same at both.)

Curriculum

The Child Life program combines courses in Human Development and Family Science with classes specific to issues in child life. Coursework also includes opportunities to apply theory and research in a hospital or other health care setting. Courses are sequenced in order to provide students with adequate preparation for the Child Life internship as well as the Child Life certification exam. Coursework is typically completed in six semesters across two academic years (including summers).

The curriculum includes courses in the following areas:

  • Child development
  • Theories in family relationships
  • Research methods
  • The hospitalized child and family
  • Child life interventions
  • Therapeutic benefits of play
  • Death, dying, and bereavement
  • Hospital practicum
  • Hospital internship
  • Clinical project or thesis

Example Program of Study

Internships

After coursework is completed, a Child Life internship is a requirement of the program. An internship allows you to work with Certified Child Life Specialists in health care settings and participate in:

  • Preparation for procedures
  • Developmental assessments
  • Support groups
  • Procedural support
  • Normalization activities
  • Bereavement activities
  • Documentation

You will have an opportunity to work directly with patients and learn how theory is applied to your work. The internship experience provides you with hands-on clinical training and the ability to develop professionalism and knowledge of Child Life practice. Students will apply and interview at hospitals of their choice. Once an internship offer is made and accepted, formal paperwork is completed between UGA and the specific hospital. Our students typically apply to and interview at many different hospitals to secure an internship.

Becoming a Child Life Specialist

This program provides coursework and practicum experiences to meet the Association for Child Life Professionals (ACLP) requirements for becoming a certified Child Life Specialist. Upon completion of coursework and the Child Life internship, graduates will be qualified to sit for the Child Life certification exam. For more information on becoming a Child Life Specialist, visit the ACLP website.

Career Opportunities

Graduates of this program have obtained positions within various hospitals, pediatric hospice settings, and other child or family support organizations. Positions held by some of the previous graduates include:

  • Child life specialist
  • Community-physician liaison
  • National outreach coordinator for local hospitals
  • Extension agent
  • Program coordinator of Children’s Miracle Network
  • Hospice specialist
  • Director of marketing
  • Public relations at the Georgia Transplant Foundation
  • Head Start/Early Head Start home-based program supervisor

Recent Employers

Name

Year

Child Life Internship Facility

Current Employer

State
McDonnold, Olivia 2021 Children's Hospital of Georgia Children's Healthcare of Atlanta GA
Spiron, Haley 2021 Texas Children's Hospital Children's Healthcare of Atlanta GA
Choi, Gillianne 2021 Children's Hospital of Georgia Children’s Health (Children’s Medical Center Dallas) TX
Spivey, Charli 2021 Dwaine & Cynthia Willett Children's Hospital of Savannah Children's of Alabama AL
Patton, Nathaniel 2020 UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh CCLS at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia PA
Marks, Elizabeth 2020 Cook Children's Medical Center Cincinnati Children’s Hospital OH
Stowers, Shannon 2020 Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston

Texas Children’s Hospital

TX
Joannes, Abby 2020 Marshfield Clinic Health System Marshfield Clinic Health System WI

Fischer, Carli

2019

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital

FL

Brown, Caroline

2019

Children’s Health (Children’s Medical Center Dallas)

Children’s Health (Children’s Medical Center Dallas)

TX
Johnson, Ashley 2019 UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Prisma Health Children's Hospital-Upstate SC
Brown, Emily 2019 Cook Children's Medical Center Cook Children's Medical Center TX
Wildman, Kate 2019  Texas Children's Hospital in Houston Texas Children's Hospital TX

Brooks, Lauren

2018

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

GA

Eady, Michelle

2018

University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital

University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital

IL
Graves, Rachel 2018 UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital Children's Healthcare of Atlanta GA
Townsend, Chandler 2018 Texas Children's Hospital in Houston Texas Children's Hospital in Houston TX

McDaniel, Shelley

2018

University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital

University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital

IL

Simpson, Hailey

       2017 Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston GA

Ross, Alex

2017

Cook Children's Medical Center

Children's Hospital Colorado

CO

Admission

Students with a Bachelor's degree in HDFS or a related area can apply for admission to our Master's program in Child Life. Strong candidates for the Child Life program will have a strong background in child development (including at least two college courses), as well as substantial experience working directly with children and families. Evidence of working with children and families in health care settings (such as hospitals or camps for children with medical needs) is preferred. If you have completed a practicum in child life, please have your practicum supervisor serve as one of the three recommenders on your application. Students who enter the Master's program in Child Life typically complete the program in 2 years, including summer coursework and internship. For further information about applying, go to the How to Apply page.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Child Life Profession

  1. What is a Certified Child Life Specialist?
  2. What are the requirements for Child Life Certification?
  3. What is the application process for a Child Life internship?
  4. Are Child Life internships paid?
  5. Do I have to be enrolled in a university/college to complete a child life internship?
  6. How can I find out more about the Child Life profession?

The UGA Master's in Child Life Program

  1. What courses will I take?
  2. Can I complete the program online?
  3. Can I take individual courses without enrolling in the entire graduate program?
  4. How can I obtain a Child Life practicum placement?
  5. Does the UGA program include a child life internship?
  6. What type of degree or background do I need to be accepted into the UGA Master's in Child Life program?
  7. Do I need to have previous hospital or Child Life experience to get into the program?
  8. What if I can't get experience with children because of COVID-19?
  9. Should I join a professional organization as a prospective graduate student interested in Child Life?

Applying to the MS in Child Life Program

  1. How do I apply to the UGA program?
  2. What is the application deadline?
  3. Is the GRE required for this program?
  4. What do you look for in applicants?
  5. How many students are admitted?
  6. Is an interview required?
  7. Can you arrange a campus visit outside of interview dates?

The Child Life Profession

What is a Certified Child Life Specialist?

A Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) works in healthcare settings and focuses on the emotional and developmental needs of children and families. Using play and other forms of communication, this professional member of the healthcare team seeks to reduce the stress associated with healthcare experiences, while enabling children and their family members to cope in a positive manner. Child Life is a fast-paced field that requires Child Life Specialists to be smart, flexible, calm, and prepared to work with children and families under stress. In addition, they must collaborate with other healthcare professionals. 

What are the requirements for Child Life Certification?

Because the certification requirements are changing, we strongly recommend that students visit the Association of Child Life Professionals certification pages to find the most current and accurate information on certification. Prerequisites to sit for the CLCC certification exam require that the student have completed (a) a bachelor's degree or higher, (b) 10 college-level courses in specific content areas related Child Life, and (c) at least 600 hours of a Child Life clinical internship under a qualified Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS). These requirements must be documented on the ACLP Eligibility Assessment. Once eligible to take the certification exam, students must receive a passing score to become a Certified Child Life Specialist.

What is the application process for a Child Life internship?

Before completing a Child Life internship program, students will need to find and apply to programs, interview with hospital staff, and be extended a formal offer into the internship program. Students will research various Child Life internship programs in order to determine which programs and hospitals best suit their needs and interests. In order to apply, students complete and submit the common Child Life internship application, along with any supplemental application materials individual hospitals require. Once the completed application has been received, hospital staff will screen applicants and contact some students for interviews. Interviews typically take place on the hospital campus, although a few hospitals offer interviews via Skype and other technologies. After the interview process is complete, hospital staff extend offers to selected applicants on a standard offer date. Students have the option to accept or decline each hospital that has offered them an internship position.  We strongly recommend that students visit and tour the hospitals to which they apply; however, this is not required.

Are Child Life internships paid?

Most Child Life internships are not paid, and only a select few offer reduced housing or meals for interns. Many hospitals require an application fee, and some require an additional program fee to participate in an internship. Every hospital has different policies regarding student internships. Students should research possible internship sites online to determine their specific guidelines and policies for Child Life interns.

Do I have to be enrolled in a university/college to complete a child life internship?

Each hospital has a different policy. Some hospitals only accept students affiliated with a university/college. Other hospitals accept unaffiliated students who are not currently enrolled. The Association of Child Life Professionals has a free searchable online guide that lists Child Life internships. Individual hospitals post specific information about their internships on their websites.

How can I find out more about the Child Life profession?

Students can find out more about Child Life by visiting the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) website. The Association of Child Life Professionals is the professional organization of Child Life Specialists. Their website contains information about the profession and field, membership in the ACLP, requirements for certification, publications, research, and resources on Child Life. The ACLP website is an invaluable source of information, and students interested in this profession should visit the site to stay abreast of current news, topics of interest, and research in the field.

The UGA Master's in Child Life Program

What courses will I take?

The UGA Master's in Child LIfe program includes coureswork in all of the content areas required for child life certification, as well as additional courses in human development and family science to provide students with a broader understanding of the social, cultural, and developmental context of the children and families they will meet in the healthcare setting. To learn more, see the example program of study. (This schedule may change slightly depending on the specific background and experiences each student brings to the program.)

Example Program of Study

Can I complete the program online?

No, this is a face-to-face graduate program. With the exception of one summer course, the required coursework must be taken in person at our Athens campus. We do not have a fully online program option.

Can I take individual courses without enrolling in the entire graduate program?

We do not offer individual courses for students not enrolled in the University of Georgia.

How can I obtain a Child Life practicum placement?

Students in the Master's in Child Life program who have not already completed a child life practicum before enrolling will participate in a semester of practicum as a part of their required coursework. This practicum experience will take place at one of several pediatric hospitals within driving distance of Athens, or during the summer at any location where the student can secure a practicum placement. Practicum requirements will include shadowing a Child Life Specialist as well as completing weekly assignments. Each student obtains approximately 120 hours of practicum during the semester. The student is responsible for securing an appropriate practicum placement, with help and support from the Child Life Director and Child Life Coordinator. Students who have completed a practicum prior to enrolling have the option of completing a second practicum at a different hospital, or completing an experience with children in a different setting.

Does the UGA program include a child life internship?

Students in this Master’s program complete a child life internship after they have completed their program of study course work, usually after two years of classes. An internship is a full-time commitment; students cannot complete UGA coursework or assistantship responsibilities while on internship. During their internship, students are enrolled at the University of Georgia and register for internship hours. Students maintain regular contact with the Child Life Director at the University of Georgia and complete various assignments while participating in a hospital internship. The University of Georgia does not endorse specific Child Life internship programs. Students apply to programs and hospitals which best fit their needs or interests. Acceptance into an internship program is not automatic. Students must apply, interview, and be extended an offer from the program to be formally accepted into an internship. The Child Life Director and Child Life Coordinator provide support and mentoring to Master's students during the application and interview process. Most students in the UGA Master's in Child Life program complete their internship during the summer after their second year, although interning the following fall or spring is also an option.

What type of degree or background do I need to be accepted into the UGA Master's in Child Life program?

Students pursuing a Master of Science in Child Life come from a variety of undergraduate studies. Many students have a baccalaureate degree in Human Development and Family Science, Child Development, Psychology, Social Work, or Education. Students with baccalaureate degrees other than Human Development and Family Science may be accepted into the program based upon their knowledge and experience with children and families. All students in Child Life need a strong academic background in child development, including at least two child development courses. Our strongest applicants have extensive child development background and experience working with children in health care settings (including hospital volunteering, working at camps for children with medical issues, etc.). If students admitted to the program lack a strong child development background, they may be required to complete supplemental coursework in this area. 

Do I need to have previous hospital or Child Life experience to get into the program?

Students interested in this program should have previous experience working with children. These experiences could be on a volunteer or paid basis and could be with children with health conditions, children under stress, and/or children who are well. Upon applying to the program, students will be responsible for providing documentation of their past experience with children.  Students pursuing graduate studies in Child Life are stongly encouraged to be knowledgeable about the profession before applying to the program. Volunteering in a children’s hospital or on a pediatric unit is recommended in order to become acquainted with the hospital setting and learn about Child Life. It would also be beneficial to interview, shadow, or speak with Certified Child Life Specialists and ask them questions regarding their job, experiences, and role in the healthcare team. 

What if I can't get experience with children because of COVID-19?

Experience with children of a variety of ages in a variety of settings is an important component of being ready to become a child life specialist. We are aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has made all types of volunteering with children more difficult, because hospitals and other organizations have cancelled volunteer programs or limited opportunities to work directly with children. We will keep that in mind as we review applicants for the Master of Science in Child Life program. Remember that there are other ways to stay connected with children during the pandemic, including virtual volunteer experiences. Be sure the resume you submit with your application highlights the experiences you have with children, including virtual programs.

Should I join a professional organization as a prospective graduate student interested in Child Life?

Because the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) is the primary organization for Child Life professionals, students enrolled in this program are required to join the Association of Child Life Professionals at the beginning of their program, and to maintain student membership throughout their enrollment in the program. Membership in the ACLP may provide helpful information and support for students considering applying to the program, but is not required prior to admission.

Applying to the MS in Child Life Program

How do I apply to the UGA program?

Follow the instructions on the How to Apply page to complete your application. Be sure to submit all required materials. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

What is the application deadline?

Applications are accepted in the fall of each year for admission the following fall. The application deadline is December 1. We do not accept students for spring or summer admission.

Is the GRE required for this program?

We do not require the GRE for application to this program, and will not review your GRE scores even if you include them in your application.

What do you look for in applicants?

We often get the question, “What do you look for in an applicant to your Master’s program?” or “What makes an applicant most competitive?” The best answer we can give is that everything in your application counts. Be sure to submit all of the materials required before the deadline. We will consider your experience with children and families, your GPA and the specific courses you have taken, and how you answer the questions we ask in your written statement. We will read your social justice statement and watch your video if you choose to submit one. Letters of reference also matter; be sure to have at least one from a faculty member who knows you, and ideally one from someone who has seen you work with children. (If you have completed a child life practicum, include a reference from your supervisor/preceptor.)

In addition, we are looking for students who demonstrate a clear passion for child life, a strong understanding of what the field actually requires, an ability to be reflective about their own strengths, challenges, and growth, and an ability to relate well to others. That’s why we ask you to submit so many different materials, and why interviews are a crucial component of the selection process.

How many students are admitted?

Our student groups are intentionally small, in order to provide the best experience and individual mentoring for each student. Small groups also enable us to ensure that every student who has not completed a child life practicum will have that opportunity. Typical classes in recent years have had between 3 and 6 students. The exact number varies from year to year based on our resources and applicants' qualifications.

Is an interview required?

We offer interviews to the most highly qualified applicants to our program each year. We invite interviewees to campus to get a sense of the program, department, university, and students. We do not usually offer admission to students we have not interviewed. If students have professional commitments that make it impossible to travel to campus (e.g., internship, student-athlete competition), we will work with the student to make alternate interview arrangements. If COVID-19 spread makes interviews unsafe in the future, we will arrange to interview students virtually.

Can you arrange a campus visit outside of interview dates?

We get so many requests for individual campus visits that we are unable to accommodate you. We do offer a M. S. in Child Life Information Session via Zoom twice each semester where you can meet current graduate students and faculty, learn more about the program, and ask questions. You can register for an information session at the top of this page. Anyone interested in learning more about the M. S. in Child Life program is welcome to attend.

  1. Year One, Fall Semester

    Connect with your temporary advisor

    Begin deciding on your Major professor/Primary advisor 

  2. Year One, Spring Semester

    Confirm Major Professor and Advisory Committee 

    Finalize thesis or clinical project topic

    Submit change of degree objective form if necessary

  3. Year Two, Fall Semester

    Thesis or Clinical Project Proposal due 

    Submit Program of Study (can make changes to Program of Study with this form

    Complete Child Life Practicum 

    Apply to Child Life Internships for Summer

  4. Year Two, Spring Semester

    Interview for Child Life Internships; accept internship offer

    Notify Graduate Program Director of internship site

    Complete required forms for internship site

    Submit Announcement of MS Thesis Defense two weeks before exam – Includes non-thesis option 

    Submit signed MS portfolio with Professional Requirements form after final defense

    Thesis Students: Submit MS Approval of Thesis and Oral Exam in Grad Status (day of defense)

    Thesis Students: Submit Electronic Thesis Dissertation (ETD) at least 2 weeks prior to graduation

    Clinical Project Students: Submit signed form to Graduate Coordinator Assistant after final defense

  5. Year Two, Summer Semester

    Complete Child Life Internship 

    Apply to Graduate (early Summer semester) in Athena 

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