The Child Life Council requires child life specialist candidates to pass the Child Life Professional Certification Examination following the completion of a Baccalaureate degree in any academic area, so long as they have completed nine courses in child life or related subjects, and one child life course taught by a certified child life specialist. A new standard requiring a Master's degree in child life from a CLC accredited program is set to be in place by 2025.
The required child life course as of 2015 must have a focus on children in the health care environment and be taught by a certified child life specialist. The course must include focus on child life documents, scope of practice, family centered care, and the impact of illness, injury and health care on patients and families. Additionally, therapeutic play and preparation are a required focus.
The additional nine courses can be from the following university departments: child life, child development, family development, human development or family dynamics. Psychology, counseling, sociology, therapeutic recreation and expressive therapies are other acceptable departments. Courses on death and dying, biomedical ethics, cultural diversity, medical terminology and anatomy and physiology classes are all accepted regardless of department.
Candidates must also complete 480 hours of child life clinical internship or fellowship under the supervision of a certified child life specialist.
Changes in the requirements for child life specialists are in the works. By 2025, candidates for certification will be required to earn a Master's degree in child life from an academic program accredited by the Child Life Council.