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Family Social Services/Health & Human Services

Child Life Specialist

Recommended SFL Emphasis for Child Life Specialist: Human Development

Recommended elective courses:

SFL Courses:

Note: A Child Life Specialist works with children and their families in hospital settings to help them deal with medical procedures. The Child Life Specialist certificate requires a BS with at least 10 courses in Human Development or related subjects. SFL 100, 160, and 210, which are required of all majors, can count as 3 classes. Here are 7 more recommended classes:

  • SFL 240 Parenting and Child Guidance
  • SFL 331 Infant Development in the Family
  • SFL 333 Adolescent Development in the Family & Other Social Contexts
  • SFL 351 Socialization Across Childhood
  • SFL 335 Family Adaptation & Resiliency
  • SFL 354 Cross-Cultural Family & Human Development
  • SFL 359 Child Life in Healthcare Settings (this course is required for certification as a child life specialist)

Other Courses:

  • Nursing 333 End of Life Care
  • PDBio 210 or 220 Human Anatomy
  • Nursing 201 Nursing & Medical Terminology

Special Notes:

480 hours of a child life internship with a certified child life specialist is required. (Students must set up their own internship with a certified child life specialist; BYU does not help you with this.)

You must pass the child life professional certification exam administered by the Child Life Council ( after completing your BS degree and the 480 hours of clinical experience.

A hospital practicum, internship, or volunteer experience is necessary prior to applying for your child life internship (see Kids Crew at Primary Children's Medical Center). Practical experience with children with special needs (i.e., Kids on the Move, Giant Steps) or hands-on experience with children (see SFL 221/222) can also be helpful. Check to see if your hospital volunteer experience or practicum counts as SFL capstone credit (SFL 399R-Internship).

Career opportunities and clinical placements in child life are very competitive. Candidates for certification in child life must coordinate and compete for their own internship placements in order to obtain the clinical experience required to take the child life certification exam. Volunteer experience in a hospital setting or other formal settings working in small groups with children is highly recommended prior to pursuing a child life internship. Since child life internship opportunities in Utah are limited at this time, you may need to be flexible and willing to move out-of-state for this experience. If you become a member of the Child Life Council, you have access to a database that provides information about hospitals that have established internship, practicum, and volunteer programs as part of their child life services.

MS required? No, but a Human Development MS is strongly recommended for this highly competitive field.

Ph.D. required? No.

Alumni Spotlight: Debbie Hema (Child-Life Specialist)

Child-Life Specialist

Alumni Spotlight: Leslie Graff (Child-Life Specialist)

Child-Life Specialist

Things you can do in Family Social Services/Health & Human Services:

Early Intervention Services (e.g., children with disabilities), Youth Development Programs, Adoption Agencies, Foster Care Programs, Teen Pregnancy Services, Hospital-based Family Support, Prenatal and Maternity Services, Welfare Assistance, Vocational Rehabilitation & Job Training, Public Health Programs & Services, Crisis & Hotline Services, Food Assistance Programs, Divorce Mediation, Parent Coordination, Abuse Protection/Prevention Services, Drug & Alcohol Prevention Programs, Residential Treatment Programs, Immigration & Migrant Families Services

Recommended SFL Emphasis: Family Studies or Human Development

Recommended elective courses:

SFL Courses:

  • SFL 333 Adolescent Development
  • SFL 334 Adult Development & Aging
  • SFL 335 Family Adaptation and Resilience
  • SFL 351 Socialization Across Childhood
  • SFL 354 Cross-cultural Family and Human Development
  • SFL 399R Academic Internship (in a child/adolescent/adult social service agency, clinic, residential treatment program, hospital, or other treatment center)
  • SFL 449 Biological Foundations of Human Development
  • SFL 453 Moral Development
  • SFL 460 Advanced Family Processes
  • SFL 461 Family and the Law
  • SFL 489 Family and Public Policy
  • SFL 465 Survey of Marriage and Family Enrichment/Therapy Approaches

Other Courses:

  • PSYCH 220 Human Development over the Life Span
  • PSYCH 240 Personal and Social Adjustment
  • PSYCH 306 Psychology of Gender
  • PSYCH 341 Personality Psychology
  • PSYH 343 Child Psychopathology
  • PSYCH 382 Stress Psychobiology
  • SOC W 200 Introduction to Social Work
  • SOC W 331 Social Welfare Policy
  • SOC W 360 Introduction to Social Work Practice
  • HLTH 436 Sexuality Education

The following courses are especially important for working in youth corrections, youth and adult probation and parole services, drug/alcohol treatment programs, etc.

  • PSYCH 342 Abnormal Psychology
  • PSYCH 388 Drugs, Rewards, & Addictions
  • SOC 323 Racial and Minority Group Relations
  • SOC 380 Deviant Behavior and Social Control
  • SOC 383 Juvenile Delinquency
  • SOC 481 Crime, Justice, & Corrections

The following courses are especially valuable for working in recreation therapy settings in psychiatric hospitals, wilderness therapy programs, residential treatment centers for youth and adults, etc.

  • RECM 421 Experiential and Outdoor Recreation
  • RECM 470 Introduction to Therapeutic Recreation
  • RECM 471 Assessment in Therapeutic Recreation
  • RECM 472 Program Dynamics in Therapeutic Recreation

The following courses are especially valuable for working in immigration and migrant family services.

  • SFL 354 Cross-cultural Family and Human Development
  • SOC 113 Multi-cultural America
  • SOC 323 Racial & Minority Group Relations

MS required? No. But an MS degree may increase skills and open up many more career opportunities and progression. An MS degree in various fields could be considered, including Family Science, Psychology, Sociology, Social Work, and Therapeutic Recreation.

Ph.D. required? No.

Alumni Spotlight: Leslie Graff (Psychosocial and Developmental Specialist)

Child-Life Specialist