Child Development and Family Science, MS—Child Life Specialization

About the Child Life Specialization

Our Graduate Child Life Specialization prepares you for careers in supporting the emotional and developmental needs of children and families in healthcare settings. We provide a comprehensive understanding of child development, family dynamics, and healthcare systems so you can gain skills in therapeutic interventions, psychosocial assessment, and support to help families facing medical challenges. Our program emphasizes compassionate care and evidence-based practices to improve the lives of children and families.

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Why Study Child Life at CWU?

Enjoy working with a small cohort, allowing for rich relationship-building in a supportive learning environment.

Our program allows you to complete all 10 courses required for certification by the Association for Child Life Professionals (ACLP) as well as a child life practicum experience. All child life classes are offered in person, giving you extensive hands-on learning opportunities in preparation for clinical internships. Using medical teaching dolls, medical supplies, and therapeutic play materials, you will practice procedural preparation, nonpharmacological pain management strategies, diagnostic teaching, and therapeutic play facilitation. In addition to child-life-specific courses, you will learn about the broader family theory and development to support the whole family system.   

Where is this program offered?  

How much does this program cost?  

Explore information on Cost, Aid, and Value to make an informed decision about investing in your education at CWU. 

Does CWU offer assistantships?

We offer several graduate teaching assistantships in Child Development and Family Science. Graduate assistants teach entry-level Child Development and Family Science undergraduate courses, in close collaboration with a faculty mentor. Contact us to discuss assistantship possibilities in the program. 

Find opportunities to fund your degree through the School of Graduate Studies and Research

Where can I find more information?

Please visit the CWU Academic Catalog for current information about admission requirements, course descriptions, learner outcomes, and credit information. 

Visit the School of Graduate Studies and Research for additional program eligibility information. 

Careers and Opportunities 

After graduation, you are prepared for a variety of career opportunities in healthcare settings that serve children and families.  

  • Child Life Specialist: You can become a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS). Child Life Specialists work in healthcare settings to provide emotional support, therapeutic play, and other interventions to help children cope with medical procedures and hospitalization. 
  • Healthcare Advocate: You could be a Healthcare Advocate for children and families, navigating healthcare systems and accessing resources and services that can support their emotional and developmental needs. 
  • Program Coordinator: You may work as a program coordinator for healthcare organizations that serve children and families. 
  • Nonprofit Manager: Consider work in nonprofit organizations that serve children and families, managing programs and services that support their emotional and developmental needs. 


Choose the Right Path for You 

At CWU, we encourage you to find the right path—or paths—for you. When choosing a practicum or internship, the Child Development and Family Science Department is dedicated to helping you find the best placement possible. View Practicum Opportunities students like you have completed at CWU. 

Get Involved

Expand your community at Central Washington University by participating in clubs and activities. Meet your fellow Wildcats and gain knowledge outside of the classroom by joining the Child Development and Family Science Club.

Additional Program Information

  • Admission Requirements 

    Admission Details and Deadlines: 

    • The deadline for priority applications is Feb 1st. 
    • We admit a cohort of students each year. We review applications in February and hold interviews in March. Applicants will be notified of admittance decisions in April and can start the program in either Summer or Fall quarter. 
    • We do not require the GRE for admission. 
    • We do not have any required prerequisite coursework or clinical hour requirements for admittance to the program.  
    • However, we recommend that students pursuing child life certification take undergraduate courses in child development, anatomy, and physiology. These courses are available at CWU and can be completed during the graduate program if students enter without them.  
    • Child Life applicants are encouraged to engage in hospital and/or medical camp volunteer experience before starting their graduate coursework, with at least 100 hours recommended. 
  • Program Requirements  

    All Child Development and Family Science Master’s students complete a Multi-term Practicum or Internship experience in an agency suited to their professional goals.  

    • The practicum requirement for the graduate degree requires students to complete 360 hours of volunteer, practicum, and/or internship experiences. You may choose to complete additional official child life practicums or internships during the graduate program, and those hours will count toward the graduate degree.  
    • Many students choose to complete their graduate degree prior to completing their 600-hour clinical internship. Our graduates are still eligible for affiliation with CWU during their internship.  
    • All students design and conduct a research study specific to their area of interest. Students can present their findings at a university-sponsored research symposium and a regional professional conference. 
    • Students have the flexibility to choose a capstone project that best meets their professional goals. Students will work with an advisor to decide whether to complete a thesis research project, an alternative project, or a comprehensive examination. 

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Child Development & Family Science

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