Choose Your Path: Certification and the Many Options

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Many times, I went back and forth on whether or not to pursue a master’s degree. Sometimes it felt like the best option and other times I would think to myself, “Where do I even start?” There are so many different paths to take: Bachelor’s degree? Certificate programs? Grad school? Unaffiliated/Independent student route? In this post, I have Erin Tukua, a fellow aspiring child life specialist, and blogger, joining me in discussing our paths to becoming a child life specialist. Erin is currently in a child life certificate program at the University of California Santa Barbara while looking into master’s programs. See our perspectives and insight below!

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I was in my sophomore year of my undergrad when I decided to pursue a career as a child life specialist. I loved the school that I was at and knew that transferring to a school with a child life program was not something that I wanted to do. I began to research eligibility requirements and changed my major from elementary and art education to human services with a concentration in psychology and family studies. I registered for an online child life class and developed a plan to make sure I hit all of the requirements to be able to apply for an internship and sit for the exam.

As my program went on, I attempted to tailor any class projects toward the field of child life. I connected with a could other students at my school who were interested in child life and I continued to volunteer and get involved with organizations in my community. I completed a practicum at a local hospital and sought advice from local child life specialists.

As graduation approached, I still felt uncertain that I would be prepared for an internship and for the exam. As I was learning more and more about upcoming changes in qualifications for child life specialists, the more unsure I was that I was ready to take that next step. I decided that a graduate program, with classmates, professors, and advisors that I could connect with, would help me learn and become more confident as a student. Computer

When thinking about programs, I knew that I wanted an online format. I was looking for a program that could fit my flexible and ever-changing schedule. I am a planner and am pretty good at managing my time. I also loved the thought of expanding my child life connections to outside of the state of Iowa. An online master’s program would help me build connections with professors and classmates from all across the country, as well as allow me to be flexible with my time.

downloadI am now a year into my program at Bank Street College of Education and never once have I regretted my decision to go to grad school. Many of my classmates are pursuing certification, like me. There are also a good number of students who are already practicing child life specialists. It is very helpful to get their perspective on discussions and group projects. The connections that I have made has been very beneficial to my learning and expanding my perspectives.

As I was applying for internships for this coming fall, my fellow classmates were extremely supportive. We shared interview tips, organization hacks and more. Finding a community of people who are just as passionate about family-centered care and supporting kids and their families has helped me greatly. Grad school has given me the confidence in my knowledge and the ability to better connect theory to practice. As my internship at Blank Children’s Hospital this fall approaches, I feel better prepared to learn and grow as a child life specialist in the making.

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Hi, I’m Erin from Hello Child Life! I am so excited to be sharing my journey toward becoming a CCLS with you here on Give Play Love! I love learning and collaborating with other Child Life students, so I was beyond honored when Jess asked me to share a little about my child life coursework. A little history on me…I am 36 years old and live in Huntington Beach, CA with my husband and three sons. I have my BA in Liberal Studies from Concordia University in Irvine and am currently enrolled in University of California Santa Barbara’s Extension Program. UCSB offers an online Child Life Certificate which you can learn more about here:


Having decided that I wanted to get my Masters in a related field, but still wanting to take courses specifically geared to becoming a CCLS, UCSB was the perfect fit. I’m currently enrolled in my fourth course at UCSB and I have been so thrilled with the coursework, the instructors and all of the wonderful connections I have been making! I wanted to spotlight two courses in particular that I have loved.

Introduction to Child Life – This was my first course at UCSB and it did not disappoint! My professor and CCLS, Courtney Moreland was an outstanding instructor! (She is also the founder and director of Child Life United!) Courtney took the time to get to know us, despite the online platform and made suggestions for our career paths based on our experience and strengths. The coursework covered an extensive amount of information. We learned theoretical foundations, the role of a CCLS in a hospital setting, planning and implementing interventions, and career planning. My favorite project that we did was our Pinterest Project. We had to create a Pinterest board and pin different play activities. Then we had to pick one activity and apply child life theory to that play activity. It was really fun!

Assessment, Preparation and Medical Terminology – I am currently enrolled in this course with Belinda Hammond, and if you don’t know Belinda, you need to! She has been the most positive, motivating and encouraging person I have met on my journey to becoming a CCLS. She has so much experience as a CCLS, an educator, and is such an amazing source of knowledge. The course covers medical terminology, assessment, and observation strategies, as well as preparation techniques and methods. My favorite aspect of this class has been the weekly assignments where we examine a particular diagnosis, break down 10 vocabulary words associated with the diagnosis into children friendly language, then examine how this diagnosis would impact the patient and family. What limitation it might place on their home or school life, and how we as the CCLS could come alongside to help support them. We have also completed some really fun projects like creating a digital preparation book and writing a non-pharmaceutical pain management brochure. It has been a wonderful course where I have gained much insight, I highly recommend it!

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Here is a certification plan that Erin created! To see more from this awesome lady and future child life specialist, follow Erin on Instagram @hellochildlife!


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