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Top 11 Child Life Specialist Certifications

This article outlines the top certifications for child life specialists, as well as the requirements and benefits of each.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 17 min read

Certifications are important for a child life specialist in the job market because they demonstrate to employers that the individual has achieved a certain level of knowledge and proficiency in the field. A certification can also help to set an individual apart from other applicants and make them more competitive for positions. Additionally, some employers may require certifications as a condition of employment. Lastly, having certifications can open up opportunities for career advancement or specialty positions within the child life field.

The purpose of this article is to review the top certifications for Child Life Specialists and explain how they can contribute to a child life specialist's career.

What are Child Life Specialist Certifications?

Child Life Specialist Certification is a professional credential awarded to individuals who have met the requirements of the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP). This certification signifies that an individual has achieved a level of expertise in child life practice, demonstrating knowledge in child development, family systems, and psychosocial care. It also indicates that the individual has completed a rigorous certification process that includes passing an examination, completing approved coursework, and providing evidence of supervised clinical experience.

Child Life Specialists are highly trained professionals who work with children and families to help them cope with the challenges associated with hospitalization and illness. They provide emotional support and help children better understand their medical experiences through play, education, and therapeutic interventions. They also collaborate with healthcare teams to ensure that children’s needs are being met during treatment.

Child Life Specialist Certification can be beneficial to those interested in pursuing a career as a Child Life Specialist or for those already working in the field. By becoming certified, one can demonstrate their commitment to providing quality care for children and families as well as their knowledge of best practices in pediatric healthcare settings. Having this certification may also lead to increased job opportunities and greater recognition within the medical community.

Pro Tip: Make sure to research and understand the different certifications available for child life specialists. Different certifications may require different levels of experience, education, and training, so it is important to make sure that you are meeting all certification requirements before applying.

Related: What does a Child Life Specialist do?

Top 11 Child Life Specialist Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Child Life Specialists today.

1. Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS)

A Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) is a professional who has specialized training in helping children and families cope with the challenges of hospitalization, illness, disability, and other life-altering events. The CCLS provides age-appropriate play activities, medical preparation and education, therapeutic interventions, and emotional support to children and their families.

To become a CCLS, individuals must have a bachelor's degree in child life or a related field such as psychology or human development. They must also complete an internship at an accredited child life program. Upon completion of the internship, they must pass the Child Life Professional Certification Exam administered by the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP).

The process of becoming a CCLS can take anywhere from two to four years depending on the individual’s educational background and experience.

The cost for becoming a CCLS varies depending on the individual’s educational background and experience. The cost for taking the certification exam is $400 for ACLP members and $500 for non-members. In addition to this fee, individuals may need to pay for tuition fees associated with completing an internship or other educational requirements necessary to become certified.

2. Certified Pediatric Bereavement Facilitator (CPBF)

A Certified Pediatric Bereavement Facilitator (CPBF) is a professional who has been trained and certified to provide bereavement support services to families with children who have experienced the death of a loved one. CPBFs are trained in evidence-based practices, including grief counseling, crisis intervention, and family systems theory. They are also knowledgeable about the unique needs of grieving children and their families.

The certification process typically takes three to six months to complete and involves completing an online training program, passing a written exam, and participating in supervised clinical practice. The cost of certification varies depending on the organization offering the program but generally ranges from $500-$1,000 USD.

To become certified as a CPBF, individuals must first meet certain requirements such as having at least two years of experience working with grieving children or families; possessing a master’s degree in social work or counseling; or having completed an approved bereavement training program. After meeting these requirements, applicants must then pass an online examination administered by the certifying body. Once certified, CPBFs can provide bereavement support services to individuals and families affected by death or loss.

3. Certified Medical Play Specialist (CMPS)

A Certified Medical Play Specialist (CMPS) is a professional who has completed specialized training in the field of medical play. Medical play is a therapeutic intervention used to help children cope with the stress and anxiety associated with medical procedures, hospitalizations, and other healthcare experiences. It involves using toys, games, and activities to engage children in play that helps them understand their medical situation and express their feelings.

To become a CMPS, one must complete an online course through the Association for Child Life Professionals (ACLP). The course is approximately 40 hours long and covers topics such as child development, medical terminology, therapeutic play techniques, and more. Upon completion of the course, participants must pass an exam to receive their certification.

The cost of the ACLP's CMPS course is $399 USD.

4. Certified Child Life Professional (CCLP)

A Certified Child Life Professional (CCLP) is a credential that recognizes an individual’s specialized knowledge and experience in providing psychosocial care to children and families. The CCLP credential is awarded by the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) and is recognized nationally as a mark of excellence.

The CCLP credential requires a minimum of three years of professional practice in the field, including at least 1,000 hours of direct practice with children and families. Applicants must also have completed an approved child life program from an accredited college or university, have passed the ACLP certification exam, and meet all other eligibility requirements.

To get the CCLP credential, applicants must submit an application to the ACLP along with documentation verifying their education and work experience. Once the application is approved, applicants must register for and pass the certification exam. The cost to take the exam is $395 for ACLP members and $495 for non-members.

5. Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS)

A Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) is a professional who specializes in the field of therapeutic recreation. This certification is designed to recognize individuals who have demonstrated a high level of competency and knowledge in the field of therapeutic recreation, which involves using recreational activities to help people with disabilities or illnesses improve their physical, mental, and social functioning.

To become a CTRS, an individual must have completed an accredited university or college program in therapeutic recreation and have at least three years of full-time work experience in the field. The certification exam is administered by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). To be eligible to take the exam, applicants must meet certain education and experience requirements.

The cost to take the exam is $375 for members of NCTRC, and $425 for non-members. The exam consists of 175 multiple-choice questions that must be completed within four hours. After passing the exam, individuals are required to renew their certification every five years by completing continuing education courses related to therapeutic recreation.

6. Certified School Psychologist (CSP)

Certified School Psychologist (CSP) is a professional certification that recognizes individuals who have completed advanced training in psychology and education, and are qualified to work as school psychologists. CSPs provide mental health services to students, families, and school staff within the educational system.

In order to become a Certified School Psychologist, individuals must hold a master’s or doctoral degree in school psychology from an accredited program. They must also complete 1,200 hours of supervised experience in school psychology and pass the National School Psychology Examination (NSPE).

The process of becoming certified usually takes two years or more. After completing the necessary coursework and supervised experience requirements, applicants must submit their application for certification to the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). The application includes a fee of $300-$400 depending on the state in which you are applying. Once approved by NASP, applicants can take the NSPE exam. Upon passing the exam, they will be granted CSP certification.

Overall, becoming a Certified School Psychologist requires significant dedication and commitment; however, it is well worth it for those looking to make an impact on students’ lives through psychological interventions.

7. Board-Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC)

A Board-Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC) is a professional who has completed a music therapy program accredited by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). This certification requires a minimum of 1200 hours of clinical training and an additional 200 hours of supervised practicum experience. After completing the program, individuals must pass the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) exam to become certified.

The process to become an MT-BC typically takes two to four years and includes completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in music therapy from an accredited university, completing the required clinical training and practicum hours, and passing the CBMT exam. The cost of becoming an MT-BC varies depending on the individual's educational background, but typically ranges from $10,000-$20,000.

8. Certified Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Professional (CIMH-P)

A Certified Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Professional (CIMH-P) is a credentialed mental health professional who has specialized training and experience in working with infants, toddlers, and young children. The CIMH-P credential is awarded by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

To become certified as a CIMH-P, an individual must have a master's degree in mental health or related field from an accredited university; complete at least two years of supervised clinical experience with infants and young children; pass a comprehensive written examination; and demonstrate knowledge of infant/early childhood mental health principles.

The process to become certified as a CIMH-P takes approximately three years from start to finish. The first step is to obtain a master's degree in mental health or related field from an accredited university. Once the degree is obtained, the candidate must then complete two years of supervised clinical experience with infants and young children. After that, the candidate must pass a comprehensive written examination administered by NAEYC. Finally, the candidate must demonstrate knowledge of infant/early childhood mental health principles through an oral interview conducted by NAEYC.

The cost to become certified as a CIMH-P varies depending on the individual’s educational background and experience. Generally speaking, it can cost up to $3,000 for tuition costs associated with obtaining a master’s degree in mental health or related field; up to $1,500 for application fees associated with becoming certified; up to $500 for study materials needed for the written exam; and up to $500 for travel expenses associated with attending interviews.

9. Certified Autism Spectrum Disorder Professional (CASDP)

Certified Autism Spectrum Disorder Professional (CASDP) is a certification program developed by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). This certification is designed to recognize professionals who have demonstrated expertise in working with individuals on the autism spectrum.

The CASDP requires applicants to have a minimum of two years of experience working with individuals on the autism spectrum, as well as a master’s degree in psychology, social work, counseling, or other related fields. In addition, applicants must complete an online course and pass an exam that covers topics such as diagnosis and assessment, intervention strategies, and evidence-based practices.

It typically takes between 8-12 weeks to complete the online course and pass the exam. The cost of obtaining the CASDP certification varies depending on where you live; however, it typically ranges from $500-$1,000 USD.

10. Certified Child and Adolescent Trauma Professional (CCATP)

Certified Child and Adolescent Trauma Professional (CCATP) is a certification program designed to recognize the knowledge, skills, and experience of professionals who work with children and adolescents who have experienced trauma. The CCATP certification program is administered by the National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children (NITLC).

The CCATP certification requires applicants to demonstrate knowledge, skills, and experience in the following areas:

  • Understanding of trauma-informed care
  • Identification of trauma symptoms in children and adolescents
  • Assessment of trauma-related issues
  • Development of interventions to address trauma-related issues
  • Evaluation of interventions for effectiveness
  • Understanding of family dynamics related to trauma
  • Knowledge of legal/ethical considerations related to working with traumatized children and adolescents.

The CCATP certification process includes an online application, a written assessment, a practicum project, a review by a panel of experts, and an oral examination. The entire process typically takes about six months from start to finish. The cost for the CCATP certification is $1,500.

11. Registered Play Therapist Supervisor (RPT-S).

A Registered Play Therapist Supervisor (RPT-S) is a mental health professional who has met the qualifications and requirements set by the Association for Play Therapy (APT). To become an RPT-S, a person must have completed a minimum of three years of supervised play therapy experience and have passed the APT's national certification exam.

The process to become an RPT-S typically takes between two and four years. During this time, the individual must complete at least 3000 hours of supervised play therapy experience, with at least 100 hours of supervision from a qualified supervisor. Additionally, they must complete 45 hours of continuing education in play therapy topics during this time.

To get certified as an RPT-S, individuals must submit an application to the APT along with proof that they have met all the necessary requirements. This includes submitting documentation of their supervised play therapy experience and passing scores on the APT certification exam. Once approved, individuals will receive their official RPT-S certification.

The cost to become an RPT-S varies depending on what courses and materials are needed to meet the requirements. Generally speaking, it can cost anywhere from $500-$3000 or more in total fees associated with becoming certified.

Do You Really Need a Child Life Specialist Certificate?

The answer to this question depends on the individual and their career goals. If an individual is looking to work as a child life specialist, then it is likely that they will need a Child Life Specialist Certificate in order to do so. This certificate is offered through the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) and is designed to provide individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary for working with children in medical settings.

The Child Life Specialist Certificate covers topics such as growth and development, family dynamics, medical terminology, assessment techniques, therapeutic interventions, play therapy, communication skills and more. These courses are designed to prepare individuals for working in diverse medical environments where they will need to provide emotional support and guidance to children who are facing difficult medical situations.

In addition to providing valuable knowledge on working with children in these challenging situations, the certification also demonstrates that an individual has met certain standards set by the ACLP; this can be helpful when applying for jobs. It may also be beneficial when seeking promotions or higher-level positions within a hospital or clinic setting.

Ultimately, an individual should consider their own career goals when determining whether or not they need a Child Life Specialist Certificate. Although there may be some benefits of having one, it may not be necessary depending on the type of job they are hoping to obtain.

Related: Child Life Specialist Resume Examples

FAQs About Child Life Specialist Certifications

1. What is a Child Life Specialist Certification?

Answer: A Child Life Specialist Certification is a credentialing program offered by the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) that certifies individuals who work with children in medical settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. The certification recognizes specialized knowledge, skills, and experience in the field of child life.

2. Who can become certified as a Child Life Specialist?

Answer: To become certified as a Child Life Specialist, you must meet the ACLP's eligibility requirements which include having a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university and having completed at least 600 hours of supervised fieldwork in child life. You must also pass the Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) Exam administered by the ACLP.

3. How long does it take to become certified?

Answer: Typically it takes two to three years to complete all of the requirements for certification. This includes completing your supervised fieldwork hours, taking and passing the CCLS Exam, and maintaining your membership with the ACLP.

4. How much does it cost to take the CCLS Exam?

Answer: The cost of taking the CCLS Exam is $250 USD for members of the ACLP and $450 USD for non-members. There are also additional fees associated with applying for certification or recertification such as application fees and late fees if applicable.

5. How often do I need to renew my certification?

Answer: The CCLS certification is valid for five years from date of issuance and must be renewed every five years in order to maintain current status as a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS). Renewal requires completion of continuing education credits and payment of renewal fees due prior to expiration date printed on certificate card issued upon successful completion of exam process.