Teddy Bear Clinic

MS in HHP - Child Life (without thesis)

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MS in HHP without Thesis - Child Life (CL)

ACLP Endorsed Seal The University of Iowa graduate program in Health and Human Physiology with the sub-track Child Life was established in 2015.  The University of Iowa was the second institution in the nation to receive the Association of Child Life Professional’s (ACLP) Graduate Endorsement for January 2019-January 2024.  Through a comprehensive review process, the ACLP has verified that the Master of Science Health and Human Physiology, Sub-Track Child Life curriculum meets the academic eligibility requirements for child life certification, and as a result, students who successfully complete the child life program at the University of Iowa will meet the academic requirements to establish eligibility for the Child Life Professional Certification Exam upon graduation. 

The Child Life Program at The University of Iowa

  • As a student at the University of Iowa you will be with a cohort of peers on campus in your studies and fieldwork to be successful in beginning your professional journey to be a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS).
  • Our Child Life faculty members are Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS). Credentialed faculty members are vital to the quality and integrity of the program because curricular components and students should be taught and mentored by credentialed and experienced faculty.
  • The proximity of the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital means that there are potential opportunities to volunteer and work with pediatric patients in the hospital setting. 
  • Our program in Child Life has practicum arrangements with University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital and several other agencies throughout Iowa.

Professionals in child life assist children and families in adjusting to the stress of serious illness and other challenging life events. Child life is a health-oriented profession dedicated to improving well-being and growth of children, emphasizing play and leisure activities to improve function in physical, emotional, social and cognitive domains. Child life specialists provide a variety of services designed to support families and to promote mastery of different experiences by children, particularly when the child is experiencing healthcare events. Because families are often a primary source of support for a sick child, Child life specialists may also provide care to the family by assisting in accurate information processing and supporting the family members and other caregivers. Child life specialists also perform an important role as educators for other medical staff and the general community regarding the specific issues and needs of children experiencing healthcare or other stressful life events. The Association of Child Life Professionals (formerly Child Life Council) began in 1998 to direct national, professional certification. It establishes coursework and internship requirements for certification. 

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The purpose of the graduate program is to prepare advanced practitioners in child life and to meet credentialing requirements for child life. The 36 semester hours required for the Master’s in Child Life (non-thesis) include: Twenty-seven semester hours represents the Child Life subprogram coursework, with another nine semester hours for a supervised internship of 600 contact hours with a Certified Child Life Specialist. The internship is also supervised by a certified faculty member. Students must write and pass comprehensive exams in three areas: child life, research, and applied treatment processes.

Graduates will be eligible to sit for the credentialing examination in child life. Student eligibility to sit for certification examinations results from: a) compliance with curriculum standards, b) successful completion of a carefully structured and supervised internship and c) delivery of both classes and the internship experience by credentialed faculty.

An undergraduate Grade Point Average of 3.00 or higher is required for admission. Admission pre-requisites include:

  1. Completion of pre-requisite coursework:
    1. Human Anatomy
    2. Medical Terminology
    3. Two Child Development Courses (focus on children 0-18)
  2. Strongly recommended—an introductory course in child life
  3. Verification of 100 hours of paid or volunteer experience** in Child Life or in a pediatric setting.  Download verification form here
  4. Three letters of recommendation (Examples: Certified Child Life Specialist, professor, advisor, and/or someone who has seen you working with children and families in healthcare or non-healthcare settings)

*Students who have not completed an introductory course in CL must audit Introduction to Child Life (TR:1077) during their first semester. For student applicants whose first language is not English, applications must be accompanied by TOEFL scores.

** Due to COVID-19, we understand that gaining paid or volunteer experience in a hospital setting is challenging.  We encourage you to document all hours you have gained in a pediatric setting by utilizing the verification form.  In addition, you are encouraged to submit a 1-page summary of additional experiences you have gained that would be applicable to child life, i.e. remote/virtual activity programming, remote/virtual experiences with hospitalized children, various educational and professional development (i.e. webinars or trainings), and creative approaches to helping in the community in regards to pediatrics.

Financial Aid

All graduate students in the Department of Health and Human Physiology are eligible to apply for a limited number of teaching assistantships, awarded on a competitive basis. The child life department at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital also hires child life student assistants on a part-time basis.

Graduate Student Handbook

Graduate Student Handbook (MS)

Contact Information

Emily Mozena, MA, CCLS, CTRS