I compare the path to Child Life to the game of Candy Land. Your goal is to become a Certified Child Life Specialist (Candy Castle), but along the way there are set backs (Lord Licorice) as well as very helpful people (Princess Frostine).
This is a very basic checklist to become a CCLS
Register to become part of the ACLP
This will allow you to begin an Eligibility Assessmentto make sure you qualify for the exam when the time comes.
Minimum 100 hours of volunteer with a CCLS
Secure a practicum (not required, but do it if you can)
Determine what you want your degree to be in (BS/BS/MS/MA) and make sure you have completed classes approved by the ACLP depending on when you plan to take the exam. For me this will be between 2019-2022. But choose the requirements based on when you think you will be sitting for the exam.
Apply for internships.
The ACLP is currently requiring a 600 hour internship
Once you have taken the appropriate classes, completed you degree and completed you 600 hour internship, you are ready to sit for the exam!
Things to think about:
First, If you haven't already, begin volunteering at a children's hospital. Make connections! Make sure the CCLS's know you. For most graduate programs in Child Life you will need a minimum of 100 hours. You will also want a letter of recommendation from a CCLS who knows you and your work ethic.
Do you want a masters degree? What do you want your masters to be in?
By 2022 according to the council you will be required to have your masters in Child Life. In my opinion this is kind of an absurd request. I personally don't want a degree that is so specific. I believe I will be a more successful CCLS having a background in overall lifespan development with a focus in certain areas such as death and dying, play therapy, medical terminology, etc. You may have a completely different opinion of this which is totally fine. I don't want to sway anyone in any one direction.
There are certainly pros of being enrolled in a Masters in Child Life program though. For example, when it comes to an internship, the school you are with may help secure you an internship. Whereas the route I am choosing to take I an 100% responsible for securing an internship.
To or to not apply for a Child Life Practicum?
I say do it. The problem I came across is that there aren't many places that offer practicums. If the hospital you volunteer at does not offer one, ask them if they can help you get the experience you need that will be approved by the ACLP. (Here)
Apply everywhere. Do not just apply to hospitals in your area. Come to terms with the possibility you may be moving out of the area for your internship. It took me a long time to accept this. Just do it. Unless you're lucky and the University you attend has an agreement with a hospital (go you!!).