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Online M.A.: Child Life Track

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Child Life Specialists are trained professionals who help children cope with the stress and uncertainty of illness, injury, disability and hospitalization. Drawing on child development theory, Child Life Specialists promote coping through play and therapeutic activities, and provide developmentally-appropriate preparation and education for children in health care settings. Child Life Specialists partner with medical teams to meet the cultural, emotional, and developmental needs of each child and family.

In the Child Life track:

  • Gain a strong education in child development, applied research methods, and child life practice.
  • Prepare to work as a child life specialist in a variety of health care settings.
  • Participate in an advanced program option if you already are a certified child life specialist.


  • Core courses in typical social, emotional, cognitive and biological development, ethics and professionalism, and research methods
  • CPSY 5601: Child Life Theory, Practice and Program Development
  • CPSY 5602: Developmental Perspectives on Illness and Injury in Healthcare
  • CPSY 5603: Therapeutic Play in Child Life Practice
  • CPSY 5604: Therapeutic Relationships: Supporting Children in Healthcare
  • CPSY 5605: Childhood Death and Bereavement

Learn more about the curriculum.

View a sample degree timeline.

Child Life Internship

To graduate, students must complete a 600-hour clinical internship within two years of finishing coursework.

  • Students may qualify for a clinical internship position at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, a partner of the Institute of Child Development M.A. program.
  • Students who are already eligible for certification as a child life specialist are not required to complete an internship. Students will work with an adviser to develop an individual academic focus and final project in a specialized area of child life.


This track prepares students for a career as a child life specialist. Starting in 2022, the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP), previously known as the Child Life Council, will require newly credentialed certified child life specialists to have an advanced degree in child life. Graduates of our M.A. Child Life track will be eligible for the Child Life Professional Certification Examination if they complete the M.A. program, including the 600-hour child life clinical internship, and the ACLP Eligibility Assessment.

Tuition and funding

Tuition for our M.A. program follows the University’s general graduate tuition rates for the College of Education and Human Development. Full-time enrollment is 6 to 14 credits per semester. This track has a total of 32 credits.

Since this is an online program, all students qualify for the Minnesota resident tuition rate.

Additional resources

Featured Faculty

Sarah Wiebler headshotSarah Wiebler, M.S., is a Certified Child Life Specialist with eight years of clinical experience at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. She received her master’s of science in child life and family-centered care from Wheelock College and a bachelor’s of science in child psychology from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.


How to apply


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Why choose the University of Minnesota?

Founded in 1925, the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development is a premier center of scholarship, teaching and research. Study with award-winning faculty and be a part of a community devoted to understanding and supporting how children learn and grow.