How to Land a Child Life Internship


Who wouldn’t want to be one of us??

This blog gets a lot of traffic from women (because, let’s be honest, it’s always women) who are interested in the field of child life. I get it, unfortunately there are not a ton of child life resources out there, so I feel privileged when people seek out my blog and email me with all their child life questions. I love getting these emails and I’m always so happy and willing to help out in any way I possibly can. Have a question about the field? Just ask! There’s nothing a child life specialist loves more than preaching about the field to another potential child life-er.

All that to say, these past few weeks I have received a LOT of emails from women who are thinking or currently applying to child life internships around the country. Since hospitals all over are currently accepting intern applications for spring semester, many girls seem to have questions about the application and interview process. So with that in mind I figured, why not write a post about it!? So for all of you potential child lifers out there, this one’s for you.

How to Land a Child Life Internship:

1. Seek out a child life practicum first. Although completing a child life practicum is not required prior to applying for an internship, it will definitely give you a heads up over the competition. We get a LOT of applications each semester and honestly those who have completed a practicum stand out above those who did not. It shows initiative and a commitment to the field of child life and it lets us know that you have experienced a small dose of the amazing-ness that is child life and you now want to come back for more.

2. Be different. Let’s be real for a second, most girls who are interested in child life have very similar looking resumes. A degree in child development, family studies or psychology? check! 100 or more volunteer hours at a children’s hospital? check! (obviously..since this is a prereqrisite for the internship..) Side jobs babysitting/nannying/working at a summer camp? check! An essay stating their love for children since a very early age? check check!! I get it, you all love kids, you work with kids, kids are awesome. But sometimes, you’ve got to do more to really stand out. And guess what, it can still have to do with kids. An internship or job at a children’s foundation like Kids Wish, Starlight or Make a Wish? Awesome. Experience working with at-risk organizations such as Youth In Distress or Invisible Children? Wonderful. Sometimes it’s refreshing and impressive to see someone who has experience beyond the cookie cutter norm.

3. Proof read your application. I know, it sounds silly. Should I even have to say that?? Sadly, yes. Every semester we receive 20-30 applicants for our internship program. Out of those 20-30 we interview 10. Out of those 10 we pick 2. So how do we narrow down the applicants to choose which 10 candidates to interview? We use a very detailed check list and point system based on your application. The 10 applicants that receive the highest score move on to the interview process. Yes, we are looking at your GPA, your volunteer and/or practicum experience and your references, but we are also looking at how well you answer the application short essay questions. And yes, we are mostly looking at your knowledge and understanding of what a child life specialist’s role is in the hospital setting, but even if you write the most amazing child life philosophy I have ever read, I’m going to be way too distracted by your horrible grammar and spelling mistakes to even notice.

4. Sell yourself. I know a lot of times it can be awkward to brag about yourself during your interview, but guess what, now’s your only time to tell us why we should pick you. We phone interview all of our potential interns (since they are applying from all over the country) and we ask them 10 questions. So you have 10 questions to sell yourself and that’s it. When I am interviewing a candidate and she is going on and on about the child life club she started at her college or the research project she completed to help better distraction in the ER, I’m not sitting there thinking, “shut up about yourself already.” Instead I’m frantically writing it all down so I can share it with the rest of my team. I once asked a candidate what she thought she could bring to our team. What new initiatives could she think of that would better our practice of child life and she said “I don’t know.” You don’t know?? Be creative! Make something up!! Do I even need to say that she didn’t get picked?

5. Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know. You’re coming to us, bright eyed with your excitement for child life, fresh off of 100 hours volunteering under a child life department and maybe a few hundred practicum hours. So yes, we know you don’t know everything. If you did, then why the heck would you need an internship? Because of this, if you are asked a question during your interview, such as “Please describe in detail how you would prep a child for an EEG,” don’t be afraid to say, “Honestly, I’m not sure what an EEG is, can you please let me know and then I’ll do my best to tell you how I would prepare a child for one?” instead of pretending like you know exactly what I’m talking about while at the same time giving me a super vague answer such as, “So I would tell them about the procedure and use medical play to help explain the procedure and answer any questions they have about their..umm…procedure….” It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you have no flippin’ idea what an EEG is. Points will be given if you are honest and just ASK! Points will immediately be taken away if you are too afraid or proud to ask for help.

6. Know your developmental theorists. And I’m not just talking about Erikson and Piaget. I get that we all learned about those 2 in high school and they’ve been pounded into our heads ever since. There’s probably a (very) good chance that you will be asked about other theorists and, even if you aren’t, talking about Bowlby’s theory of attachment and how this could be used to explain the effects of a long term hospitalization on a child’s attachment to their parents and/or the hospital staff is bound to look good. So yes, Erikson’s stages of development are important in explaining appropriate activities for each age group, but let’s not forget about Watson, Bandura, Vygotsky, Kohlberg…

7. Know your hospital. Getting an internship is VERY competitive, sometimes even more so than securing a child life job, so we get that you are most likely applying to multiple internships and that is completely understandable and smart of you to do. However, at the end of the interview you will most likely be asked, “So what questions do you have for me?” Have questions! And the more you know about the specific hospital you are applying for, the better. For example, “I saw that your hospital is the only children’s hospital in South Florida that has a full time pet therapy program. How do you feel this has benefited your patients and families?” That shows initiative. That shows that you found our hospital, researched our hospital, and decided that THIS was the hospital that you wanted to intern at. Maybe it’s because of a hospital’s music therapy program, maybe it’s because they have the largest child life program in the state, maybe it’s because they presented an interesting case study at a child life conference you attended, whatever it is, ask about it! I once asked a candidate, “So do you have any questions for me about our program?” and she legit answered, “What hospital is this again??” Umm yeah…let’s just end this here.

So there you have it; 7 steps to help you secure a child life internship. Can I promise you success? Unfortunately not, but I can promise that if you follow this advice you will present yourself as a strong, capable internship candidate that any hospital would be lucky to have!

Good luck!

*And as always, if you any further questions please feel free to leave a comment or contact me!

64 thoughts on “How to Land a Child Life Internship

  1. Sahar says:

    I am beyond thankful that I came across your blog! I have had two interviews earlier this week and one more today. Your pointers and advice will definitely help me today and with future interviews. Thank you!!

  2. ------------ says:

    hello! thanks for the fantastic post – it seems it would have been much more helpful for me a few months ago as I am having the most discouraging time with my quest to get an internship. I graduated from UW Madison 2 years ago with a degree in Child Development and a pretty strong GPA (3.1 cum 3.85 in my major). I then went on to volunteer full time for the next year with AmeriCorps where I worked in a school district directly with children and families. A few other applicable experiences I have under my belt include: respite camps, infant research lab assistant, local recreational dept. counselor, preschool assistant, and last but not least I am a current volunteer at Children’s Hospital of WI. I never completed a practicum as by the time I applied my senior year I wasn’t offered the position and I needed to move on professionally. I applied at 17 sites for the Winter/Spring ’14 internship and thus far I have received 3 “no’s” and absolutely no word on the others. For some reason I just do not have a lot of confidence right now even though I felt confident sending in my applications and felt I was a strong applicant. I know internships are competitive, hence why I applied to 17, but this is brutal! I’m wondering if you have any helpful suggestions on what I can do to help me stand out more (it just seems odd to me that all I need are “more hospital volunteer hours”) – I probably will only apply for one more round of internships before moving on to another career – which is heartbreaking to even say 😦 Thanks in advance for any words of wisdom!

  3. Mary says:

    Thank you for the advise. I’m 32 & have been interested in the field of child life since graduating college. I graduated in 2003 with my Bach of Science in Human Development & Family Studies. I have tried for years to get an internship,but unfortunately have been told I have to associated with a college. So, I tried putting in for child life assistant positions. However, Ive been told on countless occasions the same old response back by letter, “I don’t qualify for the position for which I’m applying.” I’ve tried to find out why, but have never been given an answer. All of the child life assistant positions I’ve applied for have required the following; a high school diploma (check), at least some college (check), experience working with children ages infants – teens (check) & or experience working with special needs children (check), & volunteer experience (check). So, I can’t understand why I’m continually turned down for the child life assistant positions & never even granted an interview. After all I wouldn’t apply if I wasn’t interested. I just want the chance to be apart an interdisciplinary team & be able to use my degree, whether in a specialist or an assistant. I never did an internship while in college as I wasn’t informed one was needed for the field, but I’ve sent all my information into the council for review & have been told I’d qualify for the exam if I only had the internship. So, you see in stuck in a rut with no place to go if I’m at all interested in the field of child life. So, perhaps you can offer me some advice on how I can try and get noticed or make my resume stand out amongst other applicants who are applying for child life assistant jobs. Any and all advice would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  4. Marissa says:

    Loved this article!
    Wish I could have read it a few years ago. I live in Canada and graduated from the only Child Life post-graduate program. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to land a job! I’m even certified and having several volunteer years at a camp for children effected by cancer – on top of my program requirements and over 400 internship hours.
    Like Mary noted above….I would love to figure out how I can get noticed! I’ve had a completely unrelated job for the past 2 years, just to pay the bills, and feel that hospitals may be looking at that as a negative 😦

  5. Hope Wright says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!! I am a freshman in college and I am working on getting a Child and Family Development degree and have been very interested in working in Child Life! Any professor I have talked to or Child Life Specialists I shadowed talked about how hard it was to get an internship but you calmed my nerves about it all!! And I will definetely follow this when trying to get my own internship in a few years! Who knows maybe I will be applying at your hospital in South Florida! Lastly, can I do those volunteer hours during the summer as well!? I would love to hear more about your work in child life and any more advice you have!!

    • Christina Lynne says:

      Hi Hope, I’m so happy to hear that you are working on a child and family development degree! And we would definitely love it if you decided to intern down here in South Florida. It’s a pretty great hospital, if I do say so myself. πŸ™‚ Your volunteer hours can definitely be done during the summer months, that is when I completed most of mine. Any other questions you have, feel free to email me! (

  6. Heather Cohen says:

    Wow Christina! You give great advice!! I can’t believe how much is needed just to get your foot in the door…two semesters ago I was complaining about how hard it seemed just to get a volunteer spot at my local hospital….go figure. I do have one question. during an interview, might it be appropriate to bring up my idea of art and interior decorating therapy idea? I have always been a fan of that and wondered if others might be as well. I noticed Children’s Hospital in Boston was a fan of art therapy, and almost volunteered there for that very reason. Also, for experience…might actual personal hospital patient experience be of value or not really? I spent quite a few years in and out of the hospital during my early 20s for heart surgery, (and had to go back every year as a kid), and wonder if that might help me stand out, seeing as I actually know and understand what the patients are going through and what they might need. I’m actually still going back for surgery…but not as frequently anymore. Also, would I need more education within the medical field entirely? As I’ve only had 1 class of anatomy/physiology, and only know about the procedures for the cardiac unit, needless to say.

    • Christina Lynne says:

      Hi Heather, art therapy is awesome and many times it does go hand in hand with child life and many hospital’s have art therapists on their child life team. I definitely think it would be appropriate to bring up your interest in art therapy during an interview, but remember, although connected, art therapy is it’s own field with it’s own degree and certifications outside of “just” child life. If interested, definitely try to volunteer at a hospital with an art therapy program so you can learn more about the field! As for personal hospital experience, that’s always a tricky situation. On one hand, I think it’s invaluable that you have experienced some of the same medical interventions, surgeries and procedures that the patients you would be working with as a CLS may have, but on the other hand, you have to be VERY careful not to let your personal experiences color your professional experience. Although you may have had a similar experience, everyone’s hospitalization is different with it’s own obstacles and, when working with a patient, you would need to clear your mind from any per-conceived conceptions you may have based on your personal hospital experience. All that to say, it’s not a bad thing (and obviously not something you chose!) that you have your own personal medical history and it, of course, could be used as a helping tool in the field of CL! As for the medical knowledge…since I went on to receive my masters degree in CL I took a few medical classes (including a medical terminology course) that was SO helpful, but obviously not everyone has done so! You will learn a LOT of medical knowledge during your internship and even now, 3 years into my career as a CLS, I’m still learning new diagnoses and medical terms every day! You are constantly learning, researching and studying in this field! πŸ™‚

    • Christina Lynne says:

      Thank you so much, Meghan! That means more to me than you can know. πŸ™‚ I owe it all to my amazing experience and education, both during my time at Bank Street as well as my internship at Montefiore!!

  7. Maggie Senor says:

    Thank you so much for all this advice! I am currently taking a class at Bank Street in accordance with the requirements to receieve my certification without going the route of getting a master’s degree. I plan to get a masters at some point in my life but possibly in a related feild after certification. Unfortunately I am a recent graduate of my undergrad degree and finances are keeping me from a master’s degree. I am SOOO fortunate that I have the opportunity to get my certification without the ful masters course work and the finances that go along with it. I was wondering do you think (from your experiences thus far) it will be harder for me to find a job with only a bachelors in education and a certification. Is it more likely a hospital will hire someone with a masters and certification rather then just the cert?

  8. Alex Rogers says:

    Hi Christina,
    Thank you so much for writing this blog! I am a current child development student at Sacramento State University in California and am in my third year here. I hope to one day become a child life specialist. I currently volunteer at Sutter Memorial Hospital in their child life unit. I have over 200 hours of volunteer experience and don’t plan on stopping until I graduate, which will hopefully put me at 500 hours total. I also work at a non-profit organization that works with disadvantaged families and their children. I work as an activities coordinator and am lead playcare provider. Reading through your most recent blog about getting an internship was both comforting and eye-opening. In the section where you said it is important to stand out, I was wondering if what experience I have is enough. I have also been thinking about pursuing my masters in child life after graduation and was wondering if that is something you would recommend. As I still have two more years left of my undergraduate education, I would love any information you could pass on about the child life profession, and anything else I could work or improve on to better my chances for landing an internship and/or job in the next few years.
    Thank you so much for your time!

    Alex Rogers

  9. ashley says:

    Hi! I’m so happy I came across this! I’m in the process of getting my bachelors in Child Life and in Child Development. I already have an associates degree in Child Development. In the section that you talk about selling yourself do you think I would have a bigger chance at getting the internship if I tell them that I’ve been a patient at the hospital since I was little (and still am today) I’ve been told that yes that will help, but probably not a whole lot. And I’ve also been told that I won’t get the internship at the hospital that I want. While that may turn some girls away that only makes me want it even more! Anyways do you have any advice? Thanks:)

    • Christina Lynne says:

      Hi Ashley, to be honest (and I know every hospital/child life program will have a different opinion on this) but I would be careful with selling yourself too much on the fact that you have been a patient at the hospital where you are applying. Some specialists may be afraid that you will have a tough time disassociating yourself from the other patients you are working with. However! I think it is great to mention that you have been a patient (and still are a patient) in a way that makes you seem relateable, such as “As I have been a patient myself in the past I have a good understanding for what children feel and what they need during their hospitalization.” You want your past as a patient to help you become more marketable, not something that makes specialists worry that you won’t be able to separate your own personal experiences from the experiences of the patients you are working with as a CLS. Does this make sense? Let me know! Good luck!!! πŸ™‚

  10. Miranda says:

    Glad I found your post, I’m working on my applications now to apply for this summer! I would love to hear some more pointers from you or maybe some help with making my resume easy for the sites to read over, but have the important parts stick out!

  11. Hayley says:

    Hi Christina! I’m currently amidst the application process for child life internships and was wondering if you could lend any advice about what to say in that letter to make myself stand out! Thanks πŸ™‚

      • Christina Lynne says:

        Hi Hayley! Cover letters can be tough, but really the ultimate goal is to share information that cannot be fully voiced on your resume. The biggest pet peeve I have is when I read over an applicants cover letter and it’s basically a copy and paste (but in paragraph form) version of their resume. You can definitely expand on aspects of your resume that you feel deserve a little more attention and information, but you also want to make sure you share other personal details about yourself and why you think you would make a great fit for that particular hospital. Good luck!!! πŸ™‚

  12. Megan Hofschulte says:

    Thank you for the blog! Lots of great information.I know this post was awhile ago but I am an aspiring child life specialist and was wondering what your thoughts were about getting a masters degree in child life or child development. I know it would likely mean a salary increase, but are there also more opprotunities in the field if you have a higher degree? Please feel free to respond by email whenever you have a chance. Thank you and I look forward to our correspondence!

  13. Peter Rasmussen says:

    This is a great resource, I feel like you put in a lot of great tips. I am about halfway finished with my child life practicum at children’s medical center in Dallas Texas and I would definitely use these tips in the future, thanks so much!

    Peter Rasmussen (Yes I’m a guy who wants to be a child life specialist)

  14. Hannah Henry says:

    What is some advice you could give to a student who got through the first selection process of the child life practicum at a prestigious hospital and has a phone interview on Friday?

  15. Leslie Gaines says:

    I recently had a huge blockage in deciding what career path I wanted to take. I love children so it definitely was going to go in that direction but as far as what field I was unsure. I researched Child Life Specialists and realized this was the job for me and I couldn’t be more thrilled! I have a couple more classes to take and then I am applying for the Early Childhood Development program so I can become a Child Life Specialists. I was wondering if you could just walk me through the process. When do you take the internship? Am I going for the right degree? How can I start preparing myself now? Is there anything else I should be doing at this moment or in the near future? Sort of things like that. I just don’t know where to begin or if I am even on the right path and could really use some feedback if you don’t mind πŸ™‚ Thank you so much for any help you can provide!

    • Christina Lynne says:

      Hi Leslie! That’s great that you are working towards a child life career! You can complete your child life internship whenever you meet the requirements (found here: Once you meet the requirements you can start applying for internships at different hospitals! The childhood development program you are applying for, is this a master’s program? It sounds like a great option to help better prepare yourself for a career as a child life specialists. Certain schools (and online programs) do offer masters degree in child life, which you should definitely look into if child life is the career you are working towards, but a child development degree will definitely be helpful as well (and a little more diverse in case you want to do something else besides child life). To start preparing yourself now, make sure you are doing your volunteer work (you will need 100 hrs complete before applying for an internship) and make sure your undergrad course work is meeting the child life requirements. Any other questions, feel free to email me at cbecker211 at gmail dot com. Good luck!!

  16. MegZ says:

    WOW had no idea internships were so competitive! Even after successfully getting into an internship, how much harder would it be to get an actual job in this field? I am going back to school this fall and am thinking of going into Early Childhood Education, and then becoming a CLS. I would think a teaching degree would be good to use in case you do not get a job as a CLS? What other jobs are out there similar to a CLS that you think would be good to fall back on? Thanks for your time!

  17. Sharon Knight says:

    I have been an Elementary Teacher with Masters degree in Education for 14 years and I am now working towards my certification in Child Life Specialist. I am taking the necessary child life class this semester, and we have to interview a CCLS to learn about their experiences in the field of Child Life. I have list of about 6 questions that I would like ask during the interview. They are mostly general questions about child life, recommendations about the field, etc. I wouldn’t expect the interview to take more than 20 or 30 minutes. I am open to interview over the phone or via email whichever is best for you. Please let me know if anyone can help me out by emaling me at Thanks in advance!


  18. Karli Wiloth says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! I just finished my practicum with MD Anderson and I am in the process of applying for Spring internships. This was extremely helpful. Good luck to all the child lifers out there!

  19. Alexandra says:

    Thank you for the advice. I am currently beginning to apply for internships and am becoming very nervous. My undergraduate degree is in Elementary Education (3.8 GPA) and my graduate degree (in progress) will be in Special Education, Applied Curriculum for Significant Disabilities. I do hold a VA teaching license (PreK-6) and have additional experience through jobs at child development centers, camps for children ages 7-17 with special health needs, and Make A Wish. Unfortunately, I live in an area where there are very few CLS’s and the only internship site in VA requires you to be affiliated with a university to which you will gain academic credits. Due to my area of residency, I do not hold experience under a CLS other than job shadowing. From what I have seen, this also limits my internship site options. I am willing to move for an internship and plan on applying everywhere that I can but I also have started to look at the possibility of the “Supervision Option for Extenuating Circumstances” found on the Child Life Council website. What advice are you able to offer me? Thanks in advance.

    • Christina Lynne says:

      Hey Alexandra, thanks for commenting! Unfortunately I don’t think I am going to be much help. :-/ Hospital’s all have such different requirements these days which makes me anything but an expert when it comes to areas and hospital’s I am not familiar with. I know it can be so tough when you are in an area where child life options are not abundant. If you do have the option to relocate for an internship, that may be the best option. It sounds like, with all your other experience with camps and Make a Wish, that you have a lot of experience that could make you a valuable intern! So don’t give up hope! Definitely apply to internships outside your area and I hope something works out for you! Good luck! (PS. I do not know anything about the “Supervision Option for Extenuating Circumstances” so if that is something you would like to look into, I would suggest trying to contact the Child Life Council for more information to see if it could work for you!

  20. Jeannine says:

    You share that you ask ten questions…can you share what those questions might be? I am a special education of 25+ years with my practicum completed and searching for appropriate internships within MI and out.

    • Christina Lynne says:

      Hi Jeannie,
      Thanks for your comment! The questions that a hospital may ask will always change/vary but most likely they will ask questions about prepping kids for surgery/procedures (a step by step how to) developmental theorists, appropriate play activities, advocating for patients, etc.

  21. Yosimar Rodriguez says:

    I am not sure if you will be able to help me but it is worth a shot!
    I just recently moved to Las Vegas, Nevada and have been looking for internships in the area but have not found anything! I wanted to know if you know anything about internships out here? Any little piece of info would help!

  22. Elizabeth Chapman says:

    So I ran across your blog as I was searching for internships and I have to say THANK YOU! I am not applying yet just searching for information, but I did have some questions for you and I was wondering if you could take the time to answer some for me. Thank you!
    Elizabeth Chapman

  23. Amalia says:

    Holy moley, I wish I would have discovered this profession last year when I had graduated with my BA. Hi! I know this blog post is old but I just found it. I have a BA in psychology and I’m almost finished with my MA in teaching early childhood general education and special education. I am super interested in becoming a CLS. I’ve been researching all day, and I know it says 100 hours volunteering and 480 internship hours, but do you know approximately how long (months/years wise) it would take to actually become a CLS? Thank you so much!

    • Christina Lynne says:

      Hi Amalia! Thanks for your comment. It’s hard to answer your question because the length of time totally depends on you (and what else is going on in your life!) If you could volunteer pretty much full time (or at least 2-3 full time days a week) you could easily knock out the 100 needed hours in 2-3 months. However, if you are working and maybe can only volunteer on the weekends, it could take you around 6 months to rack up the needed hours. With an internship, most (if not all) internships are full time and are 12 weeks long. Obviously, there can be a length of time between completing your volunteer hours and starting an internship (depending on how quickly you apply and whether or not you receive an offer on the first go) and then once your internship is complete, you are eligible so sit for the child life exam. Once that is complete, you are finally ready to apply for jobs! I hope this helped! Let me know if you have any other questions and good luck! πŸ™‚

  24. Shikha Shah says:

    Hi! I know this blog post is quite dated but I just stumbled upon it while reading up on child life internships. I am currently a Child Life Masters student who just completed round 1 of applications for a summer 17 child life internship. So far, the quest has been a bit discouraging. I applied to 13 locations and already received a no from 3 of them. I have 1 interview lined up which is promising but have not heard anything from the other sites. My question I guess is, how likely is it that one would be granted an internship if offered an interview? I know many sites only select 1-2 candidates to intern but how many are offered interviews? In addition, what are the best ways to prep for an interview based on the questions they will be asking!

    This is so helpful though! Thank you!

  25. allielea says:

    Hi! I know this post is super old and I know it is geared for internship applicants, but do you have any other advice for a practicum application? I’m a senior majoring in FCS/Child Life and I want to do everything I can to land one. Your help is much appreciated!

  26. Barbara LaValley says:

    Hi Christina!
    Who do I contact to begin this process?
    I have a Masters degree in ECE and have worked in child care settings as well as public schools, most recently as a preschool special ed. teacher. I have been in this field for over 30 years including 3 years experience as a developmental educator for an early intervention program in western MA. I feel I have the credentials to persue a career as a child Life specialist.
    Please let me know who to contact in order to apply for an internship.
    Thank you,
    Barbara LaValley

    • Christina Lynne says:

      Hi Barbara,
      Every hospital has their own, individual child life internship program. You will need to choose a hospital that you would like to pursue an internship at and contact their child life program. Good luck!

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