Child Life Professional Certification

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Child Life Professional Certification


The child life movement gained professional status in 1966 with the creation of the Association for the Well-Being of Hospitalized Children and Their Families, which was renamed to the Association for the Care of Children in Hospitals (ACCH) in 1967. Over the next two decades as the number of educational programs and skills development workshops grew, the need to establish professional standards and accreditation became apparent. Thus, in 1982, the Child Life Council (CLC) was created in the U.S. to establish standards for professional practice, educational preparation, and clinical competency, and a similar organization, the Canadian Association of Child Life Leaders, soon followed. As a result of their work, the first professional child life certification examination was offered in 1998 to provide a standard for determining professional competency for entry-level child life professionals.[1]

Exam content is updated periodically based on exhaustive practice analysis studies which match relevance of exam items with actual professional practice in the areas of knowledge, application, and analysis. The most recent practice analysis was conducted in 2013.[2]

Function of the Test

Child Life Study Guide

The Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) credential is a professional designation that provides proof of professional competency and expertise in child development issues to prospective employers, parents, and others involved in delivering services to children under extreme stress. To be eligible for examination, you must have:

  • Earned a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university,
  • Completed a minimum of 10 college-level courses in child life or a related subject, with at least one of these courses taught by a CCLS, and
  • Gained at least 480 hours of supervised child life clinical practice under an approved CCLS.[3]

Since the first CCLS exam was given in 1998, over 4,700 people have become certified, most of whom are in the United States.[4]

The CCLS role is expanding from its origins in the hospital environment to include employment in the court system, behavioral care facilities and schools.[5]

While certification is not required by law for employment as a child life specialist, increasingly many hospitals, outpatient centers and hospice care facilities expect it as a measure of competency for new hires. In a survey conducted in 2011, almost 80% of employed child life specialists indicated that their employer required child life certification as a condition of hire.[6]

Test Administration

Child Life Flashcards

There are 3 two-week windows during each year when the CLPC exam is given: March 15-30, August 15-30, and November 1-15. Applications, along with the required documentation and fees, must be received 6 weeks prior to the start of the testing window in which you intend to sit for the exam. Appointments are given 5-6 days per week for each of these 2 week periods.

Testing centers are operated by ISO-Quality Testing (IQT) in over 300 testing centers in and outside of the U.S.[7]

All testing centers are fully ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. Special accommodations are available for those with impaired vision, speech or hearing, for those with physical and mental disabilities, and for those whose native language is other than English. Such accommodations must be requested at the time of application by filling out the “Special Accommodations Packet” and must be approved in advance by the CLC.[8]

The cost to take the CLPC exam for the first time is $475, or $325 if you choose to become a member of the CLC. All but $25 of this fee is refundable should the CLC determine you are not eligible to sit for the exam. If you need to retake the exam, the fee is $400 for non-members and $250 for members.[9]

There is no limit to the number of times you can retake the exam if you do not pass. To do so, you will need to submit a new application and testing fee, but need not re-submit all of your supporting documentation as it is maintained on file by the CLC.[10]

Test Format

Sections of the CLPC Test
CLPC Test Subject Areas # Questions  % of Exam
Professional Responsibility 45 30%
Assessment 45 30%
Intervention 60 40%
Total 150 100%

Test Environment

Candidates are expected to arrive in a timely manner for the exam. Showing up more than twenty minutes late will disqualify a candidate from taking the exam. For admission, a test document will be emailed to each test-taker. It is expected that the document will be printed and presented upon arrival at the exam site. A government-issued ID is also required. Personal items such as bookks, calculators, phones, and snacks are not allowed in the exam room. The entire exam period is scheduled to last four hours.[11]

Test Structure

The Child Life Professional Certification Exam is made up of 150 multiple-choice questions that cover three major domains of knowledge: Professional Responsibility, Assessment, and Intervention. Professional Responsibility and Assessment each contain 45 questions, and Intervention contains 60. There are a total of 150 questions on the Child Life Professional Certification Exam.[12]

Sample Questions


The CLPC exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions organized in three knowledge domains: professional responsibility, assessment, and intervention. Twenty-five of the items on every exam are “pretest” items that are not included when calculating the final score. The remaining questions are weighted and the average weight is multiplied by the total number of questions on the test to achieve a “cut point,” or passing score threshold. This threshold is different for different versions of the test, so that overall variations in difficulty between different versions will not affect a candidate’s ability to achieve a passing score.[13]

Exams are graded according to the “criterion reference” model, in which the overall score is compared to a “cut score” at or above which individuals who meet professional competency standards are expected to fall. This means that test scores are not used to rank individuals based on competence. Numerical scores and percentage correct in each domain are only given out to those who do not pass the test, so that they can better prepare to successfully retake the exam. [14]

Recent/Future Developments

As of January 2019, new education requirements will apply to all exam candidates. In addition to the current CCLS-led course requirement, the remaining 9 required college-level courses must include 2 classes in child development, and one course each in the areas of family systems, therapeutic play, loss and bereavement/death and dying, and research methods. Required hours of clinical experience will also increase from 480 to 600 hours.[15] According to the 2011 practice survey, over half of practicing certified professionals had earned the required bachelor’s degree, while 40% had a master’s degree.[16] Effective in 2022, candidates for certification must have earned a master’s degree in child life or a master’s degree with concentration in child life in order to be eligible to take the CLPC exam. By 2025, only a master’s degree in child life will be accepted as admission criteria. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree who became certified prior to 2022 will not have to meet these new requirements unless their certification lapses, in which case they must earn a master’s degree before applying to retake the exam. The CLC encourages current students to consider these changes when making their career and educational plans.[17]


  1. ^ Timeline October 18, 2014
  2. ^ CCLS Connection October 19, 2014
  3. ^ Getting Certified October 18, 2014]
  4. ^ CCLS Connection October 19, 2014
  5. ^ Where Do Child Life Specialists Work? October 18, 2104
  6. ^ Child Life Professional Program Survey Results October 19, 2014
  7. ^ Deadlines, Locations and Exam Dates October 18, 2104
  8. ^ Special Accommodations October 18, 2014
  9. ^ Certification Fees October 18, 2014
  10. ^ After the Exam October 18, 2014
  11. ^ Day of Exam 10 October 2014
  12. ^ Exam Blueprint 10 October 2014
  13. ^ About the Examination October 17, 2014
  14. ^ After the Exam October 18, 2014
  15. ^ Certification News October 19, 2014
  16. ^ Child Life Professional Program Survey Results October 19, 2014
  17. ^ Advanced Degree Requirement October 19, 2014