MS in Child Life

APU’s M.S. in Child Life program prepares men and women to become credentialed child life specialists, who help children and families navigate traumatic and challenging situations, especially medical crises.

The master’s degree in child life is designed to prepare graduates to successfully complete credentialing as child life specialists, who are allied health care professionals with expertise in helping children and their families navigate traumatic and challenging experiences, particularly health crises.

This is an applied/clinical program, with students required to complete a 120-hour practicum in child life followed by a 600-hour hospital internship, in addition to rigorous coursework. The program comprises 42 units and can be completed in 18 months, with available start times in spring and fall. Courses take place primarily in the evenings. There is also online synchronous learning for the Advanced Standing option.


PCLS 501Advanced Child Development3
PCLS 502Applied Child Development and Medical Terminology3
PCLS 511Family Systems Theory and Applications3
PCLS 512Theories and Practices of Grief and Loss3
PCLS 521Introduction to Child Life3
PCLS 522Therapeutic Interventions and Play-Based Techniques3
PCLS 523Coping Strategies for Children Experiencing Stress and Trauma3
PCLS 524Adolescent Development and Interventions3
PCLS 525Assessment, Preparation, and Documentation3
PCLS 527Supporting Children with Special Needs in the Healthcare System3
PCLS 531Ethics, Diversity and Professional Issues3
PCLS 542Practicum in Child Life3
PCLS 551Research Methods and Statistical Analysis3
PCLS 552Thesis/Project Seminar3
Optional Electives 1
Infants and Toddlers: Development and Interventions
Child Life Administration and Leadership
Internship in Child Life
Internship in Child Life II
Total Units42

These courses may serve as electives for the MS in Child Life program, or be used as substitutes for required courses by students who enter the program with previous completed coursework that meets the student learning outcomes for required courses. Departmental permission is required for such a substitution.


University graduate admission and program-specific requirements must be met before an application is complete (see Admission to the University). Program-specific application requirements are available online.

International students should contact Graduate and Professional Admissions for application procedures.

Program Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this program shall be able to:
  1. Disciplinary Knowledge – Demonstrates theoretical and conceptual knowledge to apply Child Life practices.
  2. Critical Thinking, Scientific Inquiry, and Effective Communication – Able to examine and engage in scholarly inquiry and critical thinking, including evaluation and application of evidence based research relevant to child life practices and healthcare delivery system, as a basis to develop, implement and communicate effective interventions.
  3. Values and Ethics – Apply knowledge of child life operating principles, code of ethical responsibilities, standards of practice, respect and value for diversity, and factors impacting infants, children, youth and families.
  4. Application to Vocation – Develop professional identity demonstrating the ability to integrate and apply Child Life competencies learned in professional settings of practicum and internship.
  5. Faith integration – Articulate the intersection of Christian traditions with the Child Life profession using a Christian worldview to integrate faith, beliefs, values, ethics, and service in personal and professional life.


Program Director

Charity Vasquez, PhD, CCLS