Earn your MS in HHP with the child life track

The University of Iowa graduate program in health and human physiology with the sub-track child life was established in 2015. The University of Iowa was the second institution in the nation to receive the Association of Child Life Professional’s (ACLP) Graduate Endorsement for January 2019-January 2024. 

Through a comprehensive review process, the ACLP has verified that the Master of Science Health and Human Physiology, Sub-Track Child Life curriculum meets the academic eligibility requirements for child life certification, and as a result, students who successfully complete the child life program at the University of Iowa will meet the academic requirements to establish eligibility for the Child Life Professional Certification Exam upon graduation. 

Professionals in child life assist children and families in adjusting to the stress of serious illness and other challenging life events. Child life is a health-oriented profession dedicated to improving well-being and growth of children, emphasizing play and leisure activities to improve function in physical, emotional, social and cognitive domains. 

Why child life?

Child life specialists provide a variety of services designed to support families and to promote mastery of different experiences by children, particularly when the child is experiencing healthcare events. Because families are often a primary source of support for a sick child, child life specialists may also provide care to the family by assisting in accurate information processing and supporting the family members and other caregivers. Child life specialists also perform an important role as educators for other medical staff and the general community regarding the specific issues and needs of children experiencing healthcare or other stressful life events.

As a student at the University of Iowa, you will be with a cohort of peers on campus in your studies and fieldwork to be successful in beginning your professional journey to be a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS).

Our child life faculty members are Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS). Credentialed faculty members are vital to the quality and integrity of the program because curricular components and students should be taught and mentored by credentialed and experienced faculty.

The proximity of the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital means there are potential opportunities to volunteer and work with pediatric patients in the hospital setting. Our program in child life has practicum arrangements with the children’s hospital and several other agencies throughout Iowa.

Upon certification, a child life specialist can find a job in a pediatric hospital, community hospital, rehabilitation center, community organization that works with children and families, camp program, and other institutions that serve children and families.

Requirements, prerequisites, and financial aid

The purpose of the graduate program is to prepare advanced practitioners in child life and to meet credentialing requirements for child life. The 36 semester hours required for the master’s in child life (non-thesis) include:

  • 27 semester hours for the child life subprogram coursework
  • Nine semester hours for a supervised internship of 600 contact hours with a Certified Child Life Specialist.
    • The internship is supervised by a certified faculty member.
    • Students must write and pass comprehensive exams in three areas: child life, research, and applied treatment processes.

Graduates will be eligible to sit for the credentialing examination in child life. Student eligibility to sit for certification examinations results from:

  • Compliance with curriculum standards
  • Successful completion of a carefully structured and supervised internship
  • Delivery of both classes and the internship experience by credentialed faculty

An undergraduate grade-point average of 3.00 or higher is required for admission.

Admission pre-requisites include:

  • Completion of pre-requisite coursework:
    • Human anatomy
    • Medical terminology
    • Two child development courses focusing on children 0 to 18
  • An introductory course in child life is strongly recommended
    • Students who have not completed an introductory course in child life must audit Introduction to Child Life (TR:1077) during their first semester. For student applicants whose first language is not English, applications must be accompanied by TOEFL scores.

All graduate students in the Department of Health and Human Physiology are eligible to apply for a limited number of teaching assistantships, awarded on a competitive basis. The child life department at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital also hires child life student assistants on a part-time basis.

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Portrait of Emily Mozena

Emily Mozena

Associate Professor of Instruction
Director of Graduate Studies - MS Child Life
Director of Undergraduate Studies - BS Therapeutic Recreation