From Child and Family Studies to a Career as a Child Life Specialist

“There are many career options with this degree other than child care,” said EKU graduate Courtney Sulfridge.

Sulfridge earned a bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Studies with a concentration in child development from EKU. She then decided to pursue a career as a child life specialist.

Child life specialists work collaboratively with children, their families and health care providers. Their goal is to help children cope with illnesses, injuries or disabilities. One of the primary responsibilities of the position is to explain treatment and procedures in language a child can understand. Child life professionals promote effective coping strategies and create opportunities for play to encourage a child’s well-being. They can also assist families of pediatric patients by providing support and information.   

According to the Child Life Council, child life specialists work with the health care community to help children and their families adjust to medical challenges. They are most often employed by pediatric units or other departments within hospitals. They may also find work with community outreach programs or medical or dental practices.

Sulfridge’s long-term plans also include teaching in the field. “After graduation I applied to Ohio University to further my education and earned my master’s in Child and Family Studies. I hope to become a certified child life specialist and use both my degrees to pursue that career,” she explained.

The profession requires either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in human development or a related field. In addition, most states require that child life professionals obtain the Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) credential.

Sulfridge is especially thankful for the staff and faculty who helped prepare her. “During my time at EKU, I felt supported by the department. I was able to get a child care job as soon as I graduated. The tools and education I was provided [gave] me a strong foundation,” she said.

She recently completed an internship with one of the best children’s hospitals in the nation and is currently preparing for the certification exam.

Published on July 12, 2016