important information
  • Now accepting applications for Fall 2024! Apply by 5/31/24. See Admissions and Application below for more details. All application fees currently waived.
  • Tuition waivers are available for those interested in adding a Play Therapy or Drug and Alcohol Counseling certificate to their program. See below for more information.
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Online Info Sessions

Questions about our programs? Join the Department of Counseling and Family Sciences for one of our helpful online info sessions.

At a Glance

  • 2-year, 74 quarter unit program with 100-hour practicum and 600-hour internship
  • One-on-one academic and internship advising
  • Small class size to maximize learning
  • Multiple clinical experiences within the Loma Linda University Health system of care
  • Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) endorsed graduate program
  • Christian environment emphasizing integrated learning, respect for all persons, and compassionate whole person care
  • Training for the provision of clinical services in underserved areas
  • Embedded professional self-care

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Program Director

Prof. Michelle Minyard-Widmann


Associate Chair, Department of Counseling and Family Sciences
Assistant Professor, Counseling and Family Sciences
Director, Child Life Specialist MS Program

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Director of Clinical Training

Prof. Alisha Saavedra


Assistant Professor, Counseling and Family Sciences
Director of Clinical Training, Child Life Specialist MS Program

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MS in Child Life Specialist Degree

The Master of Science in Child Life Specialist is a 74 quarter credit program, which includes a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship. Students are admitted into the program during the fall quarter.

As one of the few graduate programs in the nation that is endorsed by the Association of Child Life Professionals, students can expect a high level of both preparation and personal interaction as they embark on their career. Since inception, we have kept our commitment to maintaining small class sizes. Loma Linda University shares the same campus as the Loma Linda University Children's Hospital. This enables the program to provide in-class clinical training by utilizing the hospital staff and their facilities as a working lab. All of the core child life courses are taught by certified child life specialists that have ten or more years of experience working in a clinical setting. Additionally, we collaborate with our nursing department to teach within our program.

We pride ourselves on exposing our students to various clinical experiences within the community. Students are able to facilitate and actively participate in our Family Grief Support Group, Teddy Bear Clinic, Annual Child Life Symposium, Family Health Fair, Grief Camps and Teen Retreats. Students also have the opportunity to engage in research within our department. Additionally, students enrolled in the program engage in global community work in areas such as China, Belize, Bolivia, and Honduras, where they provide lectures on psychosocial care of children and their families and facilitate Teddy Bear Clinics.

Based on the program's alumni surveys, results indicate a high success rate of employment in the field and on the child life professional certification exam.


Child Life Specialist Alumna Melissa Fatal
Child Life Specialist Alumna Melissa Fatal
Growing up I struggled trying to figure out God's purpose for my life. Recently an LVN told me, "Melissa, God gave you the assignment to be a Child Life Specialist." I believe that God placed me at Loma Linda University knowing that I would have the opportunity to gain a higher education, train with amazing mentors during fellowship, and serve families in the Emergency Department every day. I am grateful to God and to LLU for my career success and am looking forward for what's to come.

Admissions and Application

General Admission Requirements

Applicants to the MS degree in the Child Life Specialist Program must meet the School of Behavioral Health admission requirements as outlined in the Loma Linda University Catalog and give evidence of academic ability, professional comportment and mature judgment. Additional admission requirements include:

  • Bachelor’s degree in the social sciences or equivalent
  • Minimum grade point average 3.0 (on 4.0 scale) in bachelor’s coursework for at least the final 45 units prior to graduation
  • GRE is not required
  • Health clearance
  • Prior to matriculation students must pass a background check
  • Official transcripts on file
  • Three letters of recommendation as specified
  • Written statement of purpose for applying to the Child Life program
  • Volunteer experience in a hospital setting is preferred
  • Interview with department faculty as scheduled (on-campus group interviews are scheduled for mid-January through late March; other on-campus and phone interviews are scheduled individually)
  • Those for which English is not their first language must present a minimum score of 80 for the computer test and 550 for the pencil test on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
  • Those who are not citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. must provide a valid student visa

Admissions FAQ

Admission Deadlines


Application Opens

Priority Deadline

Standard Deadline

Fall 2024 Enrollment November 6, 2023 February 26, 2024 May 31, 2024
Nourah Alqattan
Nourah Alqattan
The Loma Linda University Child Life Specialist program is a vivid example of inclusiveness and thoughtfulness. The faculty taught me the true meaning of giving and caring. I learned to strive to treat all patients and their families with the same level of respect and eagerness to help them feel comfortable throughout their hospital experience. I also learned to practice care as a way of living and to never live outside my values. I am very grateful for the faculty and my wonderful cohort with whom I felt a sense of belonging, easing my experience of living abroad far from family.

Mission and Vision

The department's mission is to facilitate wholeness by promoting health, healing, and hope to individuals, families, and communities through education, research, professional training, community service, and global outreach. Our vision is that of transforming relationships.

Course Schedule Course Descriptions

Please Note: The curriculum of this program includes attendance during the summer terms.

Child Life Specialist Profession

Child Life Specialists are well-versed in the field of child development. They promote effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities. A Child Life Specialist provides emotional support for families, and encourages optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences, particularly those related to health care and hospitalization. Understanding that a child's well-being depends on the support of the family, Child Life Specialists provide information, support and guidance to parents, siblings and other family members. They also play a vital role in educating caregivers, administrators, and the public about the needs of children under stress. (Taken from the Association of Child Life Professionals.)


The MS Child Life Specialist degree is housed in the Department of Counseling and Family Sciences in the School of Behavioral Health. Master's degree students may choose to combine one or more certificate options with their degree program. Certificates are offered in the following specializations: Drug and Alcohol Counseling (Certificate Online), Play Therapy (Certificate Online), and School Counseling (Certificate).

Jaime Moran, MS, CCLS
Jaime Moran, MS, CCLS
I know I would not be where I am today had I not received the guidance the Loma Linda University Child Life Specialist program offers; as an active member of several healthcare teams, I have been able to consistently apply my knowledge and promote my skills to best support pediatric patients and their siblings. I am forever grateful for my time at LLU.

Play Therapy or Drug & Alcohol Counseling Certificate

Students entering an MS degree program within the Department of Counseling and Family Sciences in academic year 2023-2024 who are interested in obtaining certification in Play Therapy or Drug & Alcohol Counseling will receive a tuition waiver for the certificate program of their choice. Students interested in this benefit are required to enroll in elective courses specified by their academic advisor. Given available spaces, students enrolling in the Systems, Families, and Couples PhD program may also take advantage of this benefit. Tuition waivers do not apply to any units used to support the student's primary degree program.

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