important updates
  • Application for Fall 2022 opens on November 1, 2021. See below for 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.

man using laptop beside dog

Weekly Online Info Sessions

Questions about our programs? Join the Department of Counseling and Family Sciences for weekly online info sessions on Wednesdays from 6-7 PM (Pacific).

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
  • Embedded professional self-care

Request Information Information Packet (PDF)

Program Director: Michelle Minyard-Widmann, MS, CCLS
Director of Clinical Training: Alisha Saavedra, MA, CCLS

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.

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 2022 Enrollment November 1, 2021 February 1, 2022 March 11, 2022

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

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. 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
I know I would not be where I am today had I not received the guidance the LLU 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 Loma Linda University.

Play Therapy or Drug & Alcohol Counseling Certificate

Students entering an MS degree program within the Department of Counseling and Family Sciences in academic year 2021-2022 who are interested in obtaining certification in Play Therapy or Drug and 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.

Apply Here Watch Info Session Video Questions? Message us!