Child Life Concentration—Master of Arts in Family and Consumer Sciences

Program description

Knowing that illness, injury and hospitalization can negatively impact the life of a child and their family, child life specialists attend to the patient's developmental, psychosocial and emotional needs. Through interventions such as play, education, preparation, distraction and emotional support, child life specialists work with the patient and family to create and embrace positive coping practices. Research shows that the interventions done by child life specialists help to minimize the stress of the medical environment, which therefore promotes healing. Child life specialists advocate for the unique and individual needs of patients and families and work alongside physicians, nurses, social workers and other staff members to ensure those needs are met. Child life specialists have a strong educational background in child development and have significant experience in being able to recognize and combat stressors of the hospital setting. Child life programs can be found in a variety of settings all across the world. Whereas most child life programming serves children within the hospital, other child life specialists work in places such as outpatient medical areas, dentist offices and other facilities that support children facing challenging events.

For more general information on the field of child life, and an overview of professional opportunities, please visit

Currently certified child life specialists

Certified child life specialists interested in pursuing a master’s degree are encouraged to contact Dr. Karen Blaisure to discuss program options.

Undergraduate students and recent graduates

Current undergraduate students and recent graduates who have taken a Department of Family and Consumer Sciences child life course are encouraged to contact Dr. Karen Blaisure to discuss program options.

WMU undergraduate students with a declared major in child and family development, family studies or youth and community development

Qualifying WMU students can accumulate up to 12 credit hours toward the Master of Arts in Family and Consumer Sciences (child life or family life education options) through the Accelerated Graduate Degree Program while enrolled as undergraduates in the child and family development, family studies major or youth and community development major. Students accepted into the AGDP take designated 5000- and 6000-level courses that are counted in both the bachelor’s degree and the master’s degree. For more information, visit the AGDP program page.


The child life concentration provides students with the necessary educational foundation to pursue a career in child life or a related field. Upon graduation, students may wish to continue on and seek certification as a child life specialist through the Child Life Council. As outlined by the Child Life Council, in order to become certified a candidate needs to have completed the eligibility assessment, fulfill the internship requirement and pass the certification exam.


Coursework for the Master of Arts in Family and Consumer Sciences: Concentration in Child Life

(32 credit hours; 34 credit hours if adding a Child Life Practicum):

1. The concentration in Child Life includes a minimum of 32 semester hours, half or more of which must be in courses at the 6000-level or higher, and at least two hours of FCS 7100, Independent Research.

2. Students who have taken undergraduate or graduate coursework that meets the ACLP academic eligibility requirements for certification as a child life specialist may select alternate graduate courses with the approval of the Graduate Advisor.

  • FCS 5510: Families and Hospitalizations I, three credit hours
  • FCS 5520: Families and Hospitalizations II, three credit hours
  • FCS 5530: Advanced Child Life Practice, three credit hours
  • FCS 5540: Therapeutic Play for Pediatric Populations, three credit hours
  • FCS 6510: Child Development Theories and Practice, three credit hours
  • FCS 6530: Families, Loss and Bereavement, three credit hours
  • FCS 6600: Studies in Family Relationships, three credit hours
  • FCS 5680: Gender, Culture, and Families, three credit hours
  • FCS 6010: Basic Research (3 credit hours)
  • FCS 7100: Independent Research, two-six credit hours
    or FCS 7000 Thesis, six credit hours
  • FCS 6220: Practicum/Internship in FCS (child life), two-six credit hours
    (Child Life Practicum - two credit hours; Child Life Internship - three credit hours)

Students typically apply to competitive internships sites such as hospitals; acceptance into a competitive internship site approved by the Child Life Council is not guaranteed.
View theplanned rotation of classes for the child life concentration and the family life education concentration.


For more information on admissions application and instructions, please visit the Admissions page.


For more information:

Ms. Karin Rourke, Child Life advisor
Dr. Karen Blaisure, FCS graduate advisor (September - April)
Dr. Suzan Smith-Ayers, FCS department chair (May - August)