P: 510.430.3170

F: 510.430.3379

E: education@mills.edu

MA in Education, Child Life in Hospitals

In this program, students are equipped with specialized training to respond to the developmental, social, and emotional needs of hospitalized children and their families. They learn to mitigate the impact of medical trauma while preserving basic developmental pathways and family support systems in hospitals and medical community settings. Graduates of the program receive an MA in education. The program meets the academic standards of the Child Life Council, and graduates may apply for the child life specialist certification, provided they meet the Child Life Council's eligibility requirements.

This degree may also be combined with an early childhood special education credential.

Distinctive Features

    • Specialized faculty: The program's faculty includes experienced professionals and researchers, as well as certified child-life specialists.

    • Theory-based practice: The program is firmly grounded in child development theories and in psychology. The students learn to use attachment- and relationship-based approaches, as well as developmentally appropriate play techniques, to support normal development despite medical crises and stress.

  • International recognition: The program has graduates working in Japan and other hospital settings around the world. It is one of roughly 480 documented child life programs worldwide. All of these programs share common theories and practices.

Course Work

Course work prepares students to help children manage stressful and potentially traumatic medical experiences by integrating theory and practice. Some classes focus on the hospitalized child and include relevant fieldwork. Other courses provide a broad cultural, historical, philosophical, and empirically based foundation for the field of child life. In addition to learning basic child-life skills, students are encouraged to take a reflective, inquiry orientation toward the profession. See the Requirements page for a list of courses required for this program; see the Course Descriptions page for paragraph-length descriptions of individual courses.

Fieldwork and Hospital Internships

Students participate in two semesters of field experience at the Mills College Children's School for a minimum of 15 hours each week. At this laboratory school, they learn to work with infants and toddlers as well as preschool and school-age children.

During the second year of the program students intern in a hospital environment. Students are required to obtain a minimum of 480 hours of clinical supervision with a certified child-life specialist (as required by the Certifying Committee of the Child Life Council). The program and the field placement's clinical supervisors form a team to educate the students. Together, the team aims to facilitate students' entrance into the profession of child life and to enhance the quality of psychosocial care and services delivered to children and families.

Each fieldwork experience is supported by a seminar that meets once a week. Seminars are designed to encourage students to become reflective professionals through self-evaluation and peer-evaluation activities.

Career Opportunities

Many of our graduates are currently working at Lucille Packard's Children's Hospital, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, Oakland and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, San Fransciso—three of the largest programs in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Director of UCSF Benioff, San Francisco is a graduate of the Mills College School of Education. Our alumnae/i also pursue jobs in child life in hospitals.


Last Updated: 8/16/17