At the moment, a four year degree is required. This may change in a few years- there is talk of a Master's degree being required.
Courses- child development, anatomy, medical terminology, psychology, child psych, abnormal child psych, death & dying, art for children, children's literature, meaning & development of play, as well as any and all child life courses. At least one course taught by a certified child life specialist is required.
Colleges- I don't know if there are any colleges in PA that offer child life programs. Child life programs are few and far between. The Child Life Council maintains a list of child life programs, and it can be found here: http://www.childlife.org/StudentsInternsEducators/...
What exactly is this job? Well, it's hard to sum up. The goal of a child life specialist is to make the healthcare experience easier on children and families. A CLS is a member of the healthcare team who focuses on psychosocial care. Some of the responsibilities of a CLS include:
-explain illnesses and treatments to patients
-prepare children for medical procedures
-provide distraction and/or support during painful/uncomfortable procedures
-provide normalizing therapeutic play experiences
-provide medical play to familiarize children with medical instruments as well as allow them to gain mastery over their experiences
-advocate for pain relief, family centered care, and more
-run support groups
-community outreach (teddy bear clinics, school programs, community health events)
-bereavement support (legacy building, preparing children for death, preparing siblings, family support at time of death and after death)
-assess developmental levels of patients
-provide appropriate interventions to help children cope
-school visits to help classmates understand a child's illness
and so much more.
To Windwater: You say that the asker is not getting answers because she/he is being vague and you have never heard of this job. Just because you have never heard of it does not mean that the asker is being vague. Child life is a very real profession and a child life specialist does not fit under the early childhood ed field or any education field. It is a separate and legitimate field.