The first step to becoming a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS for short) is to complete a university bachelors degree after finishing high school. A bachelors degree is a 4 year program where you study a specific subject, like psychology or biology. If you’re interested in child life, it may be best to complete your degree in a subject related to children or healthcare.
There are 2 ways to go from here. The first is to make sure you take specific classes during your bachelors degree, which are listed under the “Coursework” heading when you click on this link (https://www.childlife.org/certification/candidates/requirements-after-2019). You then have to find and complete a 600 hour internship under the supervision of a CCLS who is working in the field. During internships, you get to watch a CCLS do their job and practice using your own skills to help children and youth cope with and understand what’s happening to them in the hospital.
The second way is to apply to a child life program after finishing your bachelors degree. These are usually about 2 years. For example, McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario offers a Masters program that includes online classes and in-person internship experiences. The positives of going through a program is that they help you find an internship and make sure you have everything you need to apply to officially become a CCLS at the end.