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Marriage and Family Therapist Degree Program Information

Learn about degree programs for the aspiring marriage and family therapists. Continue reading for educational prerequisites, program coursework and employment outlook statistics.

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Essential Information

A marriage and family therapist works to provide counseling services to families in distress, as well as to provide therapeutic treatment to individuals within family systems who suffer from behavioral, mental or cognitive disorders. A Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy program should provide graduate students with the educational and clinical experience necessary to gain licensure and practice in the field. Graduate programs in marriage and family therapy are most often offered through the psychiatry, counseling, psychology or family studies departments of 4-year universities and colleges.

Such programs should be accredited by an organization such as the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. Most master's degree programs in marriage and family therapy last two years and are designed to impart an academic understanding of family systems, methods of therapy, psychological assessment techniques, human development and more. Such programs also typically include a supervised clinical/field component that allows students to work alongside licensed marriage and family therapists. Clinical and field experience should provide students with training in one-on-one counseling with actual patients, and often at least 250 hours of practical experience counseling families and married couples.

Education Prerequisites

Many universities with master's degree programs in marriage and family therapy accept graduate students with a bachelor's degree in any field. However, students are often required to have completed some undergraduate coursework in psychology, counseling and human development. Bachelor's degrees in counseling, therapy and psychology are appropriate precursors to such a graduate program.

Program Coursework

While the clinical component of a master's degree program in marriage and family therapy is essential to gaining licensure in the field, regular seminars in theory and techniques are essential as well. Some examples of such courses include:

  • Systemic family therapy
  • Therapy methods
  • Human development
  • Marriage and intimate relations
  • Divorce and remarriage
  • Family research
  • Systemic assessment
  • Community therapy settings
  • Ethical issues in counseling

Employment Options and Salary Info

There were approximately 34,000 marriage and family therapists working in the United States as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( The majority of these individuals worked for individual and family services organizations, outpatient care centers and state and local governments. The median annual salary in the field was $46,670 as of May 2012.

Certification Options

Each state has its own board of licensure for aspiring marriage and family therapists. Individual boards can be contacted through the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Although each state may have slightly different requirements, most all do require marriage and family therapists to have at least a master's degree as well as clinical experience in the field.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics