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MS in Marriage, Family, & Child Therapy: Degree Overview

Students can explore professional and scientific ethics, mental health counseling and marriage therapy. Graduates can become qualified to diagnose and treat mental health disorders in a wide array of settings including schools, clinics, private practices, foster care centers and government agencies.

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Essential Information

Although Master of Science in Marriage, Family and Child Therapy degrees aren't typically offered, students interested in this field can pursue a Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy. They could also seek a Master of Science in Counseling with a concentration in marriage, family and child therapy. Such studies can also be found in Master of Science in Psychology or Master of Science in Counseling Psychology programs. In many cases, program coursework can generally be completed in two years for a total of about 45-54 semester credits.

A master's degree program in marriage and family therapy can prepare students to assist individuals and families through emotional and psychological difficulties. Programs typically offer a wide scope of knowledge in mental health issues that could affect families, including drug abuse, alcoholism and sexual dysfunction. Students can train to become competent therapists who can assist their patients in relating to members of their families. Graduates can become qualified to work with children and adults both individually and in the context of the family dynamic in a wide array of settings including schools, clinics, private practices, foster care centers and government agencies, though licensure as a psychologist would require one to hold a doctorate.

Education Prerequisites

Prior to admittance into degree programs in this field, a bachelor's degree is usually required. Although a major in psychology or one of the social sciences may be looked upon favorably, a specific major isn't typically necessary. Students with degrees in unrelated majors may be expected to complete relevant prerequisite coursework. A candidate must generally submit official transcripts and meet a minimum GPA requirement.

Course Topics

In these programs, students can train for professional practice through classroom learning and counseling practicum, which provide real-world experiences working with families and couples. Courses within the program may include:

  • Theories of personality
  • Professional ethics
  • Mental health counseling
  • Cultural awareness
  • Psychotherapy
  • Group counseling
  • Clinical practicum
  • Child and adolescent counseling
  • Marital therapy
  • Family therapy

Popular Career Options

Graduates are typically eligible to take state license exams to become licensed counselors or therapists. They can work in private practice, seek non-profit opportunities and work in a government-sponsored clinic or institution. Some possible job titles could include:

  • Substance abuse specialist
  • Psychotherapist
  • Family counselor
  • Marriage therapist
  • Juvenile case manager

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to employment figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), growth is expected to be much faster than average for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, at a rate of 29% over the 2012-2022 decade ( Faster-than-average growth of 31% is expected for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors from 2012-2022.

The BLS reported May 2013 median annual wages of $48,160 for marriage and family therapists and $40,580 for mental health counselors. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors earned a median annual wage of $38,620 at that time.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Graduates can expand their knowledge in the field by attending training courses offered by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Those interested in advanced graduate degrees can seek admission into doctoral programs in marriage and family therapy.

In many cases, psychologists may be required to hold a doctoral degree and in all cases they must gain licensure from the state. Through the American Board of Professional Psychology, professionals can gain certification in one of over a dozen specialty areas, including family psychology. Licensure for counselors varies greatly by state, though completion of a state examination is usually required for practice.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics