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

In a Master of Science in Marriage, Family and Child Therapy degree program, students explore professional and scientific ethics, mental health counseling and marriage therapy. Graduates are 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.

Essential Information

Although Master of Science in Marriage, Family and Child Therapy degrees are rare, students interested in this field can pursue a Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy. Students also can seek a Master of Science in Counseling with a concentration in marriage, family and child therapy. Such studies are found in a Master of Science in Psychology or Master of Science in Counseling Psychology program. In many cases, program coursework can be completed in two years for a total of about 45 to 54 semester credits. Prior to admittance into degree programs in this field, a bachelor's degree is 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. Before graduating, a counseling practicum, which is a supervised field experience must be completed.

  • Prerequisite: Bachelor's degree
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Other Requirement: Counseling practicum

Master of Science in Marriage, Family and Child Therapy

A master's degree program in marriage and family therapy prepares students to assist individuals and families through emotional and psychological difficulties. Programs offer a wide scope of instruction in mental health issues that could affect families, including drug abuse, alcoholism and sexual dysfunction. Students are trained to become competent therapists who assist their patients in relating to members of their families. In these programs, students train for professional practice through classroom learning, and a counseling practicum, which provides real world experiences interacting with families and couples. Courses within the program include:

  • Theories of personality
  • Professional ethics and cultural awareness
  • Psychotherapy, mental health and group counseling
  • Clinical practicum
  • Child and adolescent counseling
  • Marital and family therapy

Popular Career Options

Graduates 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. In addition, graduates are eligible to take state license exams to become licensed counselors or therapists. Counselors and therapists are hired in private practices, non-profit organizations, government sponsored clinics or institutions. 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 31% and 29% respectively, over the 2012 to 2022 decade (www.bls.gov). Faster than average growth of 31% is expected for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors from 2012 to 2022. The BLS reported in May 2014 median annual wages of $48,040 for marriage and family therapists and $40,850 for mental health counselors. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors earned a median annual wage of $38,270 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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