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Marriage Counselor Degree Program Information

Read about marriage counselor graduate degree programs. Get information on different types of programs, including their educational prerequisites, required courses and avenues to different careers.

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Essential Information

Aspiring marriage counselors can pursue master's degrees in marriage counseling or marriage and family therapy; doctoral degrees in marriage and family therapy are also available. Clinical practice is a focal point of most master's and doctoral programs in these fields, along with independent research. Admission to both master's and doctoral programs entails prior completion of a bachelor's program and certain psychology prerequisite coursework. Some counseling experience may be necessary for admission as well.

Most marriage counselors in the United States are practitioners who have completed at least a master's degree program in counseling and obtained licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) or a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). In order to become an MFT or LPC, students must complete a master's or doctoral program, accrue 2,000-4,000 hours of post-graduate experience and pass the appropriate exam.

Master's Degree in Marriage Counseling

A master-level program in marriage and family therapy or counseling can be completed in two years of full-time study. Students learn a variety of content and skills in psychotherapy, education, communication and system theory. An MFT program is more specific to marriage counseling than the LPC because of its focus on group therapy.

Education Prerequisites

Graduate school applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in psychology or an approved subject. Applicants should have taken 2-3 standard courses; typically, general psychology, statistics and research methods. Some colleges will also require applicants to submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

Program Coursework

Marriage and family therapy coursework includes, but is not limited to, the following topics:

  • Community psychology
  • Parent and child psychology
  • Addictive disorders
  • Group therapy
  • Addiction disorders
  • Aging dynamics
  • Ethical psychology

Salary Information and Career Outlook

The marriage and family counseling field is projected to see a 41% increase in growth from 2010-2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is a much faster than average rate, due to the rise in popularity of using counselors over the more costly psychiatrist. In 2012, BLS reported that the median annual salary of marriage and family therapists was $46,670.

Continuing Education Information

Counselors who are interested in specialization, research or professorial work may decide to pursue doctoral degrees. Graduates of doctoral programs are considered psychologists rather than counselors or therapists.

Doctorate in Marriage and Family Psychology

Doctoral candidates are students who have the potential to be experts in relationship psychology and possess a desire to teach, research or lead. Program options include Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Marriage & Family Therapy (DMFT). A Ph.D. program focuses heavily on research, and the Psy.D. is geared toward the implementation of best practices. The DMFT program is also a practice-oriented program. All doctoral programs in marriage and family psychology take at least four years to complete.

Education Prerequisites

Doctoral applicants for marriage and family psychology programs must hold bachelor's degrees or higher from accredited programs related to psychology. GRE test scores may also be necessary. More importantly, applicants are required to have professional experience in the field.

Program Coursework

Advanced coursework includes research and clinical practice in the following areas:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Assessment and treatment
  • Advanced system theory
  • Advanced diagnosis
  • Quantitative and qualitative research
  • Experiential models
  • Advanced professionalism

Salary Information and Career Outlook

The BLS projects that employment for clinical, counseling and school psychologists may grow 22% for the decade 2010-2020. These workers made a median annual salary of $67,650 in 2012.

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