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MFT Career Information and Education Requirements

Marriage and family therapists require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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This article provides career information for Marriage and Family Therapists, a quickly growing field. If you are interested in a career in this field, there are more details here about education requirements, projected job growth, salary and job duties.

Essential Information

A marriage and family therapist (MFT) is a mental health professional who emphasizes the importance of stable family relationships and specializes in family-oriented counseling. MFTs attempt to improve relationships between married couples, between parents and children and between siblings through individual and group therapy sessions. A master's degree related to marriage and family therapy is usually the minimum credential needed, although some individuals pursue a doctoral degree. Graduates of these programs also need to become licensed in their state, which requires having post-college work experience. Voluntary certification also is available.

Required Education Master's or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy
Other Requirements State licensure; voluntary certification
Projected Job Growth 19% from 2014-2024 for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists*
Median Salary (2015) $43,190 annually for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Education Requirements for an MFT

Although a few schools might offer bachelor's degree programs in counseling that include MFT coursework, the vast majority of MFT degree programs are at the master's and doctoral levels. This is because most states require MFTs to hold at least a master's degree to practice. A counselor may also become an MFT by earning a graduate degree related to mental health counseling, then completing additional studies in marriage and family therapy. Postgraduate MFT certificate programs are readily available for this purpose.

MFT master's degree programs combine classroom studies, seminars and clinical practice or practicums to impart an understanding of couple and family dynamics and how a therapist can resolve conflicts constructively. Class topics may include systemic assessment and treatment, community and social psychology, human life cycle development, theoretical perspectives on therapy, counseling techniques, human sexuality and family systems. Seminars may include professional development, family studies and cultural diversity.

Licensing and Certification Information

All states require MFTs to be licensed. For licensure, an MFT typically has to complete a master's degree in marriage and family therapy, accumulate two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience after earning the degree and pass a state exam. Some states will accept the results of a voluntary certification exam offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. Licensed MFTs must earn annual continuing education credits to maintain their status.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, marriage and family therapists earned a median wage of $43,190 in 2015. The BLS also projected that employment of marriage and family therapists would grow by 19% over the years 2014-2024, much faster than average compared to other job categories. Increased recognition of the value of MFT services and a corresponding boost in the number of couples and families who use them are expected to drive growth.

To practice as a MFT, graduate school and a license are necessary. MFTs help couples and families work through challenges constructively and positively. Professionals in this industry are expected to see moderate income.

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