A degree in marriage and family counseling is typically a master's degree or Ph.D. With a master's degree in marriage and family counseling, plus work experience, an individual can work as a marriage and family counselor or therapist, helping families or couples resolve conflict and issues in a productive way.
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Marriage and family counseling degrees are offered at the graduate level and prepare individuals to work as marriage and family therapists. These professionals work with individuals, couples and groups to determine the personal and environmental factors that are causing problems and to resolve them.
|Career||Marriage and Family Therapist|
|Required Education||Master's Degree|
|Other Requirements||State licensure and two years of clinical experience|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||15% for marriage and family therapists|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$48,600 for marriage and family therapists|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Marriage and Family Therapist Career Information
Marriage and family therapists work in a variety of settings to assist married couples and families in resolving issues like substance abuse, communication problems or mental health disorders. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these therapists place less emphasis on individuals' internal issues and focus more on the interaction of clients with their surrounding environments. In addition to counseling groups and couples, these professionals may work one-on-one with individuals. For serious cases, marriage and family therapists may provide emergency services and collaborate with other mental health professionals.
The BLS reports that employment opportunities for marriage and family therapists are expected to increase 14% from 2014-2024. Those who work in rural areas, where demand is anticipated to exceed the number counselors, may have better job prospects. The BLS notes that the rise of families and couples seeking outside help is one of the major factors for the projected increase.
The BLS reported that the median annual salary for marriage and family therapists was $$48,600 in May, 2015. The top 10% earned $81,960 or more per year, while the bottom 10% earned $30,540 or less per year. Of the top employers for this profession, the BLS indicated that state government organizations were also among the highest paying, with a mean annual wage of $73,110.
Marriage and Family Therapist Education Requirements
Marriage and family therapists generally must hold at least master's degrees. Students may consider programs that are approved by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). This organization accredits both master's and doctorate programs. According to the CACREP, accreditation indicates that a program trains students according to professional standards.
Marriage and family counseling programs consist of in-class instruction and experienced-based training. Coursework includes theoretical topics in human development, counseling techniques, ethics and assessment.
Experience-based training typically involves practicums and internships. Practicums may include some classroom learning, but they also provide students with opportunities to work with families and couples in supervised environments. Internships place students in agencies or other organization where they spend time in contact with patients. During internships, students are supervised by licensed counselors and receive evaluations on their performance.
According to the BLS, marriage and family therapists in all states are required to obtain licenses. Licensure entails a master's degree as well as 2,000-4,000 hours post-secondary practice in a clinic for mental health counselors, while marriage and family therapists must have 2 years of clinical experience. Candidates must then pass counseling exams and, after becoming licensed, maintain licensure through continuing education.
A master's degree in marriage and family counseling, followed by clinical experience and passing a licensure exam, allow an aspiring marriage and family therapist to work independently with patients, families or couples in a variety of settings. They aid in conflict resolution and resolving inner and interpersonal conflicts.