Family Therapy Degree and Training Program Information

Oct 14, 2019

Students interested in careers in family therapy can choose bachelor's and master's degree programs as well as graduate certificates. At all levels, these programs focus on family dynamics, human behavior and development.

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Essential Information

A bachelor's degree program in family science prepares students for graduate studies in family therapy. While graduates with a bachelor's degree aren't able to apply for licensure, they are qualified for voluntary certification. In addition, a master's degree program in family therapy or a graduate certificate program in marriage and family therapy preps students for state licensing and the National Board for Certified Counselors' National Certified Counselor examinations.

Furthermore, a graduate certificate in marriage and family therapy program is designed for both unlicensed students and licensed marriage and family therapists who are seeking additional training. The program expounds on master's degree programs in marriage and family therapy with classes in counseling and counseling theories. All programs culminate with an internship or clinical practicum.

Bachelor of Science in Family Studies

A bachelor's degree in family studies program includes the exploration of family dynamics, such as marriage, sibling, extended family and parent/child relationships. Topics of discussion include cultural influences on family relationships, child development and social issues facing the modern American family. Towards the end of the program, students complete an internship working with children, adults and families. Admittance requires a high school diploma or GED certificate. Topics of discussion include:

  • Divorce
  • Aging
  • Developmental theory
  • Sexuality
  • Peer groups

Master of Family Therapy

A master's degree program in family therapy examines how a family unit is influenced by biological, psychological and sociological factors. Coursework in human behavior introduces students to cultural, ethnic and gender issues that shape personalities and belief systems, while a behavior and family therapy course delves into the role of a family therapist as well as counseling ethics and legal issues. Students also study counseling theories, conduct academic research and complete a clinical practicum at the conclusion of the program. For admittance, students need a bachelor's degree and prerequisite coursework in abnormal psychology and statistics. Topics in family therapy courses include:

  • Adolescent family therapy
  • Family therapy models
  • Interventions
  • Sexual disorders
  • Domestic violence

Graduate Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy

Students in a graduate certificate program complete an internship of up to 300 hours of clinical experience; interns might find internships in hospitals, group practices or offices of marriage and family therapists. Curriculum in the one-year program also consists of up to 15 credit hours of research, counseling and marriage and family therapy courses covering such topics as marriage and couple relations, assessment, diagnosis and treatment plans. Applicants must have a bachelor's or master's degree from an accredited institution in a related area of study, which includes psychology, counseling, human services and social work. Topics covered in marriage and family therapy courses are:

  • Marriage relations
  • Clinical bias
  • Family diversity
  • Diagnostic methods
  • Conflict resolution

Popular Career Options

With a bachelor's degree, graduates can go on to careers in a variety of settings, including offices of social and youth services, residential treatment centers and more. Popular career choices for graduates include:

  • Social service assistant
  • Youth service worker
  • Family advocate
  • Child development administrator
  • Child welfare caseworker

Continuing Education Information

Bachelor's degree program graduates who have at least 3,200 hours of family life education experience are eligible to sit for the Certified Family Life Educators (CFLE) exam, offered through the National Council on Family Relations. CFLEs are required to complete 100 hours of continuing education requirements every five years to maintain certification. Graduates who intend to become licensed family therapists can enroll in a master's degree program in psychology, counseling psychology or marriage and family therapy.

Master's degree program graduates are eligible to take licensing exams for state licensure as marriage and family therapists. Most states require applicants to have at least 3,000 hours and two years of supervised counseling experience to obtain a state license. Students and graduates should check with their state licensing boards for specific requirements. Graduates are also eligible to take the National Certified Counselor exam, offered through the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).

Unlicensed graduates who complete graduate certificate programs are eligible to take state exams to become licensed marriage and family therapists, as well as NBCCs National Certified Counselor exam. Graduates who are interested in a career in research or teaching at the college level can enroll in a doctoral (Ph.D.) program in marriage and family therapy or counseling psychology.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), marriage and family therapists held 48,520 jobs in the U.S. in 2018 ( The BLS also reported that marriage and family therapist jobs would grow by 22% between the years 2018 and 2028. The median salary for marriage and family therapists in May 2018 was $50,090 (

Students in family studies bachelor's degree programs focus on the relationships within a family, while students in master's degree programs explore the factors influencing families as well as individual personalities. Students advancing on to a graduate certificate use their skills and knowledge in internships where they research, assess, and diagnose relationships.

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