Marriage Counselor: Employment & Career Info

Learn about the job duties of a marriage counselor. Explore what education and licensing is required as well as employment outlook and salary data to determine if this is the right career for you.

Career Definition for a Marriage Counselor

Marriage counselors work with couples to foster communication, resolve problems, and promote a healthy marriage. Marriage counselors may work with couples to provide counseling before a couple is actually married, or they may help couples whose marriage is under stress. Typical duties of a marriage counselor include helping couples, either together or individually, to resolve emotional and marital conflicts by employing a variety of methods, therapies and techniques.

Education Master's degree in relevant field
Skills Required Listening skills, empathy, treatment-plan design, and case management techniques
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 23% (marriage and family therapists)
Median Salary (2017)* $48,790 (marriage and family therapists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Necessary Education

The education and licensing requirements vary by state, but, generally, to become a marriage counselor, you'll need to have your master's degree in a relevant field. Possible 2- or 3-year master's degree programs include social work, psychology or counseling. Coursework in these programs includes therapy techniques, psychological development, group and family dynamics, marriage therapy techniques and human sexuality. State licensing requirements vary, but you may need to complete a number of supervised hours of clinical work or pass a licensing exam to become a licensed marriage counselor.

Skills Required

To be a successful marriage counselor, you should have good listening skills, be empathetic and be able to referee when necessary. A knowledge of case management techniques, treatment plans and the ability to work as part of a team will serve you well as a marriage counselor.

Economic and Career Outlook

According to information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the outlook for marriage counseling is excellent, with employment in the field expected to grow by 23% from 2016-2026. The median annual earnings of marriage counselors in 2017 were $48,790.

Alternative Careers

Similar career options in this field may include psychologists and social workers.


For those interested in providing more involved mental health treatment through the use of science-based theories and research, becoming a psychologist may be the right career move. Psychologists use scientific methods such as interviewing, tests and observation to gather data that helps them understand why people behave as they do. Certain kinds of psychologists may also provide counseling services, diagnose mental disorders and plan courses of treatment. To practice psychology, a doctoral degree is required, but industrial and some school psychologists may only need a master's degree to gain employment. Independently practicing psychologists must also obtain a state license through examination. The BLS predicts the creation of about 23,000 new jobs in the field of psychology during the 2016-2026 decade, an employment increase of 14%. As reported by the BLS in 2017, counseling, clinical and school psychologists earned a median income of $75,090.

Social Worker

If offering resources to help families solve their problems sounds appealing, consider a career in social work. Social workers evaluate situations and issues, determine what is needed, utilize community and government resources that may help, provide counsel and advice to struggling clients, intervene during crisis situations and follow-up to determine if additional assistance is needed. A bachelor's degree in social work, psychology or a related field is good enough to qualify for entry-level positions such as a caseworker. However, clinical social workers providing mental health counseling are required to earn a master's degree and obtain licensure in the state where they work. Jobs in social work are projected to grow by 16% between 2016 and 2026, according to the BLS. They also estimated that child, family, and school social workers received $44,380 in median wages in 2017. Those providing mental health services earned median wages of $43,250.

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