Marriage & Family Therapist: Job Duties & Education Requirements

Mar 18, 2019

Learn what a marriage and family therapist does. Read about the education and skill requirements, in addition to the salary and employment outlook, to see if this is the right profession for you.

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Career Definition for a Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapists work with couples or families who are seeking professional help in solving conflicts, improving communication, or changing behavior. Marriage and family therapists work in mental health clinics, social outreach agencies, hospitals, institutions, and private practices. Therapy usually consists of talk sessions with patients, although the therapist's approach or style can vary; a marriage and family therapist may also make referrals to a psychologist or medical doctor for additional treatment.

Required Education Varies by state, but a master's degree or higher in marriage and family therapy or a related field is often required
Job Duties Helping couples and families resolve conflicts, improve communication, and change behavior; making referrals for additional treatment; conducting talk sessions
Median Salary (2017)* $48,790
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 23% growth

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

The educational requirements to become a marriage and family therapist are regulated by each state and thus may vary; however, most will require a master's degree or higher in marriage and family therapy or a related field from an accredited institution. Coursework for a master's degree in marriage and family therapy includes research and evaluation in psychology, counseling theory and practice, family therapy theories, and clinical applications of human development. A master's degree in marriage and family therapy typically takes 2-3 years to complete.

Required Skills

As a marriage and family therapist, you'll need to have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Your role is to facilitate communication and resolve conflict, and you'll need to be attentive, tactful, and, at times, critical to accomplish this. State requirements to become licensed as a marriage and family therapist vary, but most require a master's degree, a number of hours of supervised work experience, and the passing of a licensing exam.

Economic and Employment Outlook

The employment outlook for marriage and family therapy is excellent, with employment expected to grow by 23% from 2016-2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median annual salary for marriage and family therapists in 2017 was $48,790. Marriage and family therapists who work for state governments tend to have the highest earnings, per mean salary statistics from the BLS in 2017.

Alternate Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

School and Career Counselor

Usually having a master's degree, these counselors guide students' school success by teaching social skills, in addition to helping people choose careers and educational paths. During the 2016-2026 decade, average employment growth of 13% was predicted by the BLS for these positions, and a median annual salary of $55,410 was reported in 2017.


Some positions require master's degrees, but most call for doctoral or specialist psychology degrees, for these professionals who observe and interpret human behavior. The BLS projected 14% job growth for psychologists from 2016-2026, which was much faster than the average for all occupations. In 2017, psychologists earned an annual median wage of $77,030, according to the BLS.

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