The curriculum of marriage and family planning degree programs focuses on areas such as research, counseling methods and theory, and students also receive supervised clinical training. To work as a therapist, most states require program graduates to become licensed. This process involves providing proof of education and practical work, passing a test and committing to continuing education.
In general, no special prerequisites are needed for admission to graduate marriage and family therapist programs other than a relevant undergraduate or graduate degree for the respective degree levels. Some programs may request the completion of specific coursework. Master's and doctoral degree programs are both offered in this field.
Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy
Students in a marriage and family therapy master's degree program can study the dynamics of families, marriages and other relationships. They learn to analyze, identify and treat mental and emotional issues while also suggesting ways to maintain healthy relationships. Programs are available at public and private universities and colleges as a Master of Arts or Master of Science options.
In addition to classroom instruction, students learn through clinical training where they work under the supervision of a licensed therapist. A program's last year is typically spent in clinical training. Courses may include:
- Personality theory
- Group counseling
- Family theory
- Diagnosing mental health
- Child development
- Research methods
Doctoral Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy
Students can continue their studies in marriage and family therapy by earning a Ph.D or Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy (D.M.F.T) The D.M.F.T. prepares students for clinical careers while Ph.D programs prepare students for research or teaching jobs. Most doctoral programs require applicants to have a master's degree in marriage and family therapy or a related field.
Students often receive classroom training, perform research and work in clinical settings while completing a doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy. The completion of a dissertation or final project may be required of doctoral students. Common courses include:
- Systemic theory and practice
- Research methods
- Family systems
- Qualitative research
- Diagnosis and evaluation
Popular Career Options
Depending on the type of doctoral program, graduates may qualify for positions at research facilities, academic institutions or clinical settings. Some career choices include:
- Clinical supervisors
Employment Outlook and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), marriage and family therapist jobs are expected to increase by 19% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). In May 2015, marriage and family therapists earned a mean annual salary of $53,520, according to the BLS. The highest-earning therapists typically were through the state government or religious organizations.
Each state requires marriage and family therapists to attain licensure, but each state sets its own regulations for becoming licensed. The BLS stated that common requirements include completing an approved master's degree program, having supervised professional experience, passing an examination and regularly pursuing continuing education.
Master's and doctoral degree programs are available for those interested in marriage and family therapy. After completion of these programs, graduates have various career options including researcher, professor, therapist, and clinical supervisor.