Marriage and Family Counseling Degrees by Degree Program Level

Students in marriage and family counseling programs learn to promote communication and understanding among couples and families by resolving conflicts and developing positive behaviors. Marriage and family counselors typically have a master's degree, but Ph.D. programs also exist.

Essential Information

Master's degree programs in marriage and family therapy teach students to use therapy techniques, make diagnoses, and plan treatments. This program prepares graduates to obtain licensure and pursue a career either in the public or private sector. Many programs permit students to apply for national certification in the last year of schooling.

Students interested in teaching or researching can also pursue a doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy. Such a program may include the completion of a master's degree in the field. Students learn about therapy theories, socialization, and family economics. This type of program is research intensive and requires a dissertation on a marriage and family therapy topic. Students should be prepared to participate in internships to get some of the experience hours needed for obtaining mandatory licensure.

To enter a master's program, students must have a bachelor's degree, and many schools look for a grade point average of 3.00 or higher.

Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy

A master's degree in marriage and family therapy can include lab classes in group therapy, a pre-internship seminar, and an extended internship. Additional credits include a written competency and skill assessment. The curriculum to earn a master's degree in marriage and family therapy includes courses such as:

  • Professional and ethical practices
  • Therapy theories and techniques
  • Diagnosis and treatment planning

Ph.D. Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy

This degree program concentrates on clinical practice, teaching, and research. Although student's can begin the Ph.D. program with just a bachelor's degree, they usually earn a master's degree part-way through the 5-year program. In addition to taking specialized courses, students will research and write dissertations. Suggested electives include courses such as:

  • Family economics
  • Child and adolescent socialization
  • Consultation within the school and family system
  • Contemporary family theories

Popular Career Options

Graduates of Ph.D. marriage and family counseling programs can work as licensed counselors. They can also work as:

  • Professors and teachers
  • Supervisors
  • Researchers

Employment Prospects and Salary Information

Since it's now more common for families to seek professional help, job growth for marriage and family therapists is projected to grow at a rate much faster than the national average (19% from 2014-2024), according to the data supplied by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics ( The median wage for this profession was $48,600 per year in 2015, with the top-paid 10% bringing in an annual salary of $81,960.

Individuals interested in helping families or couples with relationship issues may enjoy a career as a marriage or family counselor and can begin with a master's degree. Those interested in conducting research on the topics may pursue a PhD.

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