Degrees in marriage and family therapy (MFT) are typically earned at the graduate level. Some schools may also offer graduate certificate programs for those who've earned a master's degree in a related mental health field. MFT programs will include both lecture and clinical courses. Licensure to practice is required. In some cases, programs may be available online.
Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy
Clinical practice is a key component of a two to three year MFT master's degree program, and it provides students with the opportunity to put their knowledge of MFT counseling into practice. In order to be accepted into the program, students are required to hold a bachelor's degree with up-to-date transcripts, letters of recommendation, and hold a personal interview with a faculty member. Before beginning these supervised clinical experiences, students must complete courses in therapy for marriages and families. Classwork might cover:
- Sexual relationships
- Human development
- Research methods
- Dynamics of addiction
- Family interaction patterns
Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy
A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Marriage and Family Therapy, which may also be called a Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies, consists of classes in MFT theory and practice, research, and clinical work with clients. Students are required to possess a master's degree and satisfactory standardized test scores to be accepted into the program. They generally last five to seven years.
While the dissertation and clinical internship are the main components of a doctoral degree program in MFT, students will also gain a thorough understanding of MFT theories and modes of clinical practice. Some classes may include:
- Quantitative research methods
- Adolescent development
- Statistical methods
- Dynamics of family relationships
Popular Career Options
Graduates of a Ph.D. program who have a strong interest in research may enter into academia and teach at the college level. Others pursue careers with social service organizations, or work in private practice as marriage and family therapists. Possible career paths include:
- University professor
- Marriage and family therapist
- Youth counselor
- Counseling services director
- Addiction and substance abuse counselor
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of marriage and family therapists would grow by 15% from 2014-2024, much faster than average for all occupations. The BLS noted that insurance companies often refer customers to MFTs instead of more expensive psychiatrists or psychologists, and that more people are seeking the services of therapists for mental and emotional problems. The average annual salary for an MFT was $53,520 as of May 2015, according to the BLS.
Continuing Education and Licensing
In every state, a marriage and family therapist must have at least a master's degree and two years of clinical experience in order to be licensed to practice. Graduates of a master's program may also continue on into doctoral programs.
Master's and doctoral degree programs in marriage and family therapy prepare students to work as counselors by teaching them how marriages and families function, and how they are affected by factors such as addiction, mental and emotional disorders, or violence through both research and clinical study.