The Pros and Cons of a Marriage and Family Therapist Career
As a marriage and family therapist, you'll work with people of various backgrounds in order to help them cope and work through emotional and mental disorders. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of this profession.
|Pros of a Marriage and Family Therapist Career|
|High-growth field (31% increase in jobs projected from 2012-2022)*|
|Often includes excellent job benefits (medical and life insurance, 401(k) and paid vacation)**|
|Flexible work schedule***|
|Opportunity to help people (with stress, divorce, guilt, substance abuse and other issues)****|
|Cons of a Marriage and Family Therapist Career|
|May deal with conflict situations***|
|Pressure to meet strict deadlines***|
|License is required*|
|Must complete continuing education classes on a yearly basis*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Monster.com, ***iseek.org, ****California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.
Essential Career Info
Marriage and family therapists provide family-focused treatment for couples, families and individuals coping with the challenges of mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and depression. They listen to clients and teach them the skills needed to handle a variety of difficulties, including sexual abuse, substance abuse and crisis situations. They often work with family physicians, psychiatrists and social workers to determine the best course of treatment.
Marriage and family therapists work in a range of settings, including mental health centers, social service agencies, schools, prisons and employee assistance programs. You also might consider developing an individual or group practice.
Salary and Career Prospects
The median annual salary for marriage and family therapists as of 2014 was around $48,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The chances of landing a job are excellent, with the number of jobs projected to increase by 31% between 2012 and 2022.
What Are the Requirements?
You must hold state licensure to work as a therapist in this field. Requirements vary by state, but they typically include a minimum of a master's degree in marriage and family therapy, a specified amount of supervised work experience and passage of the national Examination in Marriage and Family Therapy. Some states have other requirements; for example, California specifies that candidates for licensure must have completed training in spousal abuse detection and intervention, child abuse assessment and chemical dependency.
As a marriage and family therapist, you'll need to be a creative thinker, inductive reasoner and problem solver. Additionally, you'll have to be able to establish and maintain interpersonal relationships, give advice and resolve conflicts. You'll also need to be conscientious about documenting information.
What Employers Look For
The main qualifications needed to obtain employment as a marriage and family therapist are a license and a master's degree in marriage and family therapy or an associated field. Sometimes employers require experience in a specific area, such as substance abuse. The following are excerpts of actual job postings from April 2012:
- A healthcare services organization in California was looking for a bilingual, licensed marriage and family therapist who spoke Spanish and English to provide mental health services to children and their families. The job posting specified that experience and a master's degree in child development, social services or a related field were required.
- A federal agency in Indiana wanted to hire a licensed marriage and family therapist with United States citizenship and a master's or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy to assess, counsel and provide treatment for military veterans and their families.
- An insurance company in Idaho sought a licensed marriage and family therapist with two years of experience to counsel patients about mental health and substance abuse, as well as to determine whether or not their current treatment was effective.
How to Stand Out
Most marriage and family therapists enter the field with a master's degree; however, obtaining higher education might increase your chances of landing a position in the field. A graduate certificate in marriage and family therapy could give you an edge in the job market if you have a master's degree in a related area, such as psychology, sociology or counseling. A doctoral degree also could put you ahead of the competition, and some employers even require that advanced degree. A doctoral program typically provides training in advanced clinical practice, research, supervision and teaching.
Alternative Career Paths
If you're looking for a career in a helping profession, but you don't necessarily want to have to earn licensure, becoming a rehabilitation counselor is another option. Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities learn to cope with their situations. They assess their clients' abilities and interests and help them obtain vocational training and medical services.
Although some employers prefer to hire licensed counselors (and a license is needed if you want to work in private practice), many jobs are available for unlicensed individuals with a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling. The job outlook for rehabilitation counselors is very good; an increase in the number of elderly people over the next few years should create demand for this occupation. The BLS projected that jobs in this field could increase by 28% between 2010 and 2020. The median annual wage for a rehabilitation counselor as of 2011 was $34,000, which was less than that of a marriage and family therapist.
Social and Community Service Manager
Social and community service managers oversee all activities of social and human service organizations. They supervise staff, plan budgets, recommend improvements and plan fundraising events. The median annual salary of a social and community service manager as of 2011 was $59,000. This occupation was projected to see an increase of 27% from 2010-2020, offering very good job prospects.