Becoming a Marriage & Family Therapist: Job Description & Salary Info

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The median annual salary for marriage and family therapists is around $48,000. Is it worth the education and licensure requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a marriage and family therapist is right for you.
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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

Job Duties

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.

Work Environment

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.

Personal Skills

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

Rehabilitation Counselor

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.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Performance Psychology
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    Master's
      • M.S. in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy
      • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with an Emphasis in Family Dynamics
      • MS in Professional Counseling
      • M.S. in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Trauma
      • MS in Addiction Counseling
      • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with Emphasis in Grief and Bereavement
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Counseling - Addiction, Chemical Dependency, and Substance Abuse
      • BS in Health Care Administration
      • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Life Coaching
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Mental Health and Wellness Emphasis in Community Health Administration
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Forensic Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy - Therapy with Military Families
      • PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy - General
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology - Child and Adolescent Family Therapy
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology - Child and Adolescent Therapy
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology - Couple Therapy
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology - General Family Therapy
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy (MAMFT)
      • M.A. in Marriage & Family Therapy
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
      • Master of Science in Forensic Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Psychology/Applied Behavioral Analysis
      • Master: Psychology/General Psychology
      • Master: Psychology/Addictions
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
      • Master: Nursing/Nurse Administrator
      • MS in Nursing
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Psychology in Addictions
      • Bachelor: Health Science
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Health Care Management
      • Masters in Health Care Administration
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Acute Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Long Term Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Service Organization
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Coaching and Mentoring
      • Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Psychology - Clinical and Counseling Psychology
      • Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Penn Foster Career School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - Home Health Aide
  • Online Programs Available
    8. University of the Rockies

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Psychology - Mediation and Conflict Resolution
      • Psy.D. in Mental Health Admin
    Master's
      • MA Counseling - Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling
      • MA Counseling
      • MA Counseling - Clinical Mental Health Counseling
      • MA Counseling - Addiction Counseling
      • Master of Arts in Psychology - Mediation and Conflict Resolution
      • M.A. in Human Services - Mental Health Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Health and Human Services Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Health Admin
      • MS Criminal Justice with Behavior Analysis Specialization

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Performance Psychology
  • M.S. in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy
  • BS in Counseling - Addiction, Chemical Dependency, and Substance Abuse
  • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Life Coaching

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy - Therapy with Military Families
  • PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy - General
  • Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy (MAMFT)
  • M.A. in Marriage & Family Therapy

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master: Psychology/Applied Behavioral Analysis
  • Master: Psychology/General Psychology
  • BS in Psychology in Addictions
  • Bachelor: Health Science

Which subject are you interested in?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management

What is your highest level of education?

Utica College

  • MBA - Health Care Management
  • Masters in Health Care Administration
  • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Acute Care

What is your highest level of education completed?

Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Coaching and Mentoring
  • Bachelor of Science in Psychology - Clinical and Counseling Psychology

What is your highest level of education completed?

Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma - Home Health Aide

What is your highest level of education?

University of the Rockies

  • Doctor of Psychology - Mediation and Conflict Resolution
  • Psy.D. in Mental Health Admin
  • MA Counseling - Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling
  • MA Counseling

What is your highest level of education?