Marriage & Family Therapy Graduate Programs: Master's Degree & PhD Info

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Master's and PhD programs in marriage and family therapy can lead to careers in counseling services and academia. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Study Marriage and Family Therapy: Degrees at a Glance

As a marriage and family therapist, you will find solutions to problems within couple and family units. You may work in an individual or group setting and provide services like counseling and diagnosing disorders. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that these professionals may work with clients who suffer from stress, substance abuse or low self-esteem. The BLS also states that you may coordinate treatment with other professionals, such as social workers or psychiatrists.

The BLS indicated that marriage and family therapists must be licensed. While licensing standards can vary by state, typical requirements include a master's degree and two years of experience in a clinical setting. Once licensed, you must meet continuing education standards.

With a master's degree, you may work as a marriage and family therapist. The BLS indicated that employment opportunities for these individuals will increase 41% from 2010-2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. The outlook for postsecondary teachers, a position that typically requires a PhD, is not as good. The BLS reported that employment opportunities for this profession were expected to increase 17% from 2010-2020.

Master's PhD
Who is this degree for? Individuals looking to become licensed marriage and family therapists Individuals who want to teach and research at the postsecondary level
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) Marriage and family therapist ($46,000)* - Marriage and family therapist ($46,000)*
- Postsecondary teacher ($64,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4-6 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - 30 semester credits
- Internship or field experience
- Advanced coursework
- Examinations or portfolio
- Internship or field experience
- Doctoral dissertation and defense
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree
- GRE scores
- Bachelor's or master's degree
- GRE scores
Online Availability Blended Blended

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's Degree Programs

Master's programs may be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education or the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Some programs may train you in a holistic approach that includes spiritual resources. These programs may train you in a specific area of marriage and family therapy, like human sexuality, evidenced-based treatment and cross-cultural interventions.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Prepare you for licensure as a marriage and family therapist
  • May train you in specific areas of the discipline
  • Experience is built into the curricula

Cons

  • May not be sufficient for a teaching position at a university
  • May need to pass a screening to be admitted
  • You must complete a probationary period and meet minimum standards to qualify for an internship

Coursework and Requirements

While in a master's program, you will need to meet significant experience requirements in addition to completing coursework. Your coursework will cover both theoretical and practical topics. Some of the courses you may take include:

  • Ethical issues and crisis intervention
  • Family systems
  • Treatment of couples
  • Group therapy
  • Human sexuality

Online Programs

Some blended master's programs that can lead to licensure are available online. These programs offer the coursework in an online format but require you to meet some on-campus obligations. A practicum and internship are also among the face-to-face commitments that you will need to meet.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

While technology isn't a significant part of this career field, computer proficiency may be helpful for some positions. Keeping up-to-date with the latest trends in the field not only would give you better tools and ideas to implement in your professional practice, but it would also help you to remain licensed.

PhD Programs

PhD programs prepare you for a career in research and teaching at the university-level. While you will study the practical applications of marriage and family therapy, you will also complete advanced research in a specific area of the discipline. Through student teaching, you will hone your teaching abilities. If you don't have a master's in marriage and family therapy, you may need to complete prerequisite courses until your knowledge is adequate to begin the PhD curriculum. Similar to master's programs, specializations may be available.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Makes you eligible for teaching and research position at the university-level
  • Clinical experience is included
  • Curricula include student teaching

Cons

  • May be overkill for a standard therapist position
  • May need to complete prerequisite courses if you don't have a master's in marriage and family therapy
  • Typically lasts longer than a master's program

Coursework and Requirements

The specific coursework requirements can vary by program. In addition to the coursework, you will complete a doctoral dissertation and defend it in front of your thesis committee. Other requirements may include a doctoral portfolio or examinations. Some of the courses you may take include:

  • Statistical methods
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Family systems
  • Psychopathology and assessment

Online Programs

Similar to the master's level, online PhD programs are available in a blended format. With these programs, you complete supervised clinical experience locally. It may be your responsibility to find this experience. These sessions may be recorded so that your faculty can view them. Some schools may offer a non-clinical PhD program online.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

If you are not already licensed by the completion of your program, you may consider doing so. Additionally, you may want to focus your research in an area of marriage and family therapy that has broad appeal, which may lead to more opportunities. You may want to maintain your computer proficiency skills as well.

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
  • 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
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    5. University of the Rockies

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Psychology - Mediation and Conflict Resolution
  • Tallahassee, FL

    Florida State University

  • Iowa City, IA

    University of Iowa

  • Monroe, LA

    University of Louisiana at Monroe

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Performance Psychology
  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • 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

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership

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University of the Rockies

  • Doctor of Psychology - Mediation and Conflict Resolution

What is your highest level of education?

University of Louisiana at Monroe