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Overview of Master’s Degree Programs in Marriage and Family Counseling

Majors Overview August 24, 2017

This article talks about master’s degree programs in marriage and family counseling and their education requirements, coursework, job and wage outlook, and continuing education options.

Master’s Programs in Marriage and Family Counseling

Schools award degrees in marriage and family counseling or therapy either as a Master of Arts (M.A.) or a Master of Science (M.S.), albeit with similar curricula and internship requirements. Students need 2-4 years to complete these intensive programs that are available in both part-time and full-time formats. Program graduates of most programs usually satisfy norms for state licensure as marriage and family therapists, though additional hours of work experience may be needed before they gain their license.

Program coursework is a combination of work experience with theoretical analysis, research, and the study of political, social, and cultural forces that affect patient welfare and care. Strong research and patient care skills are developed by students via internships that include the observation of taped and live sessions, the performance of case reviews and participation in research teams.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree, preferably in psychology or another related field. Requirements also include submitting scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT), letters of recommendation, a written essay, and/or a personal interview. A copy of their resume may have to be submitted by currently employed individuals in the field.


Program coursework combines hands-on practice and classroom instruction through clinical supervision and internships. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Domestic violence
•Group therapy
•Dysfunctional families
•Counseling Ethics
•Human sexuality
•Ethnicity and gender issues
•Pediatric and Adolescent Mental Health
•Couples therapy
•Wellness and Spirituality

Job and Wage Outlook

Marriage and family therapists are expected to see a faster-than-average 19% job growth over the 2014 – 2024 decade (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). The growth is expected to be driven by an increasing trend among couples and families to seek assistance with mental and emotional issues. In May 2012, marriage and family therapists brought in an average annual wage of $44,170 (BLS).

Continuing Education Options

State licensure is compulsory for marriage and family therapists, and program graduates can usually obtain licensure through the passage of an exam and obtaining a specific amount of practical experience. Program graduates who wish to continue their education may enroll in doctoral programs in marriage and family therapy.

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