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Master’s Degree Programs in Marriage and Family Therapy Overview

Majors Overview November 6, 2017

This article talks about master’s degree programs in marriage and family therapy (MFT) and their educational requirements, coursework, job and wage outlook, and continuing education and licensure options.

Master’s Programs in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT)

Graduates in this field typically obtain a Master of Science (M.S.) or Master of Arts (M.A.) in an area such as marriage, couple, and family counseling, or marriage and family therapy. Students need 2-3 years to complete these programs where they have to participate in a clinical internship supervised by a licensed therapist. Universities offer these programs, with partially online content. Graduates may be able to obtain licensure that is mandatory for careers in the field.

Educational Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school. Every school may have its admission requirements, but commonly, incoming students are required to demonstrate community involvement and leadership, along with submitting a personal essay, a resume, and/or references. They may also have to submit scores from the Miller Analogies Test or GRE.


The predominant focus of program coursework is on the practice and theory of a variety of counseling methods. The program coursework is typically devised to train students to qualify for state licensure. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Marital and individual psychotherapy
•Counseling theories
•Personality therapy
•Group therapy
•Addictions and violence
•Counseling techniques
•Professional and ethical issues in family therapy

Job and Wage Outlook

Marriage and family therapists are expected to see a faster-than-average 20% job growth over the 2016 – 2026 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 their issues.

In May 2016, there were more than 36,000 marriage and family therapists, earning an average annual wage of $49,170. Earnings vary by industry and location. For instance, the average annual wage was $72,180 for MFTs employed in state government. The respective average annual earnings were $48,900, $58,300 and $38,180 for those in residential care facilities, marriage and family therapists employed in Hawaii, and Iowa-based MFTs.

Continuing Education and Licensure Options

Licensure is mandatory in all states for marriage and family therapists (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy). Licensure is obtainable via completion of a graduate degree and supervised practical experience.

Continuing education through a doctorate program can lead to careers in research or academia. The curricula in these programs include the study of intervention methods, along with field work. Incoming students to some schools must have work experience as graduate teaching assistants along with completing an original dissertation.

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