Family Counselor Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a family counselor. Learn about job duties, education requirements and average wages to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Marriage & Family Therapy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Family Counselor Do?

A family counselor assists troubled families with relationship issues and other problems that cause dysfunction within the family. They may address issues of substance abuse, stress and other behavioral issues as they arise. Family counselors may sit and have discussions with a family as a whole, as well as with individuals of the family to get to the root of their issues by encouraging them to share their perspective and experiences. They may help families cope with hard situations and lead them through decision-making processes. They can also refer families or family members to additional community services and resources, such as support groups. The following chart gives you an overview of education and licensure requirements as well as job growth and potential wages for this career.

Degree Required Master's degree
Training Required 2,000 to 4,000 hours post-degree supervised clinical experience
Education Field of Study Marriage and family therapy, psychology, counseling, social work, or a related mental health field
Licensure and/or Certification All states require family therapists to be licensed; professional certification is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 15% for all marriage and family therapists*
Median Salary (2015) $48,600 for all marriage and family therapists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is Family Counseling?

Family counseling, also referred to as marriage and family therapy, differs from other forms of counseling because the focus is on a group and its responses to the individuals and circumstances within the group. By providing counseling using goal-oriented therapy and behavior modification, counselors help their patients develop the necessary skills to cope in a productive way.

Since family counselors provide therapy, you should have a strong desire to help others if you pursue a job in this field. Family counselors need strong listening and comprehension skills, problem solving skills and communication skills. The ability to assess a situation and individuals' responses to it, as well as evaluate its impact, determine a plan to address it, communicate that plan and persuade others to follow the plan, would also be an asset to you in this particular career path.

What Would I Do?

As a family counselor, you may determine the needs of your clients through interviews, assessments and psychological testing. You also provide treatment plans and then continually evaluate their progress. Family counselors also assist clients with learning the tools to address emergency and crisis situations, as well as make referrals for additional treatment and/or medication.

You also have various choices for your work environment. You can work for various social service agencies and organizations that assist families. Another option is to maintain your own private practice working individually or in a group of other practitioners and service providers.

What Education Do I Need?

You must obtain an undergraduate degree and then continue your education in a graduate-level counseling program. Various counseling programs may focus on marriage and family therapy, clinical studies or even social work.

In addition to completing a counseling program, you must be licensed according to the requirements of the state you practice in. State requirements vary greatly, but most states require you to complete of a master's degree with a concentration in counseling or marriage and family therapy, pass a state-approved exam through an approved licensing agency, like the National Board for Certified Counselors, and complete several hours of clinical work beyond the master's program. Family counselors are also often required to maintain their licenses by taking continuing education courses.

How Much Can I Earn and What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most marriage and family therapists in the U.S. earn between $30,540 and $81,960, with $48,600 being the national median wage, as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reports that the job outlook for this field is favorable for 2014-2024 since projections show that as people become more aware of this field and seek help, the need for counselors will continue to grow in the future.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Some additional counseling careers that require a master's degree include rehabilitation counselors and school and career counselors. Rehabilitation counselors specifically treat patients with a variety of disabilities to gain the skills necessary to live independently. School counselors may work with children of different ages in an educational setting. They work with kids to teach them the necessary skills to succeed in the classroom. Career counselors also work with school-aged children, but mostly those in high school preparing for life after graduation. These counselors help them prepare for a career or postsecondary education.

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