Marriage Counselor: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for marriage counselors. Get the facts about job duties, education, licensure requirements and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Marriage & Family Therapy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Marriage Counselor?

Marriage counseling, unlike other forms of counseling, specifically focuses on couple dynamics and relationship issues. Marriage counselors help each member of the relationship share their emotions, perspective and experiences. They guide the couple through decision-making processes and behavior modification techniques to help change responses to stressful situations. Marriage counselors may have to deal with other behavioral issues that arise during counseling, such as substance abuse or low self-esteem issues. The following chart provides an overview about becoming a marriage counselor:

Degree Required Master's degree
Training Required 2,000 to 4,000 hours post-degree supervised clinical experience
Education Field of Study Psychology, marriage and family therapy, counseling, social work, or related mental health field.
Licensure or Certification Licensure is required in all states
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 (BLS)

What Would I Do as a Marriage Counselor?

As a marriage counselors, you can help couples identify problem areas, determine a plan of action to address them and assist the couple with developing the appropriate tools necessary to cope with the problems productively. Marriage counselors are also referred to as marriage and family therapists.

What Skills and Education Will I Need?

You typically need to have good listening and comprehension skills, communication skills, problem solving skills and a desire to help others in order to work as a marriage counselor. Since you provide therapy, the ability to analyze a situation, determine a plan of action and facilitate its implementation may also be a benefit.

As for your educational development, earning an undergraduate degree and completing a graduate program in counseling is usually necessary. Some undergraduate degree programs that prepare you for a master's degree program in counseling include those in the fields of psychology, counseling, social work and even sociology. Graduate-level counseling programs are available with a focus on marriage and family therapy, clinical studies or even social work. Some programs are religious-based, such as pastoral counseling, while others are more general.

Each state has its own requirements for licensure, but most states require you to complete a master's degree program with a counseling or marriage and family therapy concentration and several hours of clinical work, as well as passing an exam through a state-approved licensing agency like the National Board for Certified Counselors (www.nbcc.org). You are also required to take continuing education courses to maintain your license.

Where Would I Work?

Nonprofit organizations, religious organizations and social service organizations might have positions for marriage counselors. You can also have your own practice working with a group of service providers or as a sole practitioner.

How Much Can I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities in the field of marriage and family therapy are projected to grow much faster than average for the period of 2014-2024 because more people have counseling services covered by insurance (www.bls.gov). The middle 80% of marriage and family therapists in the U.S. earned between $30,540 and $81,960 as of May 2015, with a median salary of $48,600 a year, per the BLS.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few alternative careers that require a master's degree include rehabilitation counselors and school and career counselors. Rehabilitation counselors work with patients with different kinds of disabilities. They help their patients learn the skills necessary to live independently. School counselors advise students and help teach them the skills necessary to do well in school. Career counselors advise students who are preparing for life after graduation, whether it be for a particular career or postsecondary education.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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