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Master's Programs in Marriage, Family and Child Therapy

Review the prerequisites for enrolling in a master's degree program in marriage, family and child therapy, usually referred to as marriage and family therapy (MFT). Explore some of the courses you'd take in an MFT program, and check the availability of online learning options. Get info on the licensure requirements, employment outlook and salary info for marriage and family therapists.

What Are the Prerequisites for Marriage, Family and Child Therapy Programs?

You'll need to earn a bachelor's degree before enrolling in a master's degree program in marriage and family therapy. Admission prerequisites may include undergraduate courses in psychology, statistics or research methods. Because these programs are designed to prepare you for a career in marriage and family therapy, you should also have good communication and listening skills; therapists speak with patients about personal details on a daily basis.

Prerequisites Bachelor's degree and fulfillment of specified courses
Program Curriculum Child development, addictions counseling, group counseling, addictions counseling, counseling ethics
Online Programs Online Master's degree programs are available with an in-person clinical experience component still required
Job Outlook (2016-2026)23% growth (for marriage and family therapists)*
Median Salary (2018)$50,090 (for marriage and family therapists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Study?

You can earn either a Master of Science or a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy; most programs only include 1-2 courses on child therapy in the curriculum. You might learn how to help couples avoid divorce or solve parenting problems. You'll also learn how to provide counseling to individuals who have suffered from spousal or child abuse. Most programs require students to complete 500 clinical hours of direct patient contact under the guidance of a licensed therapist. Common marriage and family therapy topics that you'll learn about include:

  • Group counseling
  • Psychopathology
  • Addictions counseling
  • Therapy for children and teens
  • Counseling ethics
  • Child development
  • Cultural differences in families

Can I Earn a Master's Degree Online?

You can enroll in an online master's degree program in marriage and family therapy, but like campus-based programs, you'll still need to complete an in-person clinical experience. In addition, some schools may require on-campus residencies to give you hands-on therapy training and guidance from faculty members. During residencies, you'll usually attend seminars on family and marriage topics, receive advice from working therapists and interact with other classmates. Schools usually require one residency per year, which can last about 1-2 weeks.

Quizzes and tests can typically be completed online. Assignments are usually due on a weekly basis. Some programs recommend that you have a broadband Internet connection and regular access to a printer.

What Is the Job Outlook for Master's Program Graduates?

With your master's degree in marriage and family therapy, you might find work at a private practice, hospital, government agency, public school or mental health center. Many master's degree programs prepare you for state licensure as a marriage or family therapist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), licensure requirements vary largely depending on where you live; many states require marriage and family therapists to have a master's degree and approximately two years of clinical experience (www.bls.gov).

The BLS reported that marriage and family therapy job opportunities were predicted to increase by 23% from 2016-2026, which was greater than the average for other job sectors. According to the BLS, marriage and family therapists earned a median annual wage of $50,090 in 2018.