What Are the Education Requirements to Be a Therapist?

Therapists treat people who struggle with mental or emotional afflictions. Such professionals work in a variety of settings, helping people cope with stress, depression, breakups, family crises, and a variety of other issues. Read on to learn about some possible career paths and the educational requirements for therapists. Schools offering Mental Health Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Industry Overview

Therapy is a broad field offering a wide variety of opportunities. For most therapy positions, you'll be required to hold an advanced degree in psychology or counseling. Depending on the state and employer, you may also be required to obtain a license to practice as a therapist. The licensure process generally entails the completion of 2,000-4,000 hours of postgraduate work experience under the supervision of a licensed therapist and passage of an exam. Common career paths in this field include mental health therapy or marriage and family therapy.

Important Facts About This Degree

Online Availability Master's in counseling and marriage and family therapy available fully online
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree
Training Supervised clinical experience commonly required for licensure
Continuing Education Required to maintain a license

Careers Mental Health Counselors Marriage and Family Therapists
Median Salary (2018) $44,630 $50,090
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 23% 23%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Mental Health Therapists

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), mental health therapists identify and treat mental disorders to improve patients' overall mental health. As a mental health therapist, you'll help patients cope with depression and anxiety, substance abuse, grief, low self-esteem, and stress. You may also help patients find healthy ways to cope with jobs and relationships.


To become a mental health therapist, you'll need to complete an accredited master's or doctoral degree program in counseling, which some schools offer through their education departments. You may take courses in group dynamics, individual counseling methods, human growth and development, abnormal psychology, and ethics. You can also expect to complete a clinical practicum, in which you gain a supervised, hands-on counseling experience.

Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists treat families, couples, and individual family members with mental health or emotional issues, according to the BLS. As a marriage and family therapist, you'll work with patients to improve their marriages, family relationships, and communication skills. You might also provide patients with premarital or divorce counseling. In some cases, you may refer patients to psychiatrists or psychologists.


According to the California Association for Marriage and Family Therapists (www.camft.org), you must complete an accredited master's or doctoral degree program to enter this career. Graduate degree programs in marriage and family therapy equip students with the psychotherapy and problem-solving skills needed for work in a clinical setting. You can expect to take courses in group counseling, marital and sexual therapy, family behavior, and clinical assessment. These programs tend to incorporate clinical practicums that provide you with first-hand experience treating families and couples in a clinical setting.

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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