Through a degree program in family systems, you may study sociology, human development and psychology from the perspective of how they affect families. Learn more about your undergraduate and graduate degree options in family systems, and explore some careers you could pursue with an education in this field.
Are Family Systems for Me?
Degree programs in family systems are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels in family studies, marriage and family therapy and family systems. As a practitioner in family systems, you'll study people with regard to their roles in the family and learn how their family influences and affects their decisions and their development. Family can play a very important role in one's physical, emotional and psychological health and by understanding family-related theories and dynamics you can more effectively provide this type of therapy to people. Through your studies, you may be prepared to work with families, children or couples. You could seek employment in fields such as social work, counseling or human services. You may work in an office, group home, healthcare facility or community center.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reports that in 2012, 285,700 individuals worked as child, family and school social workers, 372,700 people worked as social and human service assistants, and 37,800 people were marriage and family therapists. The BLS projects that between 2012 and 2022, employment will increase by 15% for child, school and family social workers, by 31% for marriage and family therapists and by 21% for social and human service assistants, so plenty of career opportunities exist for aspiring family systems workers. As of 2012, the BLS also reported that the median annual salary for social and human service assistants was $28,850, while child, school and family social workers made $41,530, and marriage and family therapists made $46,670.
How Can I Work in Family Systems?
To work in family systems, you should start by earning a bachelor's degree in family systems, family studies or family and consumer sciences with an emphasis in family development. Through these degree programs, you'll learn how to provide care for families and their needs. Your coursework may include marriage skills, human sexuality, relationship development, relationships between children and parents, social problems that affect families and human development. With this training, you could pursue an entry-level position in social work or become a social and human service assistant. You could also volunteer to work on a suicide hotline or become an intervention leader.
Through a master's degree program in human development and family studies, family and consumer sciences, or marriage and family therapy, you may study family law, learn to assess a family's lifestyle, explore theories in family therapy, identify family dynamics, analyze issues in human development and address sexuality. In most cases, you'll complete clinical practicums and conduct research that will further familiarize you with family systems and prepare you to work with people of different social and economic backgrounds. With a master's degree in counseling or marriage and family therapy, you could take your state's exam to become a marriage and family therapist. You could also find employment in child and family social work with a degree like this.
Doctorate level programs related to family systems are available in marriage and family therapy or human development. At this level, you can pursue specializations in areas such as marriage and family therapy, couple relationships, parent-child relationships, family studies or family systems health care. Program requirements include researching and writing an original dissertation, completing contact hours with patients and engaging in clinical practicums. Your coursework may address gender studies, theories and practices in family therapy, sexual behavior, child abuse, family violence, language systems, personality theories and cross-cultural counseling.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), to work effectively in this field you need to be able to gain your clients' trust by being emotionally mature, responsible, patient and understanding (www.bls.gov). Since you may be working with people who have been hurt, you need to be sensitive to their problems while remaining objective.