Work and Family Studies

Degree programs in the broad field of work and family studies include social work, marriage and family therapy and community counseling programs. Explore undergraduate and graduate degree options in these fields, and find out what you'd learn in each program. Get more info about your career options in this field.

Are Work and Family Studies for Me?

Career Overview

Professionals in the field of work and family studies are concerned with how cultural and socioeconomic factors affect a family's health and well-being. Working in this field, you could become a social worker, where you might find affordable housing for a family, or a marriage and family therapist, whose role can include helping couples communicate. You could work in an early childhood education setting, such as a daycare or preschool. Another option is case management, where you can help clients in a group home, youth services program or rehabilitation center access health care or vocational services. You could also develop educational or community programs for a YMCA, religious organization or community center.

Employment

Before setting your career goals, you might want to consider the employment outlooks for some of your job options. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), from 2012-2022, a 19% growth in employment opportunities is projected for social workers, while a 29% increase in jobs is projected for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for social workers was $44,200 in 2012, while mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists earned median pay of $41,500 that year.

How Can I Work in the Field of Work and Family Studies?

Education

You can enter most positions in this field with a bachelor's degree in family studies or social work. Coursework includes topics in family relationships, child development and family education, and you might also be required to complete an internship with a hospital, charity or government agency. Social work programs include additional courses in program evaluation, social welfare, child development, aging and social policy. For some positions, you might need to pursue a Master of Social Work degree.

If you want to provide counseling services, an undergraduate degree in family studies or social work could also prepare you for a graduate program in marriage and family therapy. Coursework might include marital therapy methods, human sexuality and critical familial problems.

Required Skills

This field might be ideal if you're interested in working closely with people. To be successful, you'll need good communication and problem solving-skills in order to understand a client's issues and concerns. You might also need the ability to recognize cultural factors affecting a family's structure and behavioral patterns. Finally, you should also have a strong desire to help improve people's lives and encourage independence.

Licensing and Certification

Some careers in this field require licensing or certification. To become a social worker, you'll typically need some form of licensure or certification through the state; some states require different licensing, depending on the type of work you perform or whether you supervise other social workers. For aspiring counselors, graduate-level curricula usually include a requisite number of clinical and practical supervised training hours to qualify you for state licensure. Earning board certification, such as that offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors, could offer a substitute for state licensure testing, though you could still need to apply for a license. The requirements for licensing and certification often vary by state.

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