How to Get a Marriage Counselor Degree

Marriage counselors or family and marriage therapists, are individuals that have been licensed as mental health practitioners. These experts undergo training to ensure that they are fully prepared to work alongside couples to help them repair or improve their relationship in a number of different ways. This type of counseling is a kind of psychotherapy that can work by helping couples to resolve and analyze their problems. Usually, these professionals can play a crucial role in helping couples to figure out whether their conflicts are reconcilable or not.

As a marriage counselor, you will work with adults whose lives are in distress and this may sometimes be unsettling or challenging, but it can also be deeply satisfying to help others. Of course, the first thing you will need to do is get a degree in marriage counseling.

Education Requirements for a Marriage Counselor

There are different levels of degree available for people who would like to become a marriage counselor. Usually, the first step is earning a bachelor’s degree, which takes place before an individual can consider enrolling in a master’s degree program. Most of the time, marriage counselors will need to have at least a master’s degree to practice.

Most schools don’t offer degree programs that specifically focus on marriage counseling, but a lot of students can earn an equally useful undergraduate degree in the area of psychology or social work. Alongside teaching students the foundations of social work and psychology, these degree programs can also provide an education in the various areas that are directly related to marriage counseling, such as cognitive psychology, social psychology, sociology, sexuality, and interpersonal relationships. The majority of bachelor degree programs available today require the completion of a relevant internship or some clinical practice before graduation.

Once you have acquired a bachelor’s degree as a psychologist or social worker, you will be able to enroll for a master’s degree in marriage counseling. In most states, a master’s degree is the minimum educational level that is required to work as a counselor in marriage. Master’s degree programs are intended to fully educate students in areas of social science when it comes to marriage counseling, and often offer courses in areas like family and adolescent counseling, family sociology and ethical considerations.

Master’s level degree programs in counseling also place a great deal of emphasis on applied clinical experience and research, and students frequently have to complete a range of credit hours in terms of clinical research and internships for earning their degree.

Once you have obtained your master’s degree as a marriage counselor, you will need to start earning as much clinical experience in your area as possible. The licensing requirements for marriage counselors vary from one state to the next, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that states will mandate the completion of a number of hours of supervised counseling work experience before licensure is granted. Sometimes, these requirements will exist independently of any other clinical practicum hours that have been accomplished during the process of a master degree program.

Credentials for Marriage Counselors

If you want to be a successful marriage counselor in your chosen state, then it’s worth noting that you may need to earn more than just a degree. Many states require their counselors to obtain licensure and certification. A written exam is always necessary for obtaining licensure, and exams or classes on ethical standards may also be necessary, depending on the state in question. Some states also have specific licensing exams, although some use a standard exam that has been offered by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).

After the educational prerequisites have been completed, an aspiring marriage counselor will be able to apply for a state license after passing an exam. In order to get a better chance of being competitive within their chosen field, however, it’s beneficial to earn further credits through optional programs for certification that might help them to stand out. For instance, the National Board of Certified Counselors can provide a non-mandatory certification that is known popularly as the national certified counselor credential.

Those with an interest in becoming a marriage counselor may also join a professional organization, such as the AAMFT. These organizations can allow people to benefit greatly from further exposure to different environments and networking opportunities in their industry.

Continuing Education in Marriage Counseling

Almost all states require earning continuing education credits in order to renew or maintain a license as a marriage counselor. Although the rules and regulations can vary from one state to the next, most licenses will expire on a biannual or annual basis, and will require the completion of at least thirty continuing education units for renewal. Many states have approved lists of topics and course providers that are accepted.

For those who really want to stand out in the marriage counseling field, they might want to earn a doctoral level degree. Doctorate candidates in the world of marriage counseling are those that have been recognized as having the potential to become experts in the concept of relationship psychology. Most doctoral candidates have a desire to lead, research, or teach. Programs for counselors include the doctor of psychology (PsyD) or the doctor philosophy in psychology (PhD) degree. There is also a doctor of marriage and family therapy degree.

Benefits of Becoming a Marriage Counselor

Family and marriage counseling in psychology is projected to see a growth in demand of approximately 15% from 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS. This is a much faster rate than average, due to recent reforms that require insurance companies to cover the various costs of mental health services. The average salary of family therapists and marriage counselors in 2015 was around $48,600 per year. What’s more, the BLS predicts that employment for various psychologists across numerous sectors will grow by around 20% from 2014 to 2024.

The biggest benefit of becoming a marriage counselor for those interested in the field is usually the chance to make a real difference to other people. Marriage and family therapists provide family-focused levels of treatment for families and couples that are facing challenges of mental illness and problems with emotional or behavioral efforts. Usually, these counselors will work in a range of settings, which makes the job very interesting and engaging for everyone involved.


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