How to Get the Best MFT Degree Salary

Many workers who are interested in the mental health field will become a marriage and family therapist (MFT). Being a marriage and family therapist is an excellent opportunity to help people to manage and overcome various mental and emotional problems. It also is a good career to help couples and families to deal with their relationship problems.

To become an MFT, one must earn at least their master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. Earning this MFT degree will allow you to earn your license and certification in your state, and eventually earn a good salary.

The marriage and family therapy field is growing in popularity, and the overall salary median across the US is currently $48,600. Meanwhile, the top 10% with the most experience and education earn $81,900 per year. In many cases, the top 10% will have a master’s and possibly a doctoral degree in MFT.

According to US News and World Report, many MFT professionals work in a private practice and may establish their own rates. They noted that the 75th percentile in the MFT field is a wage of $64,780.

Why Earn a Master’s Marriage and Family Therapy

The first reason to earn a master’s degree in MFT is that it is a requirement to practice. To be a practicing therapist, counselor or psychologist in the US, you must have at least a master’s degree.

There also are salary benefits to getting more education in marriage and family therapy. Statistics show that the more education you have in the mental health field, the higher your salary will be. There are several other factors that will affect your salary in this field that we highlight in this article.

MFT Education

To earn the highest possible salary in the field of marriage and family therapy, you will need to have as much education as possible. The median salary in the field as a whole is $48,000 per year, and this includes those with both a master’s and a doctorate degree.

To maximize your earnings and to be able to practice on your own, you have to have a doctoral degree. According to, those professionals with a Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy earn an average salary of $79,300 per year.

MFT Experience

As you probably know, the longer you work in a field, the more money you usually make. In the marriage and family therapy field, it is generally assumed that you will develop better therapy skills as you gain more clients and years of work experience in therapy sessions.

In the MFT field, reports that experience does not seem to play as large of a factor in salary as other fields. The site reports that therapists with five or 10 years of work experience earn $45,000 per year. After working 10 to 20 years, they make a median salary of $59,000. Those who have more than 20 years of experience see a median salary of $67,000.

MFT Job Sector

Another major factor in your salary level will be the industry in which you work. Different industries pay marriage and family therapists different salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can earn greatly different salaries in these different industries:

  • Local and state government, not including hospitals: $69,700
  • Outpatient care centers: $47,000
  • Offices of doctors and other health care professionals: $45,600
  • Nursing and residential care facilities: $44,000
  • Individual or family services: $43,000

Best Location’s for MFT’s

The geographic location of where you work is a key factor in your marriage and family therapy salary. Working in a larger city as an MFT usually means a bigger paycheck, but remember that you will have higher living expenses and utilities as well.

Some of the cities where it is reported that you can earn the most money as an MFT are:

  • Trenton, New Jersey
  • Camden, New Jersey
  • Santa Rosa, California
  • Vallejo, California

According to other sources, Hanford, California is also an excellent place to work as an MFT. It has an average annual salary for marriage and family therapists at $109,000 per year. And Worcester, Massachusetts is also a top city in which to work for both marriage and family therapists and psychologists.

The following cities also are reported to have higher paychecks in the field than the national average:

  • San Jose, California (+13%)
  • Portland, Oregon (+9%)
  • Honolulu, Hawaii (+9%)
  • San Francisco (+27%)

Varying salaries in this field by location also can be seen in a review of salary statistics. The site reports that the average salary across the US is $37,000 per year. As we drill down into more salary information, this is what we find:

  • Department of Veterans Affairs – various locations across US – $65,700 per year
  • SHIELDS for Families – Los Angeles, California – $52,000 per year
  • New York Foundling – New York City – $48,500 per year
  • The Children’s Village – Dobbs Ferry, New York – $46,600 per year
  • Beech Brook – Cleveland, Ohio – $45,300 per year

MFT Certification

Certification and state licensure is required for you to practice as an MFT. You will generally have better employment and salary prospects if you graduate from a university that is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy provides students and graduates in the field with the means to become licensed and certified. The most common titles for those who have this license are Marriage and Family Therapist, and Marital and Family Therapist. There are currently 48,000 licensed MFTs in the US.

This organization also offers several certifications for MFTs that you can earn, depending upon your career interests. Also, it offers a large number of continuing education courses online that help you to maintain your license and to potentially increase your salary.

MFT Summary

The marriage and family therapy occupation is growing; the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there will be a 19% increase in job demand by 2024. This is a very fast job growth that is being driven by people getting older and wanting to get a better handle on their relationship and personal problems.

Also, the numbers of people who have health insurance is expected to continue to increase. Most of them will have mental health insurance coverage, so this could cause an increase in people seeing marriage and family therapists.

If you are considering a career as a marriage and family therapist, you will likely benefit from the higher demand for various mental health services. You will find that if you keep the above factors in mind, you will be able to maximize your salary as a marriage and family therapist.