The Value of a Marriage and Family Therapist Degree

This article will tell you about what a marriage and family therapist degree is. You will learn about the criteria you should consider as you evaluate these degrees, and how to select one that will enhance your career. We also will provide a recommendation for a high quality, online marriage and family therapist master’s program.

What Is a Marriage and Family Therapist Degree?

A marriage and family therapist degree is typically a master’s level degree that teaches you vital skills and knowledge about how marriage, families and relationships function, and how they affect emotional and mental health problems.

A common career path for professionals interested in psychology is to earn a MFT master’s or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy. A marriage and family therapist degree is a valued credential to earn today as there is strong and growing demand for these professionals in our society.

This degree is recognized as highly valuable because scientific research shows that marriage and family therapy is effective; in fact, in some cases it may be more effective than individual therapy for conditions such as schizophrenia, affective mood disorders, alcoholism, drug abuse, child behavioral problems, and marital distress.

A marriage and family therapist assists individuals and couples to overcome their mental and emotional issues which affect their family and various other close relationships. These counselors listen to their clients and ask probing questions to understand their problems and to help them to develop new strategies to solve personal problems.

On a daily basis, a professional with a marriage and family therapist degree will do most of these highly valuable services and tasks:

  • Diagnose and treat various emotional and mental disorders, including depression and anxiety.
  • Encourage individuals and couples to talk about their experiences and emotions
  • Assist clients in processing reactions and to adjust to the challenges and changes in their lives, including job loss and divorce
  • Help clients make vital decisions about their future
  • Help them to devise useful strategies to modify behavior and to cope with challenges

As a marriage and family therapist, you will use many advanced techniques and tools based upon psychological science to assist your clients. You may learn in your degree program to use cognitive therapy, which is a goal oriented approach that will assist clients to understand the power of negative feelings, thoughts and beliefs. Then, you show them how to replace them with positive thoughts and feelings.

You will learn how to tell the difference between mental health disorders that can be beaten, and those that just need to be managed over time.

Many marriage and family therapists work in private practice. Being able to work in your own practice and be your own boss is one of the most valuable traits of this type of psychology degree.

Why Earn a Marriage and Family Therapist Degree?

Earning a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy is a smart investment in your career and education. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that job demand in this field is set to rise by 19% by 2024. Government experts state that as more people are gaining access to quality health insurance, this is making it easier for them to access mental health services, including marriage and family therapy.

Further, a higher number of military veterans will need help with their mental health and family relationships as military actions overseas continue to wind down.

Government statistics state that marriage and family therapists held 33,700 jobs as of 2014, and this number will grow to 38,700 in the next seven years. When you earn your degree, you can find plenty of work in the following areas:

  • Individual and family services: 30% – Marriage and family therapists often work with other healthcare professionals as a team in a hospital or other health care facility. Working on an inpatient basis, you may be a case manager for a large number of clients in a hospital ward.
  • State and local government: 23% – Many therapists are hired to work in state and local government medical and health care centers, and also social service centers.
  • Outpatient care: 15% – Therapists are often hired to treat children, seniors and adults who are dealing with various mental illnesses and sometimes substance abuse.
  • Other health care practitioner offices: 8% – Work with doctors and nurses in a private practice and help their patients to work through their mental health and personal challenges. Many doctors are not as well trained on mental health issues, so you can provide extremely valuable service to patients in this area.
  • Nursing and residential care: 6% – Some therapists work in nursing and residential care facilities helping older people to deal with their mental health and relationship problems.

The median salary for marriage and family therapists in 2015 was $48,600, according to government data. The top 10% earned $81,900. US News and World Report states that the average salary in this field in 2015 was $53,520.

Another advantage of becoming a marriage and family therapist is that you can practice with only a master’s degree, although some may choose to earn their doctorate. Many other psychology careers require you to earn your doctorate to work in private practice.

Most therapists possess a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, psychology or clinical mental health counseling. You can have a bachelor’s degree in most fields as a suitable background to enter a master’s program in this field.

All marriage and family therapists must be licensed in their state of practice. State requirements vary somewhat, but you generally must have your master’s and 2000 to 4000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Also, you must pass your state examination to become a marriage and family therapist.

To learn more about the requirements for your state, please contact the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards.

Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy

We recommend for your consideration the Master of Marriage and Family Therapy from Abilene Christian University. It combines a systems and relational understanding of the lives and challenges of people with clinical training, theory and the integration of cutting edge learning and faith.

This is a two year, 60 hour program that will prepare you for a productive career in marriage and family therapy practice in a variety of settings.

On of the unique parts of this program is an option to choose a specialization in medical family therapy. This is a growing interest area in the mental health profession. Students who select the medical family therapy concentration get training in the biopsychosocial/spiritual model of mental health treatment. This will prepare the professional to work on a healthcare team to help families to deal with serious medical health problems.

Required, core courses include:

  • BMFT 639 Family Theory
  • BMFT 641 Family Therapy I
  • BMFT 662 Family Life Cycle (general track) or BMFT 670 Intro to Medical Family Therapy (MedFT track)
  • BMFT 601 Pre-Internship
  • BMFT 643 Professional Ethics and the Law

Another benefit of this accredited program is that there are many specializations in marriage and family therapy you can choose:

  • Master of Marriage and Family Therapy – General
  • Master of Marriage and Family Therapy – Child & Adolescent Therapy
  • Master of Marriage and Family Therapy – Treatment of Trauma
  • Master of Marriage and Family Therapy – specialization in Medical Family Therapy
  • Master of Marriage and Family Therapy – Therapy with Military Families


As you are looking at master’s programs in this specialty, it is recommended to seek a program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education, or COAMFTE. Many employers will prefer to hire students from such programs.

The program we recommend above is accredited by COAMFTE.


Psychology professionals who earn their marriage and family therapy degree can expect to enjoy a fruitful career with solid pay and strong job demand. You also will enjoy the satisfaction of helping people in your community to work through their relationship and mental health challenges.