Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos. Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck. Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande. Pete Davidson and Kate Beckinsale. Brad and Angelina. Brad and Jen. Jen and Justin! Relationships aren’t easy, and marriages (celebrity or not) bite the dust every damn day. Fortunately for most of us, bitter spats with ex-lovers won’t us land on the cover of Us Weekly. As for rest of the world? Hollywood has some decent marriage and family therapists… right?
Marriage and family therapists play a key role in helping couples and families stay together—or break up when it’s for the best, offering guidance for how they should. These mental health professionals are essential to what many are calling America’s mental health crisis, and it should come as no surprise to that marriage and family therapists are in seriously high demand.
There are a couple of significant practical considerations:
- A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in social work
- A license to practice or required social work certification
Credentials vary among careers, states, and territories. Licenses include:
- Certified Social Worker (CSW)
- Clinical Social Work Associate (CSWA)
- Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker (LAPSW)
- Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW)
- Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)
- Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
- Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP)
- Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
Most of these licenses require a Master’s or Doctorate, along with additional coursework or clinical internships. ( )
A survey of 2017 social work graduates by the National Social Work Workforce Study found that social workers with Master’s degrees and Doctorates made substantially more than those with no advanced degree. ( )
- People with MSW degrees made $13,000-plus more than those with only BSW degrees
- MSWs make more in large cities or urban clusters
- People with doctorates earned $20,000 to $25,000 more than people with only MSW degrees
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A Master of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) is the degree that leads not only to careers in clinical therapy but to many other related roles, which we’ll dig into later.
MFT-holding professionals are trusted, well-compensated, and generally able to design a stable and satisfying career. In fact, U.S. News and World Report includes marriage and family therapy not only among the Best Social Services Jobs, but also on the overall Best 100 Jobs list. And the perks don’t stop there.
MFT master’s degree programs train students in psychological theory and practice as it applies to couples and family groups of all types. Students learn about clinical treatment, psychological theories, family systems, child and adolescent psychology, psychopharmacology, ethical and legal aspects of counseling, treatment of trauma, and cross-cultural communication, among other things.
The most qualitative programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) and prepare students to pursue state licensure as Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT). Each state’s MFT licensing board dictates the standards for state licensure, usually in accordance with recommendations from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
Applicants often have an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related social science such as sociology or anthropology. Many already have psychology-related work experience, have done related coursework, or have experienced therapy themselves.
To apply to Master of Marriage and Family Therapy programs, you must have completed a bachelor’s degree and the GRE exam. Having work experience or undergraduate training in psychology is not usually an admissions requirement, but it can certainly help your application.
Think that this degree strictly leads to roles within marriage and therapy? While that route is an option, it’s not the only open door. Here are just a few career opportunities you’ll have once your Masters of Marriage and Family Therapy degree is completed. Spoiler alert: variety.
The most obvious and direct career path for graduates of MFT programs. These therapeutic professionals work with couples and families in private sessions to help them learn to communicate in new ways, work through problems, and gain a new appreciation of one another’s perspective. They also help family members with psychological needs—such as depression, anxiety, or mood disorders—access further care to create their own individual treatment plan.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, MFTs bring home a median salary of $50,090, while those in the top 10 percent of pay can earn a median of $81,760. Employment prospects for marriage and family therapists are excellent—they are expected to grow by 23 percent by 2026, which is more than three times as fast as the average U.S. occupation.
Considering that MFT programs offer special training on how to engage with children, MFT degree holders can do well as school psychologists or counselors. School counselors are essential to student success, since they provide them with resources and supports to overcome problems, address psychological or emotional issues, learn good study habits, and pursue higher education.
School counselors can expect a median salary of $56,310, but those in the top tenth of the field bring in roughly $94,690. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growth in job outlook for school counselors is also nearly twice that of the average U.S. occupation; jobs in this role are likely to increase by 13 percent by 2026.
This career focus can be a good match for a graduate with a Master in Marriage and Family Therapy, since social work careers involve work helping people address their problems within the larger context of their families, and even their communities. MFTs are trained to help people gain the skills to prosper mentally and emotionally on a daily basis and maintain supportive relationships with others.
Social workers can expect to earn a median annual salary of $49,470, and may earn as much as $82,000. The prospects for social work jobs are good; they are likely to increase 16 percent by 2026, which is more than twice the average rate of growth for U.S. occupations.
A Master of Marriage and Family Therapy provides excellent training for delving into education and training about health and well-being. Health educators help people understand and take control of their health, while wellness coaches work with clients to take a holistic approach to improving their health, well-being, and lifestyle.
Health educators receive a median annual pay of $54,220, while wellness coaches make an average of $18 an hour, plus bonuses, profit-sharing, and/or commissions. Entrepreneurial types, take note: Either of these types of professionals could earn higher incomes by setting up their own private practice.
Marriage and Family Therapy graduate programs are ideal for anyone who has goals to pursue a career path (or paths) in behavioral sciences—and the degree is likely even more attractive given the promise of job stability and solid earnings come graduation. As for helping couples and families in direct and profound ways? That’s an added bonus.
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