Do you have a knack for observing people? Do you think honesty is at the foundation of trusting and reliable relationships? And most importantly, do you genuinely care about others? Anyone considering a career in marriage and family therapy should have these skills at the ready—along with a master’s degree, too.
As a marriage and family therapist, you can treat a variety of mental, emotional and behavioral issues, including marital distress and conflict, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder. This, as you provide your clients with a safe and neutral place to talk openly about the issues affecting them.
According to the
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), you must earn a master of marriage and family therapy degree and have at least two years of clinical experience to pursue this profession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that, in addition to your degree, you must hold a license within your state, pass a state-recognized exam, and complete continuing education yearly.
If you decide to become a marriage and family therapist, you’ll be entering a field with promising job opportunities. The BLS estimates that marriage and family therapy jobs will grow by 23 percent by 2026, which is more than three times as fast as the average growth of U.S. occupations. The use of integrated care, where marriage and family therapists work together with other counselors to address issues as a holistic team, is spurring this significant growth. By 2026, another 9,700 jobs should be available, making for a total of 51,200 marriage and family therapist jobs.
While the initial requirements of schooling, licensure, and exams may appear as obstacles on your path to starting your career, once licensed and practicing, you can expect a comfortable salary. According to the BLS , marriage and family therapists made a median salary of $50,090 in 2018. Therapists in the lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,850, while those in the highest 10 percent earned over $82,240.
Salaries also vary according to the industries in which family therapists work. As of May 2017, the median annual wages for the top industries were:
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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To position yourself for higher earning opportunities, it’s important to understand how multiple factors can affect your salary as a marriage and family therapist. If you’re undecided about where you’d like to live and practice, then it’s time to do some research about how job opportunities and average salaries vary from state to state.
As of May 2017, California had the highest number of marriage and family therapy jobs, with a whopping 16,420. New Jersey came in second with 4,220, followed by Florida with 3,290, Arizona with 1,510, and Maryland with 1,317.
What about the highest-paying state for marriage and family therapy jobs? Here’s how those numbers broke down by annual mean wage:
Your local cost of living also affects salary. MIT’s Living Wage calculator determines how much you must make per hour to support yourself in a 40-hour-per-week position in your location. The nine states below and their corresponding costs of living demonstrate the variation that you can see from state to state:
Aside from the cost of living in your region, your work and hands-on experience is also a major factor in determining how much you make in a year. According to PayScale, the average salary for an entry-level licensed marriage and family therapist is about $50,000. Once a therapist has between five and ten years of work experience, that average salary increases to $55,000. For therapists with ten to 20 years of experience, that average increases to $73,000.
While work experience as a marriage and family therapist will lead to higher salaries, it’s not the only way to boost your annual pay. Certification programs, for example, are a great way to develop your expertise in a certain area and diversify the types of therapy you offer. With more skills and specialization, you can qualify for positions that bring higher salaries while also making yourself more competitive among other job seekers.
If you decide to further advance your career, a doctorate in marriage and family therapy can increase your earning potential too. For a graduate with a doctoral degree, the average marriage and family therapy salary increases to $60,000. It’s a degree that opens doors to other high-paying career opportunities, too, such as teaching at a university or working in a clinical supervisor or director position.
On average, it takes between two to three years to earn a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. The exact amount of time will depend on the credit hours a program requires, whether you’re considering study full-time or part-time degree programs, and the number of clinical hours that you must complete. Some programs are available online with low-residency designs, allowing you to continue working while earning your degree.
While it’s important to understand the salary you can expect to earn in this career, you should also know that that it’s a profession with other benefits, too. So, why not consider them? If you’re still on the fence about pursuing your master’s in family therapy, we’re making the case for why you should stop second-guessing—and go for it.
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