How to Become a Marriage Counselor

Become Team
Become Team
Updated November 17, 2020

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5 Steps to Becoming a Marriage Counselor

Step 1
Earn a relevant bachelor's degree.
Many colleges and universities offer four-year degrees specifically for marriage counseling. These degrees can also be in marriage and family therapy, since the two terms are often interchangeable. Other relevant bachelor's degrees include psychology, social work, or a similar degree. However, almost any bachelor's degree will be sufficient to be accepted into a master's degree program.
Step 2
Earn a master's degree in marriage and family therapy.
Before you can begin your career as a marriage counselor, you're going to need to earn at least a master's degree. Most master's degree programs also offer specializations, so here you can pick a type of marriage counseling that fits best with what you want.
Step 3
Gain clinical experience in the field.
To become a licensed marriage counselor, you will need to gain clinical experience. You'll have to complete somewhere between 2,000-4,000 hours in a supervised setting before you can continue your career path. Expect to earn around 2 years of clinical experience before you're eligible for licensure.
Step 4
Earn licensure in your state.
After finishing your clinical experience and earning a master's degree, you've likely satisfied all the prerequisites for licensure. Keep in mind that licensure varies from state to state, so completing the requirements in one state might not be satisfactory for another.
Step 5
Continue your education to retain licensure.
Some marriage counselors choose to further their education with a doctoral degree. This can expand your field, opening up new opportunities. Also, many states will require you to continue your education to be eligible to renew your license. This varies state to state, and the courses you'll need to take may differ as well.

FAQ on Becoming a Marriage Counselor

Do different states have different requirements for licensure?

Yes, which is something for all students to keep in mind. If you are studying in one state, you'll probably be pursuing licensure there as well. As long as you plan on working in the same state you're studying and earning experience in, this should not be a problem.

Is a doctoral degree required?

No, doctoral degrees aren't required to be a marriage counselor. However, many professionals decide to continue their education and earn a doctoral degree. This allows them to specialize, and sometimes even teach marriage counseling students.

Are family and marriage therapists the same as marriage counselors?

Not necessarily. Marriage counselors will work specifically with couples. Family and marriage therapists may also work with kids that are involved – however, some family and marriage therapists do go on to work only with married couples.

Do I need to specialize to be successful?

While specialization can open new doors and increase your chance for higher pay, specialization is not required for a successful career. With the high projected growth in the field, marriage counseling is looking like a safe position without specialization.

What are some marriage counselor specializations?

Marriage counselors may focus on specific couples, such as newlyweds or homosexual spouses. Also, many Christian schools offer degrees in marriage counseling with an emphasis on Christian faith. Some married couples prefer these types of counselors.

What skills are required to be a successful marriage counselor?

Listening and communication skills are critical to being successful as a marriage counselor. Marriage counselors should also be empathetic and open, listening to both parties involved. Because every marriage is different, critical and creative thinking may be necessary to find the right solution. These are all skills that you should develop throughout your education and clinical practice.

Can I become a marriage counselor if I don't earn a master's in the field?

There are plenty of marriage counselors that earned a master's degree in a field related to marriage counseling, such as psychology or mental health. The only thing future marriage counselors need to worry about is if they've satisfied the education requirements to earn licensure in their state. After that, clinical experience should cover the rest of the prerequisites.

Where do I find work as a marriage counselor?

Many marriage counselors work through government or private organizations, and new positions open up regularly. If you work in private practice, then you'll need to market to find clients.

Marriage Counselor Salary & Job Growth

Anyone considering a career as a marriage counselor is probably interested in how quickly the field is growing. The good news is that wages have been growing steadily over the past decade, and they're expected to continue growing over the next decade. There's also a growing demand for marriage counselors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 23% growth in positions by 2026.

Marriage counselors are either paid an annual salary or an hourly rate, depending on the position they have. In 2017, the median salary for a marriage counselor was $48,790 a year, or $23.45 per hour. As marriage counselors gain more experience, they can start to shift their career into niche fields. Specializations can often lead to higher salaries and better job security.

Alabama

Currently Employed: 210

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12.10%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $39,920

Alaska

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Amount: Mean wage annual: N/A

Arizona

Currently Employed: 1,510

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 25.60%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $64,480

Arkansas

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 19.20%

Amount: Mean wage annual: N/A

California

Currently Employed: 16,420

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 22.00%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $52,090

Colorado

Currently Employed: 770

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 45.10%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $68,200

Connecticut

Currently Employed: 330

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 16.70%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $58,080

Delaware

Currently Employed: 230

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8.30%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $51,100

Florida

Currently Employed: 3,290

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 28.20%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $51,250

Georgia

Currently Employed: 240

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 20.90%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $62,240

Hawaii

Currently Employed: 8

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8.60%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $67,020

Idaho

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 25.00%

Amount: Mean wage annual: N/A

Illinois

Currently Employed: 370

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11.30%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $55,600

Indiana

Currently Employed: 740

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 25.80%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $44,290

Iowa

Currently Employed: 510

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14.60%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $47,710

Kansas

Currently Employed: 240

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Amount: Mean wage annual: $44,020

Kentucky

Currently Employed: 180

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13.60%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $37,340

Louisiana

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 16.00%

Amount: Mean wage annual: N/A

Maine

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): -1.70%

Amount: Mean wage annual: N/A

Maryland

Currently Employed: 1,370

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 34.50%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $49,480

Massachusetts

Currently Employed: 430

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 19.70%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $53,400

Michigan

Currently Employed: 350

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8.90%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $50,180

Minnesota

Currently Employed: 910

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 20.70%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $52,070

Mississippi

Currently Employed: 160

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Amount: Mean wage annual: $38,700

Missouri

Currently Employed: 300

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10.30%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $49,630

Montana

Currently Employed: 30

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Amount: Mean wage annual: $34,050

Nebraska

Currently Employed: 170

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Amount: Mean wage annual: $48,030

Nevada

Currently Employed: 400

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 28.60%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $52,230

New Hampshire

Currently Employed: 60

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14.00%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $41,720

New Jersey

Currently Employed: 4,220

Change in Employment (2016-2026): -8.60%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $74,130

New Mexico

Currently Employed: 70

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15.70%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $55,650

New York

Currently Employed: 970

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 22.90%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $46,400

North Carolina

Currently Employed: 380

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15.20%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $56,010

North Dakota

Currently Employed: 110

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 23.70%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $46,850

Ohio

Currently Employed: 600

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6.70%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $50,140

Oklahoma

Currently Employed: 410

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10.70%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $46,940

Oregon

Currently Employed: 380

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 35.60%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $50,350

Pennsylvania

Currently Employed: 1,340

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15.30%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $54,960

Rhode Island

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Amount: Mean wage annual: N/A

South Carolina

Currently Employed: 60

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 31.10%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $49,430

South Dakota

Currently Employed: 140

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7.80%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $40,080

Tennessee

Currently Employed: 530

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 27.00%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $34,090

Texas

Currently Employed: 970

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 28.50%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $45,160

Utah

Currently Employed: 310

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 36.20%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $53,740

Vermont

Currently Employed: N/A

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Amount: Mean wage annual: N/A

Virginia

Currently Employed: 850

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14.50%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $51,210

Washington

Currently Employed: 250

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15.00%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $45,330

West Virginia

Currently Employed: 400

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14.80%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $42,900

Wisconsin

Currently Employed: 890

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10.40%

Amount: Mean wage annual: $49,310

Wyoming

Currently Employed: 40

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Amount: Mean wage annual: $63,250

The demand for marriage counselors will continue to grow as the population grows. Marriage counseling is becoming more common across the nation, particularly in densely populated areas. While rural areas may not be ideal, large urban areas are bound to see a growing demand for marriage counselors.

Finding a Marriage and Family Therapist Program

The first step to a successful career is finding the right program. Different schools have different programs, and for a career that requires as much education as marriage counseling, choosing the right program is an important step.

When looking for a marriage counselor program, you'll want to consider several factors. As with most programs, cost is a huge consideration. Also, students who need to support a family or earn money while pursuing their degree may want to study online to avoid commuting. Online study can also be more affordable than the traditional on-campus approach. Other students may want to take an accelerated program to minimize the amount of time they spend in school. For those planning on specializing, it's a good idea to find a school that offers degrees, licensure or real-world experience in that area.

Here's something to help you narrow your search for the right marriage counselor program.

Marriage Counselor Associations & Groups

Here are some of the top organizations for marriage counselors:

National Council on Family Relations (NCFR)

The oldest organization dedicated to family relations, the NCFR offers a variety of useful resources to marriage counselors.

International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (IAMFC)

The IAMFC is a go-to resource for all things marriage counseling. On top of marriage counseling publications, the IAMFC organizes conferences for current professionals and students.

Delta Kappa MFT

A college organization meant specifically for marriage and family therapists. Current college students and college graduates are eligible for membership.

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT)

The AAMFT offers online education, webinars and conferences for current marriage counselors, as well as a comprehensive job board.

American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA)

There are a variety of online forums that connect family therapy professionals, including marriage counselors.

European Family Therapy Academy

Anyone who is thinking about moving their marriage counselor career to Europe will want to learn more about this organization. This is also an excellent place to network and communicate with international marriage counselors.

Resources for Marriage Counselors

Whether you're already a marriage counselor or you're planning to become one in the future, plenty of resources are available to help you see where you can take your career. Here are some resources meant for marriage counselors.

Careers In Psychology

An organization that focuses on helping psychologists with their careers. You can find open positions around the nation through their site.

Association of Marital & Family Therapy Regulatory Boards

The AMFTRB offers different charts to let marriage counselors know how to continue their education, earn licensure in another state and more.

Psychotherapy.net

A leader in continuing education for all therapists, you can find resources to help you further your career or gain additional experience.

Lasting: Marriage Health App

What are your current or future clients looking at? There are plenty of marriage counseling apps people use, and they could give you more insight on what people are looking for from a counselor.

O*NET OnLine

Want to know what being a marriage counselor is all about? O*NET breaks down the ins and outs of what a marriage counselor does on a day-to-day basis, from asking clients about feelings to working with medical software.

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