How to Get a Masters Degree in Marriage Family Therapy

Are you interested in obtaining your master’s degree in marriage and family therapy (MFT)? Earning your master’s in this growing field will provide you with the skills and knowledge to help individuals, couples, and families to deal with their emotional and relationship problems. You can begin your educational journey by learning what an MFT is, how long it takes to get it, what you will study, career options, and more.

Most master’s in marriage and family programs take two years to earn on a full-time basis. This master’s program teaches students to devise a theoretical approach towards treating clients and patients – this is known as ‘systems theory.’ Graduates learn to provide therapy by focusing on the mechanics of human relationships related to marriage, the family, and other groups.

An MFT graduate diagnoses and treats mental and emotional problems that go beyond the individual. MFTs usually offer marital counseling, group therapy, and family interventions.

If you want to earn your MFT degree, you will generally need to follow the steps below.

Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

Most professionals who eventually earn their MFT get a bachelor’s degree in psychology, family studies, or related fields. You can expect coursework in these areas at the undergraduate level:

  • Psychology
  • Human and lifespan development
  • Human behavior
  • Marriage relationships

It can also benefit you from taking several communications and public speaking courses; therapists need to be excellent communicators.

After you earn your bachelor’s, you will need to apply to marriage and family therapy master’s programs. Most of these programs are competitive and want a GPA of at least 3.0. You may need to provide GRE scores, references, and related work experience.

Sponsored Content

Earn Your Master’s Degree

Most MFT programs offer graduates a master of arts or master of science degree. Most of the coursework in these degree programs are in three major areas:

  • Marriage and family studies
  • Marriage and family therapy
  • Human development

Family studies classes cover many types of families and related emotional and relationship issues. Some universities may offer courses that focus on the needs or urban or rural populations.

SEE ALSO: List of Best Online MFT Programs With No GRE

Human development classes center on the individual and family life cycle development throughout the years. Classes in abnormal psychology and psychopathology are standard. You can expect at least one course in the program to study DSM-based diagnoses. Some MFT programs allow you to focus on a concentration, such as substance abuse and addiction.

Below are some of the required courses in online MFT programs:

Liberty University

  • Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment Planning in Family Counseling
  • Advanced Couple and Marital Counseling
  • Human Sexuality
  • Counseling Children, Adolescents, and Families
  • Substance Abuse: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention
  • Theories of Counseling
  • Group Counseling
  • Psychopathology
  • Theories of Family Systems

Capella University

  • Couple and Family Therapy
  • Assessment, Tests, and Measures for Marriage and Family Therapy Practice
  • Psychopathology: Diagnosis and Treatment of Behavior Disorders
  • Impact of Addiction and Addictive Behavior on Family Systems
  • Professional Ethics in Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Couple and Marital Therapy
  • Marriage and Family Therapy Theory and Practice
  • Working With Families Across the Lifespan

In addition to completing your program’s course requirements, you must have a supervised practicum or internship where you practice your clinical skills for one or two years. You will need 2,000 to 4,000 of supervised clinical experience, depending on the state.

Earn Your License

All marriage and family therapists in the United States must have a license to practice. After you complete your 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical practice, you can sit for a state-recognized examination.

The Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards Examination in Marital and Family Therapy helps state examiner boards to evaluate the MFT knowledge of each candidate for licensure.

The test has 180 multiple choice questions in these areas of knowledge that are critical in the practice of marriage and family therapy:

  • Practice of Systemic Therapy
  • Assessing, Hypothesizing, and Diagnosing
  • Designing and Conducting Treatment
  • Evaluating Ongoing Process and Terminating Treatment
  • Managing Crisis Situations
  • Maintaining Ethical, Legal, and Professional Standards

Gain Work Experience

Once you have graduated from your master’s program and passed your examination, you have your MFT license. Next, you will start looking for your first MFT job. Some employers desire candidates with two or three years of work experience.

SEE ALSO: How to Become a MFT Marriage Family Therapist

New graduates can acquire experience by finding a paid MFT trainee position. You may find such positions at schools and healthcare facilities. Most trainee positions require an MFT degree and license but no experience.

Job Demand and Salary

Earning your MFT degree and license is worthwhile. The median salary for MFTs is $49,600, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also, the top 10% can earn more than $87,000.

SEE ALSO: How Much Do MFT Marriage Family Therapists Make?

If you are interested in a higher salary, consider working in these industries:

  • State government: $72,200
  • Outpatient care centers: $52,100
  • Individual and family services: $45,600
  • Offices of other health practitioners: $45,100

Job demand for MFTs is growing, with a 22% increase in jobs expected through 2028. Growth will occur because of the greater use of integrated care, which is treating several problems at once with a group of healthcare specialists.

What Experts Say

To learn what the experts have to say about how you get a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, as well as what it’s like to be an MFT, we checked our sources:

  • “I entered a master’s program in marriage and family therapy after receiving a bachelor’s degree in psychology. The program was in the same college as family and consumer science, so some graduate programs may consider your bachelor’s degree as being in a related field, just as my psychology degree was. If so, your path to acceptance in a graduate program will be easier. If not, you may be required to take a certain number of classes in a related field before you can apply.” – Bob Short, M.S. Marriage and Family Therapy, Auburn University.
  • “It is hard work as you really have to concentrate on a lot of different things happening at once. You do not have time to sit back. It is also interesting and when you can help, it is very rewarding. As you are working right in the middle of what is difficult in real-life relationships, you learn a great deal.” – Alyss Thomas, Lecturer and Tutor.
  • “I do couples therapy frequently. Couples are often hard to work with because with their intimate other, people often act out their limitations. Each person often wants the therapist to “fix” their partner rather than buckle down and change what they themselves are doing that contributes to the couple’s difficulties. I have studied couples therapy and learned a lot about how to be more effective with couples, but it is still hard work.” – Ann Veilleux, Psychotherapist.
Sponsored Content


Getting your master’s in marriage and family therapy is a good education and career decision. Job demand is rising quickly in this field, and the salaries are solid. If you are passionate about helping individuals and couples solve their relationship problems, there has never been a better time to become a marriage and family therapist.