How to Become a Marriage Counselor
Marriage Counselor Careers & Degrees

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If you have a natural inclination to help other people in stressful situations, then you might like to become a marriage counselor.

Working as a marriage counselor, you will help a couple facing some of the toughest challenges of their marriage.

You’ll need to be patient and understanding, as well as approachable.

When you become a marriage counselor your clients will need to be able to trust you.

A marriage counselor doesn’t just help couples who may be facing a crisis.

They may also see a person for individual counseling, or sometimes other family members who are effected by a break up.

Working as a marriage counselor can be very trying, since not all relationships will survive.

When a couple are able to reconcile, your role can be very rewarding.

Education Requirements to Become a Marriage Counselor

While the requirements to become a marriage counselor vary from state to state, in most places you will require a masters degree in counseling to work in this field.

To start with, you will need to complete a four year bachelors degree with a major in counseling, psychology, or a similar field.

Concentrate on getting good grades so as to gain entry to graduate school.

You’ll then need to go to graduate school to complete a masters degree in counseling.

These programs take two to three years to complete, and they are made up of coursework as well as a component of practical experience.

You will also need to complete an internship where you will work with clients under the supervision of a qualified counselor.

A good idea is to have a specialty within the field of marriage counseling.

Some possible specializations include depression, bereavement, child and adolescent issues, or family therapy.

Gaining some practical experience while studying to become a marriage counselor is also a good idea.

You might volunteer some time working in a hospital or social welfare center.

You could also work for a phone hot line that helps people with mental health issues.

Marriage Counselor Job Description

When you become a marriage counselor your clients could include couples, individuals, families, or even group therapy sessions.

You will apply your knowledge of psychology, mental health, and family systems to help those facing a crisis, or possibly help them to avoid a crisis all together.

A marriage counselor helps improve communication within families.

They help their clients to identify negative or destructive behavior, and to develop strategies to help stop these behaviors occurring in the future.

While traditional counseling involves concentrating on internal conflict or deep seated psychological issues, family and marriage therapy is different, because it concerns the way that people relate to each other.

More emphasis is put on communication and behavior, and the cause behind it.

Some marriage counselors don’t work with clients at all, but may work in education or as a researcher.

Here are some of the tasks of a marriage counselor:

  • Making appointments with clients
  • Speaking with individuals and couples about problems in their relationships
  • Introducing strategies to improve communication and reduce conflict
  • Providing counseling to family members
  • Running group therapy sessions
  • Conducting research and writing papers
  • Taking classes on marriage counseling

Marriage Counselor Salary and Career Path

After you have completed your education you will be ready to begin work as a marriage counselor.

When you become a marriage counselor you will most likely be employed in a hospital, by a social welfare organization or in a medical center.

Usually a marriage counselor works as an employee for some time, later going ton to start their own practice or work out of consulting suites.

Some marriage counselors will move on to other areas of counseling.

Others will work in education, teaching courses in counseling or conducting their own research.

The median salary for a marriage counselor is $49,000 a year.

The top 10% of earners make over $70,000 a year.

The best opportunity to earn a higher income comes from being self-employed.

Some similar roles to that of marriage counselor include:

  • Psychologist
  • Social worker
  • College professor
  • School counselor
  • Occupational therapist
  • Registered nurse

If you are genuinely interested in helping people and have a kind and understanding personality, then you might like to become a marriage counselor.

This area is predicted to have strong growth in the coming years, and will offer plenty of opportunity for qualified candidates.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$54,590
$32K
$37K
$54K
$64K
$87K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$42,480
Alaska$59,040
Arizona$49,100
Arkansas$45,720
California$51,950
Colorado$70,800
Connecticut$54,790
District of Columbia$49,710
Florida$46,330
Georgia$58,840
Hawaii$69,060
Idaho$50,340
Illinois$69,900
Indiana$47,560
Iowa$55,530
Kansas$43,130
Kentucky$42,810
Louisiana$45,260
Maine$71,730
Maryland$48,280
Massachusetts$52,720
Michigan$44,610
Minnesota$61,240
Mississippi$41,620
Missouri$52,020
Montana$46,980
Nebraska$37,180
Nevada$57,020
New Hampshire$46,450
New Jersey$75,930
New Mexico$49,200
New York$49,420
North Carolina$43,700
North Dakota$46,650
Ohio$46,530
Oklahoma$64,040
Oregon$60,160
Pennsylvania$62,140
South Carolina- NA -
South Dakota$40,420
Tennessee$40,520
Texas$50,840
Utah$76,240
Virginia$57,980
Washington$49,700
West Virginia$45,280
Wisconsin$54,390
Wyoming$62,210

The top earning state in the field is Utah, where the average salary is $76,240.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Utah - $76,240
New Jersey - $75,930
Maine - $71,730
Colorado - $70,800
Illinois - $69,900
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Marriage and Family Therapists, OCC Code 21-1013, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a marriage counselor do?

Marriage counselors help couples to identify and resolve conflicts, have an open discussion about conflicting values and habits, and to improve their relationship.

Counselors also help their clients understand their reactions and feelings in difficult situations such as divorce or layoffs.

They analyze the behaviors of all family members, the dynamics of relationships, the needs and expectations of each member.

As a marriage counselor, your role is to offer guidance, to help couples uncover their needs and areas of conflict and tension.

Once the analysis is done, you help couples develop and implement strategies for coping or resolving those conflicts.

The treatment usually consists of individual and group therapy in which you can help your clients improve communication skills or build trust.

The range of psychological problems that can be solved by marriage counselors includes couple conflicts, sexual dysfunctions, parent and child conflict, alcohol and drug addiction, anxiety, and depression.

As a marriage counselor, you will need a variety of skills, including compassion, patience, communication, and listening skills.

QuestionHow much does a marriage counselor make?

The median annual wage for marriage and family therapists was $50,090 in May 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Salaries in this field vary based on a wide range of factors, including the industry and the counselor’s experience.

Counselors working for state government earned $69,900 while those who provide individual and family services earned $44,760.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a marriage counselor?

Most states require a master’s degree in order to become a licensed marriage counselor.

Undergraduate degrees in areas such as psychology, social work, and counseling can be the first step you take on the road to becoming a marriage counselor.

A bachelor’s degree program in psychology, counseling, family therapy can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $60,000 annually, depending on the school you choose and the program itself.

This sum includes tuition and fees, books and supplies.

Your degree must be obtained from an accredited facility approved by the Commission of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

QuestionWhat is the demand for marriage counselors?

Employment of marriage and family therapists is projected to grow 22 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to BLS.

This growth may be explained in part by the fact that more people are becoming aware of their problems and reach out to counselors and therapists in order to help them cope with stressful situations and overcome marriage and family problems.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a marriage counselor?

In order to become a marriage counselor, you will typically need a bachelor’s and a graduate degree.

Earning your bachelor’s degree will usually take you around 4-5 years while master’s degree programs can be completed in approximately 2 years.

After graduating from a master’s or similar degree program, you need to enter into a supervised clinical setting where you will work from 1,500 hours to up to 3,000 hours.

This translates to 2 years of clinical experience before you’re eligible for licensure.

So, in total, you need around 8-9 years of training before being allowed to practice as a marriage counselor.

After meeting the education and experience requirements, you will be able to take the state or national licensing exam.

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