How to Become a

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)

The complete career guide to be a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT): salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $53,520
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 14.8%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Growing Industry
    Career Attribute

Marriage and family therapists are mental health counselors who help people repair and strengthen relationships with their spouses, partners, children, and other family members. They listen to patients to understand what issues they’re experiencing, and guide them toward behaviors that strengthen bonds.

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What is a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in marriage and family therapist roles:

  • Engage in counseling sessions with patients individually, as a couple, or as a family
  • Encourage patients to share their thoughts and feelings openly during sessions in order to best evaluate patient needs
  • Educate patients on strategies for overcoming discord, repairing relationships, and maintaining a pleasant home environment
  • Refer patients, when needed, to other services when counseling and behavior modifications are insufficient at treating issues
  • Help patients better understands the needs of the people they share homes with

A Day in the Life

Marriage and family therapists are mental health counselors who’ve chosen to focus their efforts on strengthening and repairing the bonds between members of a family. They may conduct individual, couples, or family counseling sessions, but in each session, the goal is to treat relationships over individuals. They do this by working to understand family dynamics and roles, and use their training and experience to identify issues and offer solutions for resolving those issues and improving home life.

When working with patients, marriage and family therapists listen to patients in order to understand and evaluate needs. They may look for signs of stress, abuse, psychological disorders, or substance abuse that could be causing or contributing to discord in the family. Their goal is to arm patients with strategies for overcoming these issues and dealing with partners and children in a healthy—rather than destructive—manner. This may include thought and behavior modification or continued counseling.

When a marriage or family therapist suspects abuse or neglect, he/she may work with social workers to investigate suspicions further. Additionally, the therapist may refer patients with treatable psychological disorders to psychiatrists who can prescribe medications that may improve conditions. Marriage and family therapists may work with couples before they get married to solidify the marriage decision, after marriage to repair bonds when things aren’t working, or after divorce to help people move on.

Typical Work Schedule

Most Marriage and Family Therapists have a full-time schedule of 40 – 50 hours but the schedule is typically flexible to accommodate the needs of the clients. Different types of clients may have different available hours depending on their working and family schedule. The majority of marriage and family therapists use appointment reservation system to manage their schedule with the clients. This could, in rare cases, mean working on evening and weekends. Experienced therapists with large number of clients may also need to increase the total number of working hours per week to accommodate the larger number of clients. It should be noted that therapists have some commitment to clients who started treatment with them and cannot simply end the treatment at any time.

Projected Job Growth

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, the demand for marriage and family therapists is expected to increase by at least 22 % from 2019 to 2029. This is one of the highest projected growth compared to all other jobs which is directly related to the social changes that happened during the recent years. It is also attributed to the rising use of integrated care which is a relatively new trend in therapy where multiple specialists will hand multiple problems at one time. It is estimated that 50% of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce or separation. This divorce rate ranks the U.S. as the third highest country regarding the divorce rate. These numbers highlight the need the significance of the problem and the need for marriage and family therapists.

Typical Employers

Marriage and family therapists may work in different settings including therapy centers that provide individual as well as family therapy services, substance abuse services and other mental health services. You may also work with organizations or authorities focused on child abuse or domestic violence which is usually directly related to underlying family problems. You may also work in specialized offices of other medical organizations and outpatient care centers. Many of these options include state or federal entities. Another popular option is private practice which requires enough experience and patience to build your own network of clients and connections.

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How To Become a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)

The first step in becoming a marriage and family therapist is earning a bachelor’s degree. Degrees in psychology, counseling, or social work are common for aspiring family therapists. Because you’ll also need to earn a master’s degree to work as a therapist, many pursue bachelor’s degrees in social work because they allow you to gain some experience in the field while pursuing a master’s degree. With a bachelor’s in social work, you can find entry-level positions working with families and children.

The next step in your career trajectory is to earn a master’s degree. Master’s degrees in psychology are common, but a program in marriage and family therapy may provide more detailed education in your core subject area. A master’s degree will be required to earn therapist licensure, which is required to practice as a therapist in all states. After earning a master’s degree, you’ll need to begin the process of becoming licensed to work as a marriage and family therapist.

Licensure procedures vary by state, but typically require completion of as many as 2,000 hours of supervised training under a professional therapist as part of an internship or residency, and passing a written exam. Additionally, continuing education is commonly required in order to maintain your license. After earning your therapist license, you should be able to find work with local family services agencies or through another provider who’s seeking to add a family therapist to his/her practice.

Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)'s can make an average annual salary of $53,520, or $26 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $37,500 or $18 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #349 Nationally for All Careers

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)s

  • 5.4%   Doctorate
  • 48%   Masters
  • 25.1%   Bachelors
  • 5.4%   Associates
  • 10.1%   College
  • 5%   High School
  • 1%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 5,000 jobs for a total of 38,700 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 14.8% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #107 Nationally for All Careers

What Companies Employ The Most Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT)s

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
State government, excluding education and hospitals 5,300 100 0%
Outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers 4,300 1,400 1%
Offices of mental health practitioners (except physicians) 2,300 900 1%

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