What Degree is Necessary to be a Marriage and Family Counselor?

Marriage and family counseling can be a very rewarding career for the right people. These counselors focus on working with problems in family dynamics and solving them to bring people closer together. They need to be empathetic, intuitive and very good listeners. The following overview will discuss both what degree is necessary to be a marriage and family counselor as well as other requirements for entering the profession.

Bachelor’s Degree

Marriage and family counselors ultimately need a master’s degree to work in this job. But to get a master’s degree, a student will have to earn a bachelor’s degree first. Students have a lot of flexibility when it comes to what subjects they want to study during their undergrad years. They can get into a master’s program with a bachelor’s degree in just about any subject, so students can simply study what they like. To prepare for a grad school program in counseling or psychology, however, majors or minors in psychology, social work, counseling and communications are all good choices to teach important basics.

Master’s Degree

Once students have a bachelor’s degree, they will then need to go on to obtain a master’s. Most marriage and family therapists get a master’s degree in psychology according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some schools offer specialized programs in marriage and family counseling, which are specialized in this particular field of counseling for students who are sure this is the area they want to go into. Any type of program in counseling or mental health, such as behavioral science, will also be suitable. To get into a master’s program, students will typically need to provide official transcripts from their undergrad program, letters of recommendation, test scores from the GRE and an application fee.


Counselors cannot just start working once they graduate with a degree; they also need to do supervised clinical work. To meet this requirement, they work under a licensed counselor to obtain hands-on experience before they can get their licenses. This is where marriage and family counselors will get to apply the knowledge and theory they have studied in school to real-life relationships and family situations. They gain exposure to working in the core aspects of counseling such as assessments, diagnostics, treatment and case management. These residencies, also called internships, usually last two years. Many students complete internships to meet this requirement while attending school to get their master’s degree.

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The final step to becoming a full-fledged marriage and family counselor is to obtain licensure. This is true in every state. Because this is a license obtained at the state level, there will be different procedures and requirements depending on the state. In addition to the requirements of having a master’s degree and a certain amount of clinical work, requirements usually include passing an exam and completing continuing education requirements every year to remain licensed. Once a license is obtained, a graduate can get a job with a mental healthcare group or go into practice for themselves.

Related Resource: 5 Best Online Ph.D. Marriage and Family Counseling Programs

Both an undergraduate and a graduate degree are required to become a marriage and family counselor in addition to a couple of other steps to obtain full licensure. These steps are often worth it for the privilege of bringing families and couples back together. Marriage and family counseling is a good career choice for those who want to help others.