How to Become a Marriage Counselor

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A marriage counselor meets with a couple.

Students interested in pursuing a counseling career that allows them to help couples resolve conflicts and strengthen relationships may be drawn to the field of marriage counseling. Professionals who choose this career path help married and unmarried couples address their problems, solve their differences, and communicate more productively. Marriage counselors may work with clients jointly or separately, or in cases in which one partner is reluctant or unwilling to participate in counseling sessions, they may work with clients individually.

Aspiring marriage counselors must start by developing the knowledge they’ll need to pursue their passion of helping others. An advanced education, such as an online Master of Arts in Counseling (MAC), can prepare graduates with the expertise they’ll need to transform lives.

Marriage Counselor Job Description

Marriage counselors help clients overcome problems in their interpersonal relationships. Although the exact marriage counselor job requirements vary based on whether the counselor works individually or in a group practice, common responsibilities include the following:

  • Talking with clients to explore their feelings
  • Helping clients address issues or problems with their significant others
  • Meeting with clients individually and jointly with their partners
  • Educating clients about coping methods, and helping clients determine whether certain coping methods (such as retreating, drinking, or exercising) help or harm their current situations
  • Developing individualized treatment plans for clients
  • Charting and documenting clients’ progress

Marriage Counselor Requirements

Students interested in pursuing this career must hold at least a master’s degree in a related field, such as an online Master of Arts in Counseling (MAC), from an accredited institution and pass a state licensing exam before they can practice. Each state has its own licensing and credentialing requirements, such as the number of supervised clinical hours that aspiring marriage counselors must complete before they can sit for the state licensing exam. For example, individuals interested in practicing in Nevada must complete at least 3,000 hours of supervised clinical hours, while those in Colorado must only complete 2,000.

Marriage Counselor Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that the median annual salary for marriage and family therapists (MFTs), including marriage counselors, was $51,340 as of May 2020; earners in the top 10th percentile reported annual earnings of more than $92,930. The salary range can vary based on factors such as whether an individual works in a group or private practice, experience, and geographical region. For example, the BLS found that while the annual marriage counselor salary in Florida was $42,460 as of May 2020, the annual mean salary for MFTs in New Jersey was $78,960 for the same period.

Employment Outlook for Marriage Counselors

BLS data predicts that positions for MFTs will grow by 16% between 2020 and 2030, much faster than what’s projected for the labor market as a whole, with approximately 8,500 openings for MFTs expected to become available each year. Job growth will be driven by several factors, such as the need to replace workers who exit the labor force for personal reasons, for retirement, or for other professions.

Fundamental Skills for Marriage Counselors

Aspiring marriage counselors should develop various skills throughout their course of study. Examples include compassion skills, interpersonal skills, listening skills, and organizational skills.

  • Compassion skills. Individuals seeking marriage counseling are often under a significant amount of stress. Professionals who choose this career path must be empathic and compassionate to connect with their clients.
  • Interpersonal skills. Marriage counselors work with clients of various ages, socioeconomic statuses, and backgrounds. Professionals with strong interpersonal skills are likely to be most successful.
  • Listening skills. Couples participating in joint or individual marriage counseling sessions need to feel that their therapist understands their problems, goals, and frustrations. Well-developed listening skills are crucial to success in this career.
  • Organizational skills. Marriage counselors often provide services to numerous clients at the same time. They must also keep track of individual and insurance company payments. Professionals in this field must be highly organized, whether they work individually or in a group practice.

Earn a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Become a Marriage Counselor

Students interested in becoming marriage counselors should begin by developing the right knowledge and skills. An advanced education, such as an online MAC from Bradley University, can prepare graduates to help others in impactful ways.

Coursework in Bradley University’s online program includes classes such as Theories and Techniques of Counseling, Counseling Diverse Populations, Assessment in Counseling, and Couples and Family Counseling. Graduates will have the foundation to make a positive impact on the lives of the people they serve.

Are you ready to take the first step toward pursuing your dream of becoming a marriage counselor? Discover how the online MAC from Bradley University can help you make a profound impact in the lives of others.


Recommended Readings

Types of Counseling Careers

Top Counseling Careers: Job Outlook, Salaries, and Qualifications

How to Become a Grief Counselor


American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, Colorado State Resources

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, MFT Licensing Boards

Betterteam, Marriage and Family Therapist Job Description

MightyRecruiter, Professional Marriage and Family Therapist Job Description Template

State of Nevada Board of Examiners for Marriage and Family Therapists and Clinical Professional Counselors, MFT Qualifications to Apply

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Marriage and Family Therapists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics, Marriage and Family Therapists