Marriage and Family Therapist Salary and Career Outlook

Marriage and family therapists are mental health care practitioners who diagnose and treat people with marriages or other family issues. Marriage and family therapy (MFT) relies on psychotherapeutic best practices to help individuals, couples, and families through challenges associated with behavioral, cognitive, social, and emotional issues.

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As with many careers in therapy, marriage and family therapist careers will continue to be in high demand over the next ten years. The median annual salary for all marriage and family therapists as of May 2018 was just over $50,000, but the demand and actual therapist salary averages vary by work environment and location.

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Marriage and Family Therapist Careers

Becoming a marriage and family therapist typically does not require a PhD or other doctoral-level degree, but there is still a substantial educational commitment. Like many other careers in therapy, the marriage and family therapy field requires practitioners to hold a master’s degree, complete supervised fieldwork experience, pass a state-issued licensing exam, and continue education efforts.

Once credentialed, an MFT career varies depending on where the therapist practices and what types of patients they see.

Marriage and Family Therapists in Outpatient Care Centers

Many marriage and family therapists practice in private or nonprofit outpatient care centers as part of a team. Many of these centers have programs dedicated to addiction, abuse, and behavioral disorders, as well as traditional individual and group therapy sessions. In outpatient care settings, counselors play a key role in addressing social, emotional, and mental health needs of families, couples, children, and adults. Therapy is usually just one part of a more substantial patient care plan.

Self Employed Marriage and Family Therapists

With a state-issued business license and appropriate MFT credentials, therapists can open a private practice.. Successful marriage and family therapists market themselves well and handle their own accounting and coordinate with insurance companies.Private practice is a popular option for many marriage and family therapists. As of 2016, about 8% of the MFT workforce was registered as self-employed.

Marriage and Family Therapists for Individual and Family Services

Over 2 million people work in the individual and family services industry and approximately 16,000 are marriage and family therapists.

In this industry, therapists work in environments such as:

  • Schools
  • Social assistance services for children, the elderly, or disabled adults
  • Foster care services
  • Homeless shelters
  • Food, clothing, and related assistance centers
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs)

Marriage and Family therapists primarily provide a combination of social assistance and mental health care to ensure the welfare of those they serve.

How Much do Marriage and Family Therapists Make?

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from May 2018, the median annual marriage and family therapist salary differs significantly by industry:

IndustryMedian Salary (2018)
State government (excluding education and hospitals)
Outpatient care centers
Offices of other health practitioners
Individual and family services

Average marriage and family therapist salaries vary by state as well. Therapists working in Hawaii, Maine, Colorado, New Jersey, and Utah can earn over $70,000 per year while the average salary for therapists working in Texas, Kentucky, Kansas, Alabama, and the Dakotas is under $46,000, according to the BLS.

The median annual income of a marriage and family therapist ranges from $31,850 for the lowest 10% to $82,240 for the highest 10%.

Job Outlook for Marriage and Family Therapists

Employment of marriage and family therapists is expected to grow by 23% over the span of 2016-2026. This is more than three times the 7% projected growth of all jobs in the United States over the same time span. The main reasons for this projection is a combination of therapists retiring (or leaving the profession for other reasons) and an increased public awareness of mental, emotional, and social health issues.