How to Become a Family Counselor: Career Advice & Information

Overview & Salaries


Family counselors help clients overcome mental health problems like anxiety or depression, or behavioral problems such as anger. Family counselors work with clients one-on-one, or work with families in groups, helping to plan treatment and resolve issues, dealing with everything from unemployment to drug abuse to financial issues.


Annual salaries for family counselors will vary depending on your experience, education level, and expertise. In 2012, the average annual salary for family counselors working in the U.S. was $51,690 per year.

For more information on what parts of the country have the most opportunity for family counselors, click through to our Best Places to Work tab for information on the number of people employed and the average salary in each state.


Discover the Best Cities and States to Work in Family Counseling

California is number one in the United States for employment in family counseling, where 5,690 practitioners are currently serving, and earning an average salary of $54,470 annually. New Jersey is second in the nation, with 4,170 family counselors presently occupying positions statewide, and making an annual mean wage of $71,250.

The metro areas employing the most family counselors are:

  • Los Angeles-Long Beach (2,140)
  • New York-White Plains (1,090)
  • Newark (1,070)

The metro areas employing the highest concentration of family counselors are:

  • Salisbury, MD (1.7 jobs per thousand)
  • Camden, NJ (1.36 jobs per thousand)

The metro areas employing the best-paid family counselors are:

  • Raleigh-Cary, NC (average salary $80,310)
  • Salinas, CA (average salary $76,080)

Employment and Salary Information for Family Counselors

Use our interactive map below to find out which areas of the United States are currently experiencing the greatest amount of growth and job availability for graduates looking for a career as a family counselor. The associated information has been gathered from Bureau of Labor statistics, representing data collected in 2012.

Employment and Information Data for Family Counseling

Why Become A Family Counselor?

Counseling can make a great difference to individuals’ or families’ lives. There are plenty of good reasons to want to become a family counselor in particular:

  • Extremely rapid industry growth. Marriage and family counseling will grow by a projected 29% between 2012 and 2022—much, much faster than the average job.
  • Be a specialist. You’ll have generalist counseling skills, plus a deep understanding of families.
  • Life skills. The skills you learn as a counselor, such as listening and conflict resolution, can make your own life better.
  • Helping whole families. Even if you’re treating only one member of a family, the ways you help them will make their partner’s and children’s lives better too.

Family Counseling: What You Need To Know

Family counselors need all a counselor’s skills—the ability to identify a problem, prepare a plan of therapy or treatment, and work sensitively with a client to resolve the problem. They also need to understand family dynamics and be comfortable working with groups in conflict. A working knowledge of these skill sets will help to set you apart from other candidates.

  • Individual Counseling
  • Group Counseling
  • Treatment Plans
  • Psychology / Understanding of Mental Illness
  • Understanding of Family Dynamics
  • Interpersonal Skills

Feel like you’ve got a lot to learn? Get more information about family counseling careers, degrees, and applicable courses from one of the schools below.

Degree Options for Family Counseling Careers

Master’s degree

Generally, those in this field will have a master’s degree in psychology, social work, counseling, marriage and family therapy, or similar field. Family counselors will also need to show familiarity with the culture they intend to specialize in, either through experience or study. Students with a bachelor’s degree in most disciplines will be eligible to go on to a master’s in one of those disciplines.

Most states will also require family counselors to become licensed prior to being able to practice in the field, which often requires counselors to earn a master’s degree and complete between 2,000 and 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Afterward, family counselors who need to obtain their license must pass a state-recognized exam, as well as maintaining their license through yearly continuing education classes.