Family Psychology Careers & Degrees
Families coping with issues such as domestic conflict, tension and anxiety sometimes need outside help to improve communication and relationship dynamics. This is where a family psychology professional can step in and make a difference. Working with families to achieve healthy interactions makes working as a family psychologist an intense but highly rewarding experience.
Even if you already have an undergraduate major in psychology, sociology, or another liberal arts field, you will require specific training at the graduate level to build a career as a family psychologist or a marriage and family counselor.
Most universities offer courses that specialize in family psychology. This field is closely linked to clinical psychology, and a clinical psychology degree program may also offer the opportunity to develop expertise in this area. Your family psychology training will include topics such as the following:
- Couple interaction research
- Couple and family therapy
- Research about stress in relationships
A master degree in family psychology requires at least two years of study and practical experience, plus a master's thesis based on an original research project. You can then choose to go on to earn a PhD in marriage and family counseling, which qualifies you to treat couples and families.
Role of a Family Psychologist
As a family psychologist, you will create programs for diverse purposes such as helping engaged couples prepare for marriage, strengthening married couples' relationships, and assisting parents and children deal with challenging issues. Research is also important in family psychology, because family psychologists need to understand how factors such as lifestyle and work stress can affect relationships.
Family psychology includes research in these areas:
- Couple interaction
- The role of relational quality in managing physical illness
- Child abuse
- Family communications
- Effects of divorce and remarriage
- Coping with stress after relationship upheavals
Salary and Earnings
Your earning potential as a family psychologist depends on a variety of factors, including education level, years of experience, place of employment, geographical location and more. Although predicting your exact salary is difficult, average salary information can give you a guideline for what to expect. In a 2006 survey, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that the average annual salary of family psychologists across all states was $43,210, with the top 10 percent earning more than $69,050 per year.
Outlook for Employment
A bachelor degree in family psychology will give you the foundation you need to pursue employment in fields such as the following:
- Drug/alcohol abuse counselor
- Child welfare caseworker
- Residential youth counselor
- Youth corrections officer
Becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor will expand your career choices significantly, allowing you to qualify for these positions:
- Private practitioner
- Marriage and family therapist
- School psychologist
- School counselor
- Consumer psychology consultant
- Market researcher
Take the First Step
Today's families face many problems, including child behavioral problems and marital stress. Family psychologists help families overcome these problems through therapy and counseling. If you are considering a career in this personally rewarding field, finding the right family psychology school and program is a great first step.