Do Family Counselors Need to Have Degrees?


Family counseling can be a very helpful tool for putting broken family relationships back together. Family counselors work with married couples going through rough times. They counsel with parents and adolescents together, or even with individuals who need relationship help. As for their education and training, it varies.

Relationships & More is a family counseling clinic in Rye, New York. Rye is a Westchester County town located north of New York City. If you were to seek counseling from them, you would likely work with a licensed clinical social worker with an advanced degree. But that may not be the case with another counseling clinic.

As a general rule, there are no degree standards for family counseling. Whether or not counselors earn advanced degrees depends on their licensing and clinical status. And of course, states have different rules when it comes to counseling.

Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees

Secular counselors almost always have some sort of degree. An Associate’s degree is the bare minimum, though most state licensing programs require a Bachelor’s degree. Someone seeking an Associate’s degree would do so in order to get a foot in the door while working on a Bachelor’s.

Counselors can earn Bachelor’s degrees in a number of related fields. Psychology and counseling are the starting point. From there, students can pursue areas of interest including addiction, family therapy, etc. In states that allow licensure with just a Bachelor’s degree, undergraduate students can get to work within 4 to 6 years.

Advanced Degrees

The best someone with a Bachelor’s degree can do is become a licensed counselor. This is not a clinical position. To become a licensed clinical social worker, clinical psychologist, etc., an advanced degree is required. That means a Master’s degree at minimum. A Master’s degree requires an additional 30-60 credits on top of what was earned in a person’s Bachelor’s program.

Some Master’s students go on to obtain a doctoral degree in counseling and psychology. Earning a doctoral opens the door to all sorts of advanced careers, including forensic psychology and clinical psychology.

Faith-Based Counseling Services

Everything discussed to this point has related to secular counseling that might be obtained in a private clinic or hospital setting. But not all family counseling occurs in such settings. Churches and other religious organizations offer faith-based family counseling as well.

Faith-based counseling offered by a non-church religious organization may be subject to state licensing and certification rules. But when offered as a ministry of an established church, it is exempt from state and federal regulation. Therefore, faith-based counseling may not always be conducted by a licensed and degreed professional.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Faith-based counseling has a legitimate place at the family counseling table. Furthermore, some denominations and independent churches only allow ordained ministers to offer counseling services. Your typical minister received at least minimal counseling training in seminary.

Certifications vs. Degrees

There is one last thing to consider before closing this post: the differences between certifications and degrees. A counseling certification is essentially an acknowledgment that a counselor has undergone additional training related to a particular topic or discipline. Certifications are earned above and beyond degrees. For example, you may have a licensed family therapist who wants to offer addiction counseling. They would get that extra certification.

When all is said and done, there are no degree standards for family counseling. Nearly all family counselors have at least a Bachelor’s degree. Many go on to earn Master’s or Doctoral degrees. There are no worries about qualifications as long one works with a licensed counselor or ordained minister.