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Child and Family Services: Bachelor’s Degree vs. Master’s Degree

Do you feel called to serve and support children and families as they seek greater flourishing in their lives? You’re not alone! Careers in child and family services are constantly evolving and rapidly increasing—providing an array of professional opportunities within the industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of child life specialists is projected to grow seven percent through 2026. From government-run agencies to non-profit organizations, there is a high demand for skilled individuals wanting to make a difference in society by connecting with families and administering resources to support their well-being.

Clearly, there’s a need for qualified, passionate individuals working in child and family services and plenty of opportunities to assist these populations. The job titles within child and family services range from adoption counselor to therapist to family advocate and more. Occupations like childcare director typically require, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree, and more advanced positions such as a marriage and family therapist require a master’s degree.

Do you feel a calling to Child and Family Services—but maybe are uncertain how to achieve it educationally? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ve broken down the differences between a bachelor’s degree in child and family services and furthering your education with a master’s degree.

Getting a Bachelor’s Degree

A Bachelor of Science in Child and Family Services equips students to serve others through their personal and relational matters. Throughout their course work, students evaluate life from intimacy to adulthood and are trained to identify how a client’s emotional, physical and spiritual well-being is being affected by their past and current environment. From family communication, child to adult development and even in crisis and aging, these researched-based programs prepare individuals to improve the lives of children and families and provide them with resources to reach their greatest potential. 

This degree is extremely ‘hands-on’, preparing you with theoretical and academic tactics and tools for day-to-day work with clients. Not only will you gain communication and listening skills needed to excel in the workplace, but tangible steps to help future clients succeed. These programs provide you with a broad scope of various child and family services scenarios and train you on how to best serve them through research and theory-based evaluation.   

With a bachelor’s degree, you meet many of the requirements needed to hold non-clinical entry-level job positions such as an adoption counselor, family resource coordinator,  group home worker and a variety of positions that assist higher leadership roles. Many of these job titles involve working with children and meeting with families to explore how their family dynamics work. As family entities continually evolve, it’s up to these professionals to design and implement a course of action to help. Getting a bachelor’s in child and family services, then, sets you up for success by enabling you to enter your first job with substantial educational and practical experience. 

Taking Your Degree To The Next Level

Earning a master’s degree will inevitably make you a more marketable employee when searching for jobs or wanting to further your career as a supervisor, director or program manager. Not all child and family services positions require a master’s degree. But, many do, creating room for you to explore your passions or choose a specialization while increasing your experience and marketability in a growing career field. 

A master’s program places a greater emphasis on clinical hours and internship opportunities than a bachelor’s. This emphasis enables you to receive more engaging experiences and greater exploration of potential specializations. These personalized degree tracks ultimately provide clarity to your career goals and a realistic look of what your daily duties look like under the guidance and supervision of expert professors and trained professionals.

Many master’s degree students go on to occupy roles such as a marriage and family therapist, child welfare agent, behavior specialist, professor, and more. Most of these positions require one-on-one client interactions within schools, hospitals, adoption agencies, corporate nursing homes and childcare facilities. You must also have a master’s degree and extensive professional experience to have your own independent practice. Working independently takes years of supervision, accreditation, and proof of maintained clinical skills.

Check out our spotlight on ACU Online alumnus, David Ha, to learn more about working independently and how he’s created a successful career for himself through his practice, Counseling at Cornerstone

Accreditation & Licensing

While pursuing your call in child and family services through your degree program, it’s important to know the various accreditation and licensing requirements for marriage and family therapy degree programs.

If you decide to pursue a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, check to see if it’s COAMFTE-accredited. This accreditation ensures that the university is meeting industry standards and ultimately enhances the quality of education and support you receive. In addition, it prepares you to pass the board exams and become a licensed professional. This is not only helpful in aiding your level of knowledge, but will make you stand out as a future candidate in a competitive job market. 

Additional requirements and certifications might also need to be obtained depending on the level of service you provide and the state in which you want to practice. 

No matter which degree path you decide to take, the field of child and family services is in need of trained, empathetic professionals who want to help the families in their communities. At ACU Online, we’re preparing students to fill roles ranging in all levels through our Bachelor of Science in Child and Family Services program and our Master of Marriage and Family Therapy program. To learn more, check out our faculty spotlight featuring program director, Dr. Sara Salkil, or visit for more information. 

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