Best Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling Programs of 2023

Marriage and family therapy is one of the fastest-growing fields. Explore our top-ranked online master's in marriage and family therapy programs.
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  • Marriage and family therapy is one of the fastest-growing fields.
  • Marriage and family therapists help people get through challenging times in their lives.
  • Becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist requires a master's degree.
  • Online master's degree programs make it easier to manage work and school.

The people around us make a big difference in our lives and mental health. But when those relationships are damaged, life can get tough.

Marriage and family therapists can help with that. They get intimately involved in people's lives and help them through those challenging times.

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Ready to Start Your Journey?

If that interests you, a master's degree in marriage and family therapy (MFT) is a good next step. It's what you'll need to become a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT).

Here's how to get started:

  • Explore this page to decide if marriage and family therapy is a good choice for you.
  • Check out the top-ranked online master's degree in marriage and family therapy programs, as well as our sponsored programs.
  • Request more information from schools you're interested in to find the best fit.
“I absolutely love [being a marriage and family therapist]. I feel like making a mid-life career change to something that I can use my lived experiences and my education therapeutically to help others is quite empowering. I see things through a systemic lens and find it incredibly rewarding to be witness to the growth and change individuals and couples are wanting to make. It brings me a lot of joy.”

Lindsey Ferris, master of science (MS) in marriage and family therapy

What Is a Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) or Family Counseling Master's Degree?

  • What the Degree Is About: Helping people identify and fix their marital, family, and personal issues using theories, research, and clinical training
  • How Long It Takes: About two years (full time) or three years (part time)
  • Good Qualities to Have: Compassion, interpersonal skills, listening, organization, and communication
  • Career Path: You can work in marriage and family therapy, social service and mental health agencies, college counseling centers, hospitals and clinics, and private practices.
  • Keep in Mind: Couples and families are a focus of the degree, but you'll also learn to help individuals with various behavioral, mental health, and social issues.

Popular Online Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, financial aid availability, and more by contacting the universities below.

Why Should I Get an Online MFT or Marriage Counseling Master's Degree?

Let's face it: Getting your master's degree can be tough. It takes at least two years of theory, research, and practice, along with hundreds of hours of clinical training.

Getting your degree online can make it easier, especially for working adults. You can balance work and other responsibilities with your studies. And you have the flexibility to take classes at your preferred pace to help you avoid burning out.

But what's it like taking online classes? Here's what you can expect:

“It is just as it would be in person. There is a professor who lectures, and there are discussions, breakout groups, group projects, and overall engagement.”

Briana Pambakian, master of arts (MA) in clinical psychology (emphasis in marriage and family)

Check out the benefits of an MFT or marriage counseling degree and reasons to get it online:

Benefits of a Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy or Marriage Counseling

  • High projected job growth
  • Work in a variety of fields
  • Clinical training
  • Qualify for licensure
  • High personal satisfaction
  • Can open a private practice
  • Transferable career skills
  • Boost your lifetime earning potential

Reasons to Get Your Degree Online

Still undecided? Pambakian suggests these questions to get an idea of what you might want:

  1. Do I prefer in-person or online learning?
  2. Do the classes sound interesting?
  3. Does it allow me to keep my current position or life role?
  4. Am I ready to start?

Best Accredited Online Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling Programs

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#1 Best Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling Programs of 2023

Liberty University

  • Lynchburg, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $565
Out of State | $565

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Institutional Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Liberty University hosts one of the country's best marriage and family counseling programs, giving you the skills needed to help families, couples, and individuals. You'll get the chance to complete your master of arts in family and marriage therapy mostly online. Keep in mind that the program requires you to attend two on-campus intensive sessions in Lynchburg, Virginia, bringing you together with classmates and professors.

To apply to the program, you must hold a minimum 2.7 undergraduate GPA. You'll also need to submit a statement of purpose and contact information for two professional references.

Average Tuition
In-state
$14,791
Out-of-state
$14,791
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
50%
Students Enrolled
93,349
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
93% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#2 Best Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling Programs of 2023

Northcentral University

  • La Jolla, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $913
Out of State | $913

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education

In Northcentral University's marriage and family therapy master's program, you'll choose from 10 specialization options, including child and adolescent family therapy, general family therapy, or LGBTQ couples and family therapy. The master of arts in marriage and family therapy program can also prepare you for licensure in many U.S. states.

To apply, you must submit undergraduate transcripts, a current resume, and a statement of purpose. As an online learner, you'll also need to submit a list of possible clinical sites in your community where you can perform internships and other required clinical placements.

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,064
Out-of-state
$11,064
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
12,471
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#3 Best Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling Programs of 2023

Palo Alto University

  • Palo Alto, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $566
Out of State | $566

Credits to Graduate
94.5 quarter credits

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

One of the top marriage and family counseling programs in California, Palo Alto University's graduate degree can train you in recovery-oriented treatment methods. As a student in this master of arts in counseling program, you'll complete both online coursework and extensive clinical training in your own community. 

To apply to PAU's program, you must submit official undergraduate transcripts, a resume or CV, and a statement of purpose. You'll also need three letters of recommendation from former professors or other professional supervisors who know your work.

Average Tuition
In-state
$17,627
Out-of-state
$17,627
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
1,163
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
48% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#4 Best Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling Programs of 2023

Touro University Worldwide

  • Los Alamitos, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $500
Out of State | $500

Credits to Graduate
54-82

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education

One of the country's top marriage and family counseling programs, Touro University Worldwide's fully online degree can train you to provide holistic treatment to couples and families. As part of the master's in marriage and family therapy curriculum, you'll choose one of three specializations in clinical, nonclinical, or licensed professional clinical counseling.

To apply to TUW, you'll need a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA. The marriage and family therapy program also charges a $25 application fee.

Average Tuition
In-state
$14,400
Out-of-state
$14,400
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
2,131
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
99% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#5 Best Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling Programs of 2023

Abilene Christian University

  • Abilene, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $825
Out of State | $825

Credits to Graduate
60 credits

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education

Home to one of the country's top Christian family therapy programs, Abilene Christian University is an excellent choice if you're a Christian student. As a marriage and family therapy master's candidate, you can choose from four concentration options, including general therapy, child and adolescent therapy, therapy with military families, and treatment of trauma.

To apply to ACU's program, you must submit undergraduate transcripts, a statement of purpose, and three letters of recommendation. You may also need to complete a video interview if you move forward in the application process.

Average Tuition
In-state
$37,750
Out-of-state
$37,750
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
63%
Students Enrolled
5,291
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
42% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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#6 Best Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling Programs of 2023

Houston Christian University

  • Houston, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $585
Out of State | $585

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Institutional Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

If you're looking for hands-on therapist training, the marriage counseling program at Houston Christian University — formerly Houston Baptist University — offers 700 hours of supervised practicum hours, preparing you to pursue state counseling licensure. You can complete most coursework for the master of arts in marriage and family therapy program online. But state mandates require you to attend some in-person courses on the campus in Houston, Texas.

To apply, you must submit your undergraduate transcripts and a statement of purpose, along with a resume and references. If you make it to the second phase of applications, you'll also need to complete a virtual interview.

Average Tuition
In-state
$32,350
Out-of-state
$32,350
Retention Rate
71%
Admission Rate
72%
Students Enrolled
3,963
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
45% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#7 Best Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling Programs of 2023

University of West Alabama

  • Livingston, AL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $429
Out of State | $429

Credits to Graduate
33

Program Information
Institutional Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

If you're looking for one of the most affordable marriage and family counseling programs, the University of West Alabama boasts some of the lowest tuition costs in Alabama. The master's in family counseling is a nonlicensure program, so you should only apply if you already hold professional licensure or plan to pursue careers that don't require a counseling license.

To apply to UWA's online program, you'll need to submit undergraduate transcripts, though the school doesn't maintain a specific GPA requirement.

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,100
Out-of-state
$18,200
Retention Rate
63%
Admission Rate
93%
Students Enrolled
5,734
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
82% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#8 Best Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling Programs of 2023

Amridge University

  • Montgomery, AL
  • 4 years
  • Online

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $675
Out of State | $675

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Institutional Accreditation | Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Amridge University offers one of the top marriage and family counseling programs in Alabama, preparing you to practice as a therapist or move into doctoral studies after you graduate. As part of the master of arts in marriage and family therapy curriculum, you may be able to earn dual certification in both family therapy and professional counseling.

To apply to Amridge's marriage counseling program, you'll need to submit your official undergraduate transcripts. The school doesn't hold specific GPA requirements for graduate applicants.

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,000
Out-of-state
$9,000
Retention Rate
50%
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
775
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

What's the Difference Between Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling?

You often see marriage and family therapy and counseling mentioned interchangeably. Both deal with similar mental health conditions, but what's the difference?

In general, counseling offers counsel and support, usually on a specific issue, and focuses on solutions. Therapy treats deeper and more complex issues over a longer period.

“I was drawn to marriage and family therapy due to the systemic nature of the approach to therapy and knew it was a fit for me when researching several therapy-based degrees.”

Lindsey Ferris, MS in marriage and family therapy

What Jobs Can I Get With an Online Master's in MFT?

Marriage and family therapy isn't your only career path. You'll have many options in different fields with a pay range of $48,520-$74,000 and high projected growth over the next 10 years.

Here are five popular jobs you can get with a master's in marriage and family therapy:

5 Popular Jobs for a Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy
Job Median Salary (May 2021) Job Growth Rate (2021-31)
Social and Community Service Manager $74,000 12%
School and Career Counselors and Advisors $60,510 10%
Social Worker $50,390 9%
Marriage and Family Therapist $49,880 14%
Addiction Counselor $48,520 22%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Much Does a Master's in MFT Cost?

The median annual cost for an online graduate degree in social or behavioral sciences is $8,120, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. It's cheaper than the average annual cost of a graduate degree:

  • $12,394 at public institutions
  • $26,621 at private institutions

Ways to Fund or Save Money on My Online Degree

You can't put life on hold while you're in school. Costs for tuition, fees, and even hidden college costs, such as textbooks and emergency expenses may start to add up.

Want to fund or save money on your education? Here are a few ways:

  • Credit for Prior Learning: Use your college-level experience and skills — such as military experience, exam scores, certifications, and workplace training — to graduate faster.
  • Financial Aid: Apply for scholarships and grants to lower the cost of your education.
  • Transfer Credits: Transfer past credits to fulfill specific degree requirements.
“Think about what you are going to do with this degree. Are you interested in private practice? Working for an agency? Research the pay scales in your area and get a full understanding of what you can expect to make in this career and if the cost of the education makes sense, especially if you are taking [out] student loans. Additionally, make sure any program, whether in person or online, meets the accreditation requirements for your state's licensing board.”

Lindsey Ferris, MS in marriage and family therapy

Top-Paying States for Marriage and Family Therapists
State Annual Mean Wage (May 2021)
Utah $86,490
New Jersey $81,330
Colorado $73,040
Minnesota $68,660
Nevada $66,600
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Admission Requirements for MFT Programs?

You'll need some things before you can enroll. The requirements for a master's in MFT differ for each program but can include:

  • A bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution
  • Major in family studies, human services, social work, sociology, psychology, or the equivalent
  • Grade point average of 3.0 or better in all courses
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Acceptable scores for entrance exams
  • Application fees

Beyond the Master's Degree

Once you have a master's degree, the next step is to get licensed. To do that, you need to do the following things:

  1. Pass the MFT National Examination
  2. Meet the required number of supervised clinical experience hours in your state

The MFT National Examination, which costs $365, has 180 questions that check your knowledge and experience. If you pass, it means you're qualified for entry-level positions in any state.

A practice test can help you prepare. The Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards, which develops and manages the national exam, has other resources to help you on its website.

Next, you'll need to meet the requirements for clinical experience.

Keep in mind that each state has different requirements for licensure. For example, the requirements in Washington state include:

  • 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience
  • 500 hours of direct client contact, including diagnosing and treating families and couples
  • 100 hours of supervision with an LMFT with at least five years of clinical experience

Once you pass the exam and get the right number of clinical hours, you'll be ready to become an LMFT.

Frequently Asked Questions About Marriage and Family Counseling

Is a master's in marriage and family therapy worth it?

Yes. A master's in MFT comes with many benefits. After graduation, you'll qualify to become a licensed marriage and family therapist. Plus, the BLS projects jobs for marriage and family therapists will grow by 14% from 2021-2031, which is much faster than the 5% average for all jobs.

You can also use the skills and knowledge you gain from the degree in other fields. Graduates work in social service and mental health agencies, college counseling centers, hospitals and clinics, and private practices.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in marriage and family therapy?

Becoming a social and community service manager is one of the highest-paying jobs you can get with an MFT master's degree. These professionals earned a median salary of $74,000 per year in May 2021, and the BLS projects the field to grow 12% from 2021-2031.

What skills do you need to be a marriage and family therapist?

You need interpersonal, communication, listening, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills as a marriage and family therapist. You need to understand what's going on in people's lives and how they relate to those around them. You'll need to identify what's causing issues, treat problems, and guide clients during tough times.


With Advice From:

Portrait of Lindsey Ferris

Lindsey Ferris

Prior to therapy, Lindsey Ferris (#MG61349807, NPI #1316608433) was a business owner in the tech space managing event production and project management for fortune 500 companies, as well as creating a technology startup with applications that worked with cell phones. During her time working in these high-pressure, stressful, and fast-paced environments, she saw the positive power that good therapy can have on a person's mental, physical, and relational health. In mid-life, she decided to pursue her desire to become a psychotherapist and went back to school to pursue a master's degree in marriage and family therapy at Capella University. Today, she's the owner of Talk. Heal. Thrive. Psychotherapy, PLLC. Ferris works with individuals (adults and teens), and couples struggling with a variety of life and relational challenges. She focuses on validation and understanding clients' perspectives and lived experiences.

She was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and has identical twin teenage daughters. She's an avid DIYer and artist and enjoys being outdoors, walking, hiking, and biking.

Portrait of Briana Pambakian

Briana Pambakian

Briana Pambakian is an associate marriage and family therapist (AMFT #123149) who graduated with a master's degree in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University. As a psychotherapist, Briana specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, and dealing with the stress of taking on life roles. She assists with developing healthy coping strategies, creating healthy boundaries, and highlighting strengths for clients to develop their insight.

She has experience working with multiple county-contracted mental health agencies. She also currently works as a director of a nonprofit that specializes in caregivers dealing with a family member living with Alzheimer's and dementia. Additionally, she works at Heal the Hurt Counseling, a trauma-informed private practice where she works as an associate therapist, supervised by Lara Mekhitarian (LMFT #78395).

As a therapist, she works with individuals, families, and couples, and is currently trained in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing as an added specialty in her practice.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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