Best Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling Programs of 2022

Many couples and families use counselors for support. Learn more about how a master’s in marriage and family counseling can prepare you for this career.

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by Jenika McCrayer

Published on April 18, 2022 · Updated on May 6, 2022

Reviewed by Megan Pietrucha, Psy.D.

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Marriage and family counseling can be a useful tool for people experiencing conflicts in their interpersonal relationships.

Couples and families may turn to a licensed therapist for support during difficult times. Therapists offer advice and skills to help their clients build long-lasting relationships. The right counselor can help couples and families resolve issues and grow closer to one another.

A master's in marriage and family counseling prepares people to help others at what may be a vulnerable time in their lives. The average cost of tuition for an online master's in marriage and family counseling varies widely. Depending on the school type and required credit hours, tuition may range from $15,000-$55,000 for online programs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), online master's in marriage and family counseling graduates can earn median annual salaries between $33,140-$92,930 as of May 2020. The BLS projects marriage and family therapist jobs to grow 16% from 2020-2030. This projection exceeds the average growth rate of 8% for all U.S. occupations.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Marriage and Family Counseling Program?

Graduates of an online master's in marriage and family counseling must be compassionate and organized and have great interpersonal skills. The degree also hones listening and leadership skills. Empathic people that can communicate effectively are best suited for a master's in this field.

We spoke with Briana Pambakian, an associate marriage and family therapist, who graduated with a master's degree in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University. As a therapist, Pambakian works with individuals, families, and couples. Pambakian completed her master's program online and said, "[It] gave me the ability to work my way up in my career while simultaneously excelling in my education."

The College Board notes that the average tuition for a master's degree at a public school cost $9,000 in 2021-2022. Private schools charged $29,670 on average. An online master's in marriage and family counseling can take up to two years, which is about the same time it would take in an on-campus setting.

Degree-seekers must complete supervised clinical work, also known as internships or residencies. Students learn family therapy, group therapy, and other therapeutic interventions during these supervised sessions.

Students need between 2,000-4,000 hours of clinical work to become a licensed marriage and family therapist. To receive a license, marriage and family therapists must also pass an exam to practice in their state and complete annual continuing education classes.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.

Popular Online Master's in Marriage and Family Counseling Programs

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

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Marriage and Family Counseling Program?

Introduction to Family Therapist Models

Students in this course receive an introduction to major theories and practices within marriage and family counseling. Students learn traditional and evolving methods for counseling couples and families.

Foundations of Mental Health and Family Therapy

This class introduces students to the roles and functions of marriage and family counselors in various settings. Students gain a basic understanding of mental health and family assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

Lifespan Development

Students in this course learn about human development theories from conception to adulthood. Coursework covers the cognitive, emotional, social, and behavioral development of children and adolescents.

Contemporary Couples Therapy

This course provides students with theories on the life cycle of a relationship. Students learn how to assess and intervene as therapists to address a couple's conflicts, communication issues, parenting or child-rearing, separation, divorce, and potential re-marriage.

Alcohol and Substance Misuse Counseling

This class provides students with a comprehensive overview of alcoholism and substance misuse's effects on a family. Students also learn how to provide individual and group therapy treatment methods.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Marriage and Family Counseling Program?

The graduate admission requirements for an online master's program do not differ from those of an on-campus program. Applicants still need to submit an application with the necessary supplemental materials, like an official transcript and essays.

People who wish to earn an online master's degree in marriage and family counseling also need a bachelor's degree. Admission requirements differ by program. Some programs may require additional prerequisites to apply.

Application

The application is often the first step in applying for a master's degree in marriage and family counseling. An application provides basic personal information, educational background, and job history. Unlike undergraduate programs, graduate programs do not have a common application, so each application may differ.

Test Scores

Some colleges require graduate applicants to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Score requirements vary by school. Some graduate programs do not require applicants to take the GRE. When looking for programs to apply to, students should check which programs require the GRE and which do not.

Letters of Recommendation

Most graduate school applications ask applicants to provide recommendation letters submitted on their behalf. Letters of recommendation can come from former colleagues, teachers, and employers.

Recommendation letters are a great way to showcase academic or work achievements. Applicants should give the people from which they requested letters plenty of time to complete them.

Resume and Work Experience

Some graduate programs require learners to submit a resume and any relevant work experience when applying. Applicants should tailor their resumes to highlight the skills each individual graduate program wants to see in their candidates.

Many students have careers before deciding to attend graduate school. Others attend graduate school right after earning an undergraduate degree. Some graduate programs require relevant work experience.

Essays

Essays let applicants highlight their academic and career achievements. Applicants should view essays as a way to tell their story and why they are a good fit for a master's in marriage and family counseling.

Essays can help a student showcase their talents and expertise. A good grad school essay can tip the admissions decision in a student's favor.

Official Transcripts

Applicants to marriage and family counseling programs must send their official college transcripts as a part of their application. They need an official transcript from an undergraduate program to show they meet graduate degree requirements.

Admission officials also use transcripts to determine if applicants can handle master's in marriage and family counseling coursework. Students who have already completed graduate-level coursework can check if the graduate programs to which they want to apply accept transfer credits.

What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Marriage and Family Counseling Degree?

Career Outlook

The BLS projects that the employment of marriage and family therapy professionals will increase by 16% from 2020-2030. The BLS projects the addition of about 8,500 jobs on average each year. Marriage and family therapists earned a median annual salary of $51,340 in May 2020.

Earning an online master's in marriage and family counseling prepares graduates for many community and social service careers. Most new jobs in this field involve counseling, social work, or education. The BLS projects about 346,900 new community and social service jobs from 2020-2030.

In addition, BLS data projects employment in community and social service careers to grow 12% from 2020-2030, faster than the national average of 8% for all careers.

See where a master's in marriage and family counseling can take you. Learn more about counseling careers.

Career Paths

Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapists help couples and families overcome relationship challenges. These therapists pinpoint issues and give couples and families the skills to overcome them. Some marriage and family therapists can practice with a master's degree, while others may choose to earn a postdoctoral degree.

Median Annual Salary: $51,340

School and Career Counselor

School and career counselors help students choose a career path by developing the necessary academic and social skills. These counselors typically work in high schools and colleges and assist students in selecting careers that are best suited for them. Some states may require more educational experience and certifications to hold these positions.

Median Annual Salary: $58,120

Medical and Health Services Managers

Medical and health services managers coordinate business activities in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and group medical practices. Master's in marriage and family counseling degrees prepare students to help people through stressful times in their life, such as transitioning to a nursing home.

Median Annual Salary: $104,280

Social Worker

Social workers help others deal with and resolve challenges in their lives. Social workers can work in many settings, including schools, clinics, and community-based organizations. Clinical social workers may be able to diagnose and treat mental and behavioral conditions but may need additional licensure to do so.

Median Annual Salary: $51,760

Psychologist

Psychologists observe and interpret people's behavior to understand how they relate to each other. Psychologists can work in schools, hospitals, or private practices. Generally, psychologists need a doctorate and licensure to practice, but requirements may vary slightly by state.

Median Annual Salary: $82,180

Marriage and Family Counseling Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

Online master's in marriage and family counseling degree-holders commonly pursue a doctoral degree. Some professions, like a psychologist, require a doctoral degree and licensure to see clients.

Graduates with a master's in marriage and family counseling may choose to earn a postdoctoral degree in psychology-related careers. Students with a master's in marriage and family counseling may also choose to take a state licensing exam if they wish to counsel people.

How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Marriage and Family Counseling Program?

Cost

Some online degrees may cost less than studying on campus. But some graduate programs may charge fees for learning online. When looking for an online master's in marriage and family counseling, learners should compare true program costs.

Program costs differ depending on a school's status as public or private and if students apply to in-state or out-of-state schools.

Program Format

Briana Pambakian suggested that students applying to online master's degrees in marriage and family counseling consider their personal learning style and how much time they have to pursue a degree. Pambakian said she "specifically chose to pursue the degree online to better handle working full time."

Students who also want to work full-time while attending graduate school may prefer an asynchronous program. Whereas, a live, synchronous learning environment may better suit other learners.

Location

Online programs offer students flexibility in where they live and attend school. Students should research any on-campus requirements when choosing an online program.

Some students do not know if they can network in an online program, but Pambakian said that she was pleasantly surprised at the strong connections she was able to make with her cohort and professors while learning online.

Accreditation

College accreditation is awarded to institutions that follow a set of quality standards. The U.S. Department of Education has a database of accrediting agencies for higher education institutions.

Accreditation gives schools access to state and federal government funding. Accredited institutions can also accept transfer credits from other accredited schools. Employers may prefer employees who hold degrees from accredited institutions.

Students who wish to find an accredited online master's in marriage and family counseling can find them through the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. Learners can also browse the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs for accredited master's in counseling programs.

Student Support

Students may wonder if online learning will feel like real school. Pambakian said, "Yes, 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." Pambakian was also pleased with the support she received from the other students in the program.

When researching online master's in marriage and family counseling programs, see what online student services learners can access. Student services include mentorships, career services, and tutoring programs.

Degree-seekers who choose a nearby program may also access on-campus student resources.

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

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#1 Online College in California

Touro University Worldwide

School Information
Location Los Alamitos, California
Graduation Rate 100%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 98% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online

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

Credits to Graduate
72 (clinical track)
54 (nonclinical track)
82 (licensed professional clinical counseling track)

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

Touro University Worldwide offers an online master's in marriage and family counseling. Degree-seekers can choose between three tracks: the clinical track, the non-clinical track, and the licensed professional clinical counseling track. For all tracks except the non-clinical track, students must complete 500 practicum hours. During the practicum, candidates work directly with clients under supervision. 

Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores. Not including practicum credits, the program accepts up to 12 transfer credits from equivalent master's-level programs. Admission requires a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA or a 2.75 GPA or above in graduate coursework.

#2 Online College in California

Northcentral University

School Information
Location La Jolla, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

100% Online | Self-Paced and Scheduled Classes

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

Credits to Graduate
45

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

Northcentral University's online master's in marriage and family therapy prepares learners to seek state licensure. After completing the first six required courses, students begin working with local clients under supervision. They also engage in weekly online practicums with faculty members and peers. 

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree, but do not need to submit standardized test scores. Prior education in a related field can benefit students, but the program does not require a specific undergraduate major.

#3 Online College in California

University of Massachusetts Global

School Information
Location Irvine, California
Admission Rate 89%
Graduation Rate 60%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 96% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online and Hybrid | Self-Paced and Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $680
Out of State | $680

Credits to Graduate
69

Program Information
Regional Accreditation | Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

UMass Global (formerly Brandman University) offers a master's in marriage and family therapy and professional clinical counseling. The program helps prepare graduates to work in diverse clinical settings. Notable course topics include history and foundations of therapeutic practices, couples therapy, and clinical issues in human diversity. 

Applicants must submit an autobiographical essay, but do not need standardized test scores. The program may not accept applicants from all U.S. states. Prospective students can contact a UMass Global enrollment coach to find out if they meet residency requirements.

#4 Online College in Virginia

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Self-Paced and Scheduled Classes

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

Credits to Graduate
60

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

Liberty University's online master's in marriage and family therapy requires two on-campus intensives. Students must also complete a practicum and an internship. Featured courses cover group counseling, couple and marital counseling, and substance abuse. 

Reflecting Liberty's Christian affiliation, the master's in marriage and family therapy teaches students to incorporate faith into their practice. Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a GPA of 2.7 or above.

#5 Online College in California

Palo Alto University

School Information
Location Palo Alto, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 32% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Online with Some On-Campus Requirements or Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $544
Out of State | $544

Credits to Graduate
93

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

Palo Alto University (PAU) delivers its master's in counseling program in both online and hybrid formats. Online learners must attend two on-campus training experiences. All students complete practicums or internships in their local communities. Degree-seekers can choose between a marriage, family, and child emphasis and a clinical mental health emphasis. 

Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school along with a minimum 3.0 GPA. PAU also recommends work or volunteer experience in the mental health field.

#6 Online College in Wisconsin

Concordia University-Wisconsin

School Information
Location Mequon, Wisconsin
Admission Rate 64%
Graduation Rate 64%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $646
Out of State | $646

Credits to Graduate
36

Program Information
Regional Accreditation | Higher Learning Commission

Concordia University-Wisconsin, a Lutheran university, offers an online master's in education with a family life emphasis. This counseling-oriented program teaches students to bring a Christian perspective to family challenges. 

Required courses explore professional ethics, human development, family resource management, and human sexuality. Electives include individual counseling and group counseling. Students must complete 120 practicum hours. 

Applicants need a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Admission does not require standardized test scores.

#7 Online College in Alabama

University of West Alabama

School Information
Location Livingston, Alabama
Admission Rate 35%
Graduation Rate 35%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 77% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online 

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

Credits to Graduate
33

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

The University of West Alabama's online master's in family counseling does not prepare graduates to obtain licensure as therapists or counselors. Rather, the program benefits degree-seekers who already hold licensure, or who do not need a counseling license where they intend to work. 

Required courses cover educational statistics, marriage and family therapy, and educational research techniques. Electives address topics such as lifespan development and psychotherapy systems. 

Applicants receive step-by-step guidance from an enrollment counselor.

#8 Online College in Texas

Abilene Christian University

School Information
Location Abilene, Texas
Admission Rate 61%
Graduation Rate 61%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 37% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online or On Campus

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

Credits to Graduate
60

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

Abilene Christian University offers a master's in marriage in family therapy online and on campus. This program helps graduates prepare for clinical, medical, and counseling work in secular and religious settings. 

Course topics include family theory, couples therapy, and cultural diversity in family therapy. Degree-seekers can choose a general concentration or select a specialized focus. Specialized tracks include child and adolescent therapy, medical family therapy, therapy with military families, and treatment of trauma. Applicants must demonstrate high moral standards.

#9 Online College in Texas

Houston Baptist University

School Information
Location Houston, Texas
Admission Rate 71%
Graduation Rate 44%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 40% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

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

Credits to Graduate
60

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

Houston Baptist University's master's in marriage and family therapy features online coursework and two weeklong on-campus intensives. Students complete a three-semester, 700-hour supervised practicum. The curriculum includes core courses in professional counseling and marriage and family counseling. Degree-seekers choose between elective courses in human sexuality or gender issues and differences. 

The application requires written responses to a series of questions. Applicants may choose to attend a virtual interview or submit a video response to interview questions.

#10 Online College in Alabama

Amridge University

School Information
Location Montgomery, Alabama
Graduation Rate 33%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

100% Online

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $675 (full time), $750 (part time)
Out of State | $675 (full time), $750 (part time)

Credits to Graduate
60

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

Amridge University's online master's in marriage and family therapy helps prepare students for licensure as marriage and family therapists in their home states. By taking more courses, learners can also seek professional counseling licensure. 

Required courses examine topics like ethics and professional identity, human sexual development, and counseling for abusive relationships. Degree-seekers must also complete a practicum and clinical training. 

Students can apply and register through Amridge's secure online portal.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Marriage and Family Counseling Programs

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

Yes. People interested in helping others navigate relationship and family challenges benefit from a master's in marriage and family counseling. The degree may be worth it if you still want to work full time while in school like Pambakian did. Before pursuing this degree, Pambakian also suggested that students ask themselves the following questions:

  • "Do I prefer in-person or online learning?"
  • "Do the classes sound interesting?"
  • "Does it allow me to keep my current position or life role?"
  • "Am I ready to start?"
What can I do with a master's in marriage and family counseling? true

Online master's in marriage and family counseling program graduates can pursue a career helping couples and families resolve conflicts. Degree-holders can become licensed marriage and family therapists, but they can also begin careers in various related fields. Examples include careers as a social worker, school counselor, or addiction counselor.

Are marriage and family counseling graduates in demand? true

The BLS projects a faster than average growth rate of 16% for marriage and family therapists between 2020-2030.

BLS data also projects over 340,000 new jobs in community and social services from 2020-2030. Community and social service careers include social worker, teacher, and addiction counselor. The BLS projects social worker jobs to increase by 12% and addiction counselor jobs to grow by 23% during the same time.

How much money can I make with a master's in marriage and family counseling?

Graduates who become marriage and family therapists earned a median annual salary of $51,340 in May 2020. Other community and social service occupation professionals made a median salary of $47,520 in May 2020. These salaries exceed the median annual wage of $41,950 for all occupations.

Marriage and family counseling professionals can make more money if they pursue a doctoral degree. Salary also depends on industry, work experience, and location.

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

Many things factor into how much you will make when you earn an online master's in marriage and family counseling. Experience level and whether you work in the public or private sector impact your salary.

Professionals who work in a private setting may make more money than those in public service careers. In the public sector, marriage and family counselors made the most money in state government, with a median wage of $78,450 in 2020. Those who worked in outpatient care centers made a median salary of $55,690 the same year.

With Advice From

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 suffering from 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.

Image Source: Renata Angerami, Getty Images

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