Marriage and family counseling -- also referred to as family therapy -- is a branch of mental health counseling that explores interpersonal issues within the household dynamic. This form of counseling is rooted in the theory that individual clients benefit from a group-based therapy setting involving couples, children, parents and, in some cases, extended relatives. Like other mental health counselors, marriage and family counselors must earn a license to practice in all 50 states.

With a master's degree in marriage and family counseling, you can heal and nourish relationships for generations to come.

Many licensed marriage and family counselors begin their career by earning a master's degree from an accredited college or university. Master's degree coursework in this field will tackle several key topics, including psychopathology, addiction and substance abuse and the various laws and ethics that guide modern counseling. Students will also review case studies and learn about different methods and techniques for marriage and family counseling; most master's programs also require students to complete a set number of supervised fieldwork hours and participate in clinical residencies. Many of today's students are choosing to earn their master's in marriage and family counseling online. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of job opportunities after graduation. The asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule and convenient, study-from-home format are also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other responsibilities that could possibly interfere with campus-based learning.

Learn more about what you can do with an online master's in marriage and family counseling and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.

Will an Online Master's in Marriage and Family Counseling Program Provide Me With the Skills I Need to Advance My Career?

A master's degree is considered the educational minimum for licensed marriage and family counselors. The best online master's in marriage and family counseling programs will prepare students to work in private practice, or offer their services in a hospital, clinical or educational setting. As the degree program progresses, clinical residencies and supervised fieldwork courses will give students the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge they have gained in a supervised, real-world counseling environment.

Will an Online Master's in Marriage and Family Counseling Program Work With My Schedule?

Master's in marriage and family counseling online programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional college education. Students are able to download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors at their convenience. Current technology also allows them to study away from their home computer using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other portable devices with Wi-Fi capabilities. For added convenience, online master's students can usually coordinate fieldwork, clinical residencies and other onsite requirements at locations that are reasonably close to their current residence.

What Jobs Can I Get With My Master's in Marriage and Family Counseling?

Students who graduate with a master's in marriage and family counseling must then earn a license in the state where they plan to practice. Licensure requirements vary by state, but typically include at least 2,000 hours of supervised post-degree training, a passing score on a state-issued exam and annual continuing education courses.

What Are the Best Online Master's in Marriage and Family Counseling Programs?

Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online master's in marriage and family counseling programs in the United States. If you are considering an online master's in marriage and family counseling, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.

Rank School Cost Enrolled Online Description Toggle
1 Touro University Los Alamitos, CA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 100%

Touro University's master of arts in marriage and family therapy (MFT) program is 100% online, and offers three different tracks designed to meet individual students' needs: non-clinical, clinical, and licensed professional clinical counseling (LPCC). The program is 54 credit hours with additional work being required of students who choose the clinical and LPCC track. Touro strives to accelerate the admissions process. The online MFT program does not require the GRE or any on-ground course commitments. The program is also approved by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences; graduates are eligible for MFT Licensure in California without additional coursework.

Touro University is a nonprofit institution that offers a range of online programs at every education level, focusing on a combination of cutting-edge knowledge and practical experience to prepare students for high-powered leadership. The school's faculty members are committed to social justice, intellectual pursuit, and philanthropic duty, delivering liberal arts education in a global-minded setting.

2 Palo Alto University Palo Alto, CA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 36%

Palo Alto University is a private nonprofit institution founded in 1975, originally known as the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology. Its master’s program in marriage, family, and child counseling is available online and prepares students to pursue licensure as marriage and family therapists.

This CACREP-accredited program emphasizes scientific research and analysis with a comprehensive clinical training regimen. This program produces clinical professionals who use science-based practices that meet the highest possible standards within the industry. An undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher is recommended for admission, and students without an undergraduate degree in psychology should take four extra prerequisite courses to prepare for this program.

While earning their master’s in marriage and family therapy online, students also participate in a clinical practicum. They must complete at least 700 hours of counseling experience within a nine- to 12-month period, including 280 hours of direct counseling. PAU offers guidance to students as they select their practicum site with mental health agencies, school-based mental health facilities, and nonprofit counseling centers.

3 Pepperdine University Malibu, CA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 21%

Pepperdine University, located in Malibu, California, offers a master of arts in clinical psychology with an available emphasis in marriage and family therapy. The program is available on a full- or part-time basis to students seeking an online master’s in marriage and family therapy.

Pepperdine’s program gives individuals the training and experience needed to work in community, educational, or government settings as counselors and therapists. Coursework covers topics in counseling, clinical psychology, and marriage and family therapy. Throughout the program, students gain significant experience in clinical settings under the supervision of faculty.

This MFT program meets all licensure requirements for students to become a Licensed marriage and family therapist or a licensed professional clinical counselor in California. The training and education they receive will also prepare them for doctoral programs in these fields. Applicants must have a BA or BS degree in a closely related field and submit their GRE scores for consideration.

4 University of Colorado Denver - Anschutz Medical Campus Denver, CO Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 25%

The Anschutz Medical Campus at the University of Colorado Denver is known for its combination of world-class research, education, and patient care. At this facility, the university offers an MA in counseling with a concentration in couple and family counseling/therapy. It is available for students seeking an online master's degree in marriage and family therapy.

The program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. It features rigorous coursework, along with practicum and internship experience designed to prepare students for licensure eligibility. All students engaged in a practicum get in-person counseling experience in the university’s counseling center, along with live supervision and constant feedback from faculty and licensed clinicians.

The program requires 63 credit hours to ensure the fulfillment of all CACREP standards. Coursework includes general family therapy introductory courses, in addition to more specific topics like sex therapy, counseling adolescents, mental health diagnoses, and multicultural and diversity issues in counseling individuals and families.

5 California State University - Northridge Northridge, CA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 14%

CSU-Northridge is nestled in the heart of the San Fernando Valley of California, serving nearly 40,000 students. The university offers an MS in counseling with an option for students to earn an online master’s degree in marriage and family therapy.

The program prepares students for licensure as marriage and family therapists and as a professional clinical counselors in California and most other states. Its cutting-edge curriculum teaches important professional skills to students preparing to work in public mental health agencies, community organizations, hospital settings, schools, and private agencies. Specific areas of focus include strength-based approaches, evidence-based practices, and therapy development.

Coursework covers several clinical specialties, such as working with children and adolescents, couples, sexual abuse, substance abuse, career interventions, and severe mental illness. Opportunity exists for extensive practicum experience under professional supervision within the first year of the program. Students must have earned at least a 2.5 GPA in their previous 60 semester hours of undergraduate studies to be admitted.

6 Dallas Baptist University Dallas, TX Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 43%

With its strong focus on faith and Christian teachings, Dallas Baptist University offers a master's degree program in family ministry that prepares individuals for careers in marriage and family therapy. This university is a great choice for faith-driven students seeking to earn a master’s in family counseling online.

According to the university, family ministry is a “growing trend and powerful tool in contemporary ministry”, as it helps strengthen family units. The program prepares students to minister to the needs of many different 21st century family situations, and its graduates often go on to serve in churches or faith-based organizations. Therefore, the program is uniquely designed for those who wish to go into family counseling.

The 36-hour MA program consists of 18 hours of core requirements, 15 hours of family ministry requirements, and three hours of electives. Students may take these courses online or in a hybrid classroom/online arrangement.

7 John Brown University Siloam Springs, AR Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 48%

Located in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, John Brown University is an interdenominational Christian institution of higher learning. It offers an MA program in marriage and family therapy, allowing students to earn their master’s in family counseling online.

The MFT program is the largest and oldest counseling program at the university. It prepares students to embark on successful careers in family counseling due to its combination of classroom instruction and practical clinical experience. Students will conduct live therapy sessions while getting feedback from peers and faculty to help them become better counselors. The program has a unique focus on Christian values, and faculty commits to the spiritual and academic growth of each person.

The program averages about 220 students pursuing the degree at any given time. The faculty comprises men and women with extensive training and years of practical experience in the field. These professionals keep up with emerging research and have even innovated the field in their own ways.

8 Lancaster Bible College Lancaster, PA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 0%

LBC's MA in ministry degree features a concentration in formational children and family ministry. Most courses are taught from a Christian perspective, and students are encouraged to think and live from a biblical perspective. Distance learners benefit from the school's approach to learning, which has made it one of Pennsylvania's most respected marriage and family therapy master’s programs online.

In this formational children and family ministry program, students study God’s vision for families and find the tools they need to address many of the most common issues facing modern families. The program is offered in an accelerated, cohort-based format, allowing students to complete their degrees without having to uproot their home lives. Most courses are six weeks long, including five weeks of online coursework and two days of residency.

Capstone options for the program include two mentored field-based experiences or a ministry research project. The average completion time for the 48-credit hour program is one to two years.

9 Fresno Pacific University Fresno, CA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 43%

Fresno Pacific is a leading Christian university known for its innovative programing. The school offers an MA program in marriage and family therapy, which enables students to pursue their master’s in family counseling online.

This MFT program prepares students with all the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in a clinical counseling setting. The program combines psychological theory, theology, personal formation, and professional practicum work.

The program encompasses 65 credits in a blended delivery mode. There are numerous, diverse practicum opportunities for individuals to get practical experience during their training, as they are supervised and advised by faculty and professionals. There are also options to study in Israel each summer and the opportunity to attend a Hispanic Summer Program.

The MFT program is fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, while Fresno Pacific University receives regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

10 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 96%

Liberty is the world's largest, Christian, nonprofit institution among online universities, offering more than 250 programs of study. For its accredited online programs in helping professions, the school is ranked among the top five in the U.S. The master of arts in marriage and family therapy has a foundation in individual and group counseling theories, practical experience, and integrating faith into counseling practice. It's a 60 credit hour program; up to 15 credits can be transferred in. The program is offered completely online, with residential specializations offered through five on-campus intensives.

Students of the MFT online program have several opportunities to engage with the school away from campus. Liberty invites students to join the online student union, access resources in the online writing center, and use apps like Blackboard Mobile Learn and SchoolsApp. Online students are encouraged to visit the campus in Lynchburg, Virginia, where they can build one-on-one relationships with classmates and faculty.

11 City University of Seattle Seattle, WA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 43%

City University of Seattle is an affiliate of the National University System. The school provides high-quality educational opportunities to students from around the world, offering flexible scheduling, multiple locations, and hundreds of online classes. Students attending the university have an opportunity to earn their master’s degree in marriage and family therapy online through the school’s counseling MA program, consisting of 90 required credits.

The marriage, couple, and family counseling concentration meets all educational requirements for licensure as a marriage and family therapist or a mental health counselor. Core courses emphasize research, theory, ethics, and human development, covering a broad range of issues to prepare students for real-life counseling situations. Such issues include group counseling, family therapy, psychopharmacology, trauma and violence, grief and loss, and addiction counseling.

Students also have practicum and internship opportunities that offer direct supervision by experts and faculty. This allows learners to observe and train alongside their highly skilled instructors and implement their knowledge in practical settings.

City University of Seattle is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs.

12 Concordia University - Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 98%

Concordia University-St. Paul was founded in 1893 as a Christian liberal arts institution focused on preparing students for meaningful and successful lives and careers. The school offers an MA program in family science, with options for students to earn their master’s in family counseling online.

The university's family science program consists of 36 credit hours, which students take in seven-week terms. It prepares future family counseling professionals to work with societal issues affecting the family, such as education, economics, gender, sexuality, parenting, and work-family issues. The program aims to address issues like unemployment, substance abuse, child abuse, and domestic violence from a perspective that places the family and individual into the context of larger societal systems.

Students must have earned at least a 3.0 cumulative undergraduate GPA to be admitted into the program. Online students must have access to a computer that meets the university’s technological requirements.

The program is approved by the National Council on Family Relations, and graduates become certified family life educators.

13 Western Seminary Portland, OR Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 45%

Western Seminary serves students seeking coursework with deep roots in biblical theology. The school offers an MA in marriage and family therapy, providing students an opportunity to earn a master’s in family counseling online.

This respected MFT program provides counselors with all the training and skills they need to care for the person as a whole, enabling them to excel in church, private practice, school, or agency settings. Students must complete at least 30 hours of personal counseling. Because it's a seminary-based program, students also must partake in theological and biblical studies to help them integrate a Christian worldview into their professional lives.

The program meets all California Board of Behavioral Sciences requirements for licensed marriage and family therapists allows students to obtain licensure as professional clinical counselors in California and most other states. Graduates may complete the program in as few as 36 months, and 24 of the 72 required credits are available completely online.

Western Seminary has several locations along the West Coast, including Portland, San Jose, Sacramento, and Seattle.

14 LeTourneau University Longview, TX Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 94%

Le Tourneau University offers an MFT degree online and on campus at the school's Dallas-Fort Worth location. The program is offered in a hybrid format; courses will be done both online and on-campus. Students have a unique opportunity to make a difference in the community, as Dallas leads the U.S. in divorce rates.

The online MFT program focuses on supplementing classroom education and hands-on experience, offering internship opportunities and a counseling practicum. Students are also exposed to the finer details of being a therapist, like appearing in court and writing treatment plans. The main three areas of the program are clinical psychology, applied theology, and clinical training – meaning that students are trained to be practicing theologians as well as clinicians. Students can choose from two licensure specializations: the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) specialization or the Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).

15 University of West Alabama Livingston, AL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 93%

The University of West Alabama was founded in 1835 as a church-affiliated female academy, now accepting both men and women alike while providing small class sizes to its students. The university offers an MS in family counseling, with a distance education program that allows students to earn their master’s in family counseling online.

The online program focuses on systematic approaches to family counseling, with an emphasis on non-pathology based approaches to understanding the dynamics of families and how to effect change. Students learn from licensed psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and professional counselors within the faculty. The program features 33 credit hours of coursework, with eight-week terms.

UWA, based in Livingston, Alabama, accepts transfers of up to nine hours at the graduate level for matching courses.

The University of West Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

16 Concordia University - Wisconsin Mequon, WI Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 43%

Located in Mequon, Wisconsin, a community just north of Milwaukee, Concordia University-Wisconsin offers a world-class education with a Christ-centered approach. Within the flexible online programs offered at Concordia University, students can earn their master’s in marriage and family therapy online.

Concordia believes that healthy families play an important role in the development of a healthy society. Prospective counselors participate in an entirely online program that holistically addresses the most critical skills and knowledge needed to help families thrive. Internationally recognized instructors lead instruction, and graduates earn certification as family life educators.

Coursework include 36 credits of core courses and electives that cover topics, such as contemporary family and parenting issues, Christian perspectives of family development, human sexuality, marriage and family relations, and family life education methods. Students must also complete a graduate capstone project where they examine various problems in school administration, curriculum, organizing, planning, and evaluating.

Concordia University-Wisconsin is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

17 Indiana Wesleyan University - Marion Marion, IN Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 5%

Indiana Wesleyan is a private Christian university founded in 1920 with a commitment to liberal arts and professional education. The school offers an MA in marriage and family counseling/therapy degree with a digital option, allowing students to earn their master’s in marriage and family therapy online.

This 60-credit hour program takes a holistic approach to family counseling issues, with students engaging in both classic systemic models and contemporary approaches of counseling. The school offers a state-of-the-art research and therapy center, through which students experience various learning environments that include internship placements, practicum experience, and standard coursework.

MFT students must complete at least 100 practicum hours and 900 internship hours of direct client contact in a supervised environment. Students need a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher for admission. They also must have taken at least 30 credit hours, including six credit hours in psychology (three in abnormal psychology) and six credit hours in biblical studies.

The marriage and family therapy program at Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

18 Abilene Christian University Abilene, TX Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 67%

Abilene Christian University is a diverse Christian school with faith-based education and a vibrant student community. This Texas-based university offers a variety of respected graduate programs, including an online master’s in marriage and family therapy.

Students in ACU’s 60-credit MFT program receive practical training in areas, such as couple, family and child therapy, substance abuse and addiction, and diagnosis and assessment. In addition to standard coursework, students engage in practical experience through internships that last a minimum of 500 hours. Students typically graduate in 32 months.

Some examples of courses include family theory, couples therapy, cultural diversity in family therapy, and systemic diagnosis and assessment. Students also have the opportunity to add a specialization in medical family therapy, which is a rapidly growing area of interest in the field of mental health. This specialization can be earned through an extra 11-month, 15-credit certificate program.

Abilene Christian University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

19 Messiah College Mechanicsburg, PA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 92%

The CACREP-accredited MA in counseling at Messiah offers specializations in clinical mental health, school, marriage, couples, and family counseling. The marriage, couple and family counseling track is 30 credit hours and prepares students for the licensed marriage and family therapist exam. A Certificate of Advanced Graduate studies in counseling is available for students who have earned a master's degree. Each degree track supports a flexible work-life balance by offering the majority of the curriculum online, with a few one-week sessions at the school's Pennsylvania campus. Class sizes are small, to encourage relationship building between students and faculty.

Messiah College upholds a reputation for nationally-ranked academic excellence and fostering personal growth, allowing students to become skilled practitioners with a strong sense of identity. The school's faith-based distinction attracts 2,800 students every year, creating a compassionate Christian community -- both online and on-campus -- that integrates faith and learning. Messiah has rolling admission dates.

20 Regent University Virginia Beach, VA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 92%

Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia is a Christian college that combines knowledge and faith with a mission of developing “Christian leadership to change the world”. The university offers an MA in marriage, couple, and family counseling, which can be earned through Regent’s master’s in marriage and family therapy online program.

The university's counseling program equips future counselors with the skills needed to pass marriage and family therapy licensing examinations and serve as outstanding therapists. This program combines progressive counseling techniques and hands-on clinical fieldwork, all with a faith-centered approach. Students learn to apply systematic research and theories taught by experienced faculty who also supervise practicum coursework.

The program is accredited by CACREP in accordance with the Commonwealth of Virginia and the majority of other states.

21 Amridge University Montgomery, AL Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 100%

The online master's in marriage and family counseling, within the school of human services, focuses on marriage and family therapy theory, scientific research, and clinical practice. Graduates will be prepared to either advance to the PhD program, or do therapy in church settings, or other professional settings. The program is 60 credit hours and includes courses in ethics, basic counseling, family therapy, and psychotherapy. Students will complete a capstone course during their last semester. The program takes seven semesters to complete.

With many programs based completely online, Amridge is an established leader in online education. They're committed to academic excellence, distance education, and spiritual vitality. Amridge teaches programs in five schools through Blackboard platforms, supporting each curriculum with an extensive online library and a career services portal. For students who visit the campus, there are also University Chapel services and meetings available for practicing faith.

22 Lee University Cleveland, TN Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 21%

Lee University is a faith-centered liberal arts campus located in Cleveland, Tennessee. The school offers an MS in marriage and family studies, with an option to earn a master’s in marriage and family therapy fully online.

The program comprises a minimum of four semesters of approved study. Most full-time students complete the program on a two-year track, during which they complete a minimum of 36 semester hours. Coursework includes preparation for students in the areas of human growth and development, systems theory, research, and human sexuality. While the program is not required for licensure, it is ideal for students who wish to work in administrative roles in church-based family ministries or at family service agencies. The thesis option is typically chosen by students considering doctoral degrees in family studies.

Upon completion of the program, students can administer programs that support families in a variety of settings, demonstrate knowledge of human development, communicate with diverse cultural groups, interpret and evaluate key research data, and demonstrate an appreciation of and sensitivity to the various spiritual needs of individuals and families.

Lee University is accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

23 Southern California Seminary El Cajon, CA Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 21%

For 70 years, Southern California Seminary has offered higher learning rooted in Biblical education. The school's online options include a master of arts in marriage and family therapy (MAMFT). The degree prepares students for licensure to treat couples and families in California. Students in the 78-credit MAMFT learn how to tailor family systems theories and other empirically validated treatment theories and techniques to treat each client. The curriculum requires a Biblical foundation, which includes the study of hermeneutics and the theological foundations of counseling.

Core courses of the online master's degree in marriage and family therapy immerse students in the study of counseling theory, counseling techniques, psychopathology, crisis intervention, psychological testing and application, and theories of marriage and family therapy. Licensure by the Board of Behavioral Science requires coursework such as the ethics of sexual care and human sexuality and alcohol and substance abuse. Students also complete a three-part practicum to be eligible for licensure. Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree, school transcripts, and an entrance exam.

24 Houston Baptist University Houston, TX Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 25%

Houston Baptist University's programs integrate academic and professional development with spiritual formation. The Christian college enrolls 3,000 students on campus and through the school's virtual arm. HBU's master of arts in marriage and family therapy (MA-LMFT) provides learners with the educational requirements necessary for eligibility as a licensed marriage and family therapist in Texas. Faculty deliver the program mostly online with some required on-campus classes.

The 60-credit master's in family counseling online covers topics such as cultural psychology, measurement and appraisal, methods and techniques in counseling, and theories of counseling and psychotherapy. The core includes a series of courses that examine counseling theories and techniques specific to marriage and family counseling. The MA-LMFT also requires a three-semester, supervised practicum that consists of more than 700 hours in a counseling setting. Students must pass the MFT jurisprudence exam and complete 3,000 hours of supervised work experience for licensure eligibility. Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree, school transcripts, and the GRE.

25 Prescott College Prescott, AZ Cost: $$$$$ Enrolled Online: 100%

Tucked away in central Arizona, Prescott College offers flexible degree options with customizable curriculums and an emphasis on experiential learning. Students enroll in the master of science in clinical mental health counseling to be eligible for credentialing as a licensed therapist. Students customize the degree with one of several emphasis areas such as marriage, couple, and family counseling.

The 60-credit program includes a core that explores subjects such as human growth development; counseling theories; marriage, couple, and family counseling; chemical dependency and substance abuse; and psychological testing and appraisal in counseling. Students can use the elective requirement to focus on a specific area of the field. In addition to coursework, learners must complete a practicum, internship, and other licensure requirements such as the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Exam. Faculty teach courses online but require students to attend an on-campus orientation at the start of the program and a colloquium once per semester. Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree and school transcripts.

How Long Is an Online Master's in Marriage and Family Counseling Program? 18 months to 2 years
Program Costs $25,000 to $50,000
Concentrations Mental Health Counseling, Addiction/Substance Abuse Counseling, Youth Counseling, Career Counseling, Pyschology, Sociology
Accreditation Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)

Job Placement: Master's in Marriage and Family Counseling

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for marriage and family counselors is quite strong. Roughly 168,200 licensed marriage and family counselors are currently employed in the U.S.; this number is expected to climb 19% between 2014 and 2024, resulting in more than 31,000 new jobs nationwide.

How does marriage and family counseling stack up to other careers in terms of job placement? The following table looks at unemployment rates for marriage and family therapists, along with six related job titles. All seven professions listed on the table were included on the 'Best Social Service Jobs' list published by U.S. News & World Report in 2016.

Occupation Unemployment Rate (2016)
School Psychologist 1.8%
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor 3.3%
Marriage and Family Therapist 3,3%
School Counselor 3.3%
Clinical Social Worker 3.4%
Clinical and Family Social Worker 3.4%
Mental Health Counselor 7.2%

Source: U.S. News & World Report

As the table shows, marriage and family therapists face the same unemployment rate as school counselors and substance abuse/behavioral disorder counselors. The average unemployment rate for all professions listed is 3.7%; by comparison, the national unemployment rate for all industries currently sits at 4.6%.

Earning a Living

In addition to more favorable job placement rates, graduates with a master's in marriage and family counseling enjoy relatively high earning potential. According to the 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report, these degree recipients earn a median annual salary of $43,000 during their first five years and $60,000 after a decade in the workforce; this represents a 39.5% earnings increase in the first 10 years alone. The next table explores salary expectations for master's degree-holders in eight different counseling and therapy fields.

Degree/Professional Field Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)
Rehabilitation Counseling $43,200 $62,900
Counseling Psychology $43,000 $61,300
Marriage and Family Therapy $43,000 $60,000
School Counseling $41,900 $59,900
General Counseling $41,500 $58,300
Professional Counseling $39,400 $54,200
Mental Health Counseling $40,200 $51,800
Community Counseling $40,400 $51,600

Source: 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report

As the table indicates, marriage and family therapy master's recipients earn relatively high salaries at both benchmarks when compared to degree-holders in other related subjects. However, a career salary expectations will also depend on the graduate's specific job title. Using PayScale data, the next table looks at career salary projections for five popular career pathways among those who earn a master's in marriage and family counseling.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 Years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist $48,334 $51,370 $60,051 $68,674
School Counselor $43,666 $48,835 $56,755 $62,097
Career Counselor $40,183 $42,607 $47,962 $55,407
Substance Abuse Counselor $33,577 $37,850 $40,422 $43,796
Mental Health Counselor $37,230 $40,294 $45,048 $48,676

Source: PayScale

All five occupations reported career salary growth of at least 30% after 20 years on the job. School counselors experienced the highest growth rate: a 42.2% increase between the entry-level and late-career stages. Licensed marriage and family therapists placed a close second with 42.1% growth, followed by career counselors with 37.0% growth.

Career Opportunities

Students who graduate with a master's in marriage and family counseling will be qualified for dozens of top-level positions, although individual eligibility will depend on additional factors like employer type and city/state of employment. Four of the most common career pathways in marriage and family counseling are outlined below.

Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists: Broadly speaking, this profession is dedicated to helping clients overcome mental, behavioral and emotional disorders. Mental health counselors specialize in cognitive one-on-one treatment, while marriage and family therapists typically serve clients in a group-based setting involving a spouse, children and other close relatives.

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors: These counselors help clients overcome addictions to alcohol, drugs, prescription medication and other potentially harmful substance, as well as behaviors such as gambling or sex addiction. They usually help clients to identify patterns or emotional triggers that often accompany their addictive behaviors, and may also assist them during the rehabilitation and recovery stages.

School and Career Counselors: These counselors are found in public and private schools across the country. Those working at the pre-K and elementary levels typically evaluate students for learning disabilities, behavioral disorders and other treatable issues. At the middle and high school level, counselors often divide their time between mental health counseling and career/college advisement.

Rehabilitation Counselors: Rehabilitation counselors specialize in assisting clients with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities that interfere with independent living. Areas where they help clients may include applying to and interviewing for jobs, obtaining an education and applying for state and federal disability benefits.

Occupation Median Annual Salary Projected Industry Growth (2014-24) Minimum Educational Attainment Licensure Requirements
Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists $43,190 19% (31,400 jobs) Master's degree For private practice, counselors must log 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised postdegree training and pass a state-issued licensing exam. Annual continuing ed courses are also required.
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors $39,980 22% (21,200 jobs) Bachelor's degree For private practice, counselors must log 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical training and pass a state-issued licensing exam. Annual continuing ed courses are also required.
School and Career Counselors $53,660 8% (22,500 jobs) Master's degree For public school employment, counselors must receive a state-issued certification. Some states also require 1-2 years of classroom experience and/or a teaching license.
Rehabilitation Counselors $34,390 9% (10,800 jobs) Master's degree Counselors who serve clients and patients must log 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised postdegree training and pass a state-issued licensing exam. Annual continuing ed courses are also required.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to marriage and family counseling is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for professional marriage and family counselors. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists: The leading professional organization for counselors specializing in marriage and family counseling, the AAMFT represents more than 50,000 licensed counselors worldwide. The website features a job board and licensure links, an online information library, and a virtual networking center.
  • American Counseling Association: Founded in 1952, the ACA is considered the world's largest professional organization for professional counselors, and has more than 52,000 current members. The ACA website features an extensive virtual knowledge center that contains information about licensure requirements, diagnostics, ethics, and other important areas of the field. Continuing education opportunities, journal publications, and an online job board are also available.
  • International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors: Founded in 1989, the IAMFC today represents a network of counselors, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other professionals working in marriage and family counseling. Members receive access to two online publications -- The Family Journal and The Family Digest -- along with information about certification, credentialing, and access to an extensive job directory.

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.


Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.


Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Rankings Archive

Best Online Master's in Marriage and Family Counseling Program of 2017
Rank School Location
1 Touro University Worldwide Los Alamitos, CA
2 Messiah College Mechanicsburg, PA
3 LeTourneau University Longview, TX
4 Amridge University Montgomery, AL
5 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
6 Mid-America Christian University Oklahoma City, OK