Best Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy Programs of 2021

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September 24, 2021

Reviewed by Megan Pietrucha, Psy.D.
Edited by Jordan Stewart-Rozema
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With advice from Clinical Psychology program graduate, Briana Pambakian


Earning an online master's in marriage and family therapy allows you to help individuals, couples, and families work through difficulties and address issues that cause strife and stress in the relationships. After meeting all state-level licensure requirements, graduates take on roles in myriad settings.

Whether a student knows without question that they want to pursue this degree or are just beginning their search for the right graduate program, this guide can help. You can find information on standard graduate admission requirements, typical courses, and various career paths available to licensed graduates.

What Are the Best Online Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy Programs of 2021? Here Are Our Top 10:

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#1 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
#2 Concordia University-Wisconsin Mequon, WI
#3 Abilene Christian University Abilene, TX
#4 Touro University Worldwide Los Alamitos, CA
#5 Brandman University Irvine, CA

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2021 Best Accredited Online Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy Programs

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Liberty University View School Profile Lynchburg, VA

An evangelical Christian institution in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty began offering distance learning by correspondence and VHS before the internet allowed for online degree delivery. Today, Liberty offers more than 75 online master's degrees.

Students can earn Liberty's master of arts in marriage and family therapy mostly online. In addition to online coursework, the program requires two on-campus intensives and a hands-on practicum that students can complete close to their home. The program balances psychological, spiritual, and ethics training, featuring courses such as human sexuality, substance abuse, and advanced couples and marital counseling.

Liberty is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy
School Status: Private
Tuition: $565 per credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 2.5 years
Format: Online with two on-campus intensives
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.7 minimum
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Concordia University-Wisconsin View School Profile Mequon, WI

A Lutheran university in Mequon, Wisconsin, CUW was founded in 1881 as a small high school and junior college. Today, the university offers more than 70 majors and has more than 8,000 annual enrollees.

CUW's online master of science in family life trains students to educate and guide families through life challenges from a Christian perspective. Students develop counseling skills through courses such as marriage and family relations, individual counseling, and human sexuality. Participants also complete 120 practicum hours while taking their classes. Possible career fields for graduates include social work and family therapy.

CUW is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Family Life
School Status: Private
Tuition: $630 per credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Abilene Christian University View School Profile Abilene, TX

A Christian university in Abilene, Texas, ACU boasts alumni who have become congresswomen, Supreme Court justices, and Broadway actors.

Students in the school's master of marriage and family therapy program combine an online study curriculum with 500 practical internship hours. The program offers four tracks for specialization: child and adolescent therapy, medical family therapy, trauma treatment, and a general track. Courses like family theory, cultural diversity in family therapy, and systemic diagnosis and assessment prepare students for their field.

ACU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Marriage and Family Therapy
School Status: Private
Tuition: $825 per course credit; $470 per internship credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 33 months
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE requirement waived for 2021

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Touro University Worldwide View School Profile Los Alamitos, CA

A Jewish institution based in Los Alamitos, California, TUW was founded as an online learning institution in 1998. It forms a part of the wider Touro College and University System and seeks to reach students that might not have access to traditional campus-based higher education.

The school's master's in marriage and family therapy program takes a holistic, team-based approach to mental healthcare. It focuses on looking at families as systems, practical problem-solving (versus psychoanalysis), and the role of relationships in mental health issues. Students choose from three tracks: clinical, nonclinical, and licensed professional clinical counseling. Courses cover topics such as marital dysfunction, substance abuse, and eating disorders. The nonclinical track does not include any practicum or clinical hours.

TUW is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy
School Status: Private
Tuition: $500 per credit
Credit Requirements: 54-82 credits, depending on degree track
Program Length: 18 months to 5 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.5 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Brandman University View School Profile Irvine, CA

Based in Irvine, California, many Brandman faculty concurrently work in their fields of expertise, offering timely, real-world insights to students. The school boasts diverse and international students from varied backgrounds.

Led by clinical experts, the online master's in marriage and family therapy program features a career-focused curriculum. Graduates meet licensure requirements in 41 states. Classes include clinical issues in human diversity, psychopharmacology, and assessment and treatment of substance abuse. Participants also complete nine credits of practicum classes.

Brandman is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy
School Status: Private
Tuition: $670 per credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: Online or hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required, or 2.5 minimum with acceptable GRE/GMAT scores
Standardized Tests: GRE/GMAT scores required with a GPA of 2.5-2.99

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

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

To pursue a marriage and family therapy master's degree, students should possess a clear desire to help others maintain and improve their close relationships. Because these professionals spend their days counseling others, they should also enjoy spending time with people of different backgrounds and personalities.

To pursue a marriage and family therapy master's degree, students should possess a clear desire to help others maintain and improve their close relationships.

Most marriage and family therapist master's degrees require two years of full-time study or three years of part-time study. Some programs may offer specializations to help degree-seekers focus their knowledge and skills on a particular topic or population.

In addition to completing all required coursework and meeting graduation requirements, every state mandates that prospective marriage and family therapists earn a license to practice. Graduates must complete about two years of supervised clinical experience under a licensed marriage and family therapist.

A master's in marriage and family therapy meets the educational and clinical requirements for licensure, but individuals interested in academic and/or research roles may decide to pursue a doctorate in family counseling.

What Are the Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy Programs?

Each marriage and family therapy master's program sets its own admission requirements. Every university requires applicants to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, but some may also require that degree to be in counseling or a related subject.

Other common requirements include a professional statement or letter of purpose, professional and academic recommendation letters, official transcripts, a minimum GPA, and GRE scores. You can learn more in our Graduate Admissions Guide.

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Advice from a Marriage and Family Therapy Program Graduate

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.

Preferred Pronouns: she/her/hers

What made you decide to pursue an online master's in clinical psychology?

I chose a master's degree in clinical psychology for a myriad of reasons, the main one being that I want to be the person to provide support for others in an attempt to minimize the stigma of mental health, intergenerational trauma, cyclical abuse, and overall negative attitudes about ourselves.

I specifically chose to pursue the degree online to better handle working full time. Taking on a practicum while being a full-time student and driving to Malibu every day sounded intense.

What advice would you give students considering pursuing a master's in clinical psychology online?

I strongly recommend getting in touch with current students or alumni to get the full details of a program. Asking specific questions about academic requirements as well as the practicum would lead you to a strong advantage.

How did you choose a master's in clinical psychology program? What factors did you consider?

As a mental health professional, I diagnose my patients in a variety of areas and z-codes, so I needed a clinical-based program. Additionally, I wanted a program that would allow me to start my licensure hours prior to graduating, which the practicum allowed me to do.

Another factor is that this degree allows me to use this specific education and knowledge anywhere I'd like. Something too specific may have made me feel limited.

What advice would you give a student trying to determine which master's in clinical psychology program to pursue?

A master's degree is a lot of work. It's definitely a major step up from a bachelor's degree, so answer the following questions honestly to make that determination.

Ask yourself: does this program fully interest me? 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? Is the university accredited by the American Psychological Association?

What were some of the most interesting courses you took in your program?

I'd say the most interesting course was mental health systems and advocacy. It inspired me to feel as though helping one person can ultimately help an entire community. I'd say the most relevant course was psychopharmacology. There is so much complexity within this field, which is why us clinicians must always be learning.

How has your online degree helped you with your career goals?

The online degree helped me maintain my job. If I went to an in-person school, I probably would've quit just knowing how bad LA traffic is. Thanks to the online platform, I am now a director. It gave me the ability to work my way up in my career while simultaneously excelling in my education.

Is there anything else students should know about pursuing a master's in clinical psychology online?

I get asked a lot if the online experience feels like real school. I'd like to confirm that, 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.

Also, I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to make strong connections with my cohort, who are now colleagues, through a virtual experience.

However, I do want to clarify that online school is not for everyone. It is admittedly much more work. I recommend it for students who are especially disciplined and won't have a show on while in class.

I encourage anyone and everyone to seek higher education in whichever way works for you. You deserve it!

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

Online marriage and family therapy master's programs offer both foundational and advanced therapy and counseling coursework to develop well-rounded graduates who know how to work with clients from diverse backgrounds. Classes vary by program, but we look at a few of the most common options below.

Foundations of Family Therapy

Usually offered in the first year, this course looks at both historical and contemporary approaches to providing family therapy, with an emphasis on contemporary theories and methodologies. Students learn how humans interact and how to help clients solve relational problems.

Fundamentals of Addiction

Addiction plays a role in many familial and relational disputes. This course looks at how addictions affect both the individuals facing them and their loved ones, with an emphasis on how to support both parties.

Diversity and Inclusion

Taking this often-required course provides degree-seekers with the cultural and social awareness needed to provide therapy services to diverse populations. Students consider questions around political and social contexts of treatment and learn how to provide culturally sensitive care.

Research in Marriage and Family Therapy

This course looks at both quantitative and qualitative methods of relational research and data analysis, focusing on both process and outcome approaches and how to apply research data in practical ways.

Family System Development

This course looks at how human growth and development plays a role in relational evolution, focusing on how individual development changes dynamics across the relationship timeline. Students consider factors, such as marriage, divorce, financial considerations, and cultural influences to better understand shifts over time.

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

After earning an online master's in marriage and family therapy, completing postgraduate supervised hours, and earning a license, you can enter an in-demand field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 16% job growth for marriage and family therapists between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than average.

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

true Outpatient Services

Many family and marriage therapists get their start in outpatient services and go on to build lasting careers. Whether helping children, teenagers, adults, or seniors, therapists can use their knowledge of counseling techniques in both individual and group settings.

Inpatient Services

Inpatient services include hospitals, long-term care facilities, and inpatient centers for those facing mental health challenges. Working in inpatient services involves both one-on-one and group therapy and may center around shared challenges, such as addiction, abuse, and illness.

Schools and Colleges

Whether working in an elementary school or graduate department, marriage and family therapists can help students and their families work through relational issues. Along with providing therapy, experienced professionals may eventually decide to take on a faculty role at the university level.

Family Services Agencies

Nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies, and even for-profit companies that work with individuals and communities to provide family services often hire marriage and family therapists. In addition to providing counseling services, some individuals may decide to take on administrative roles managing other therapists.

Private Practice

After working for various organizations and companies for a time, some marriage and family therapists decide to pursue their own practice or join a group practice. By renting a small space, sometimes with other therapists, these individuals can develop a portfolio of clients to whom they offer both individual and family counseling sessions.

Marriage and Family Therapy Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

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

What does a marriage and family therapist do?

Marriage and family therapists work with individuals and groups to resolve conflict and challenges within relationships. They may work specifically with couples or use their skills to help families address challenges in their dynamics.

Is marriage and family therapy a good career?

Marriage and family therapy is a great career for individuals who want to use their understanding of psychology, counseling, group dynamics, and cultural factors to help others repair and improve their relationships. By running a private practice, you can gain more control over your schedule.

How do I become a marriage and family therapist?

Marriage and family therapists must earn at minimum a master's degree to practice. All states also require these professionals to hold licensure. They must complete supervised professional hours during an approved internship or residency.

How much does a marriage and family therapist make with a master's degree?

According to the BLS, marriage and family therapists earned a median annual salary of $51,340 in 2020. Those working in state government positions earned a median annual salary of $78,450, while those in individual and family services made a median salary of $47,590 that year.

What jobs can I get with a master's in marriage and family therapy?

Earning a master's in marriage and family therapy online provides the qualifications needed to offer counseling services across the lifespan. Whether helping a high school student navigate challenges with their siblings or a married or partnered couple sort through relationship troubles, you can serve many people after getting this degree.

How many hours does a marriage and family therapist work?

It can depend on the setting in which the therapist works. Marriage and family therapists often work the standard 40 hours per week. If you plan to start your own private practice, you can gain more control over your working hours.

Reviewed by:

Megan Pietrucha, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist who currently practices in the Chicago area. She holds a bachelor's in psychology from Illinois Wesleyan University and a master's and doctorate in clinical psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University. Her clinical interests include the treatment of eating and body image concerns, college student and student-athlete mental health, mood disorders, health and wellness, mindfulness, sport and performance psychology, and consultation.

In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Pietrucha has served as the training director for an APA-accredited internship program and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in psychology. She has also worked with high school and college athletes and teams, as well as recreational fitness programs, to provide mental skills training for athletic performance and fitness adherence.

Megan Pietrucha is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.

Learn about some of the fastest-growing jobs that require a master's degree in 2021, including a variety of positions in the healthcare industry. Attending graduate school allows you to conduct research and gain critical skills for your career. Learn about the pros and cons of earning a graduate degree. BestColleges has created a guide for future graduate students to keep track of deadlines and get tips on submitting the best school applications.

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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