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The Best Low-Cost Online Master’s Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy

Best Counseling Degrees - Top Online Master's Programs 2017
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By Staff Writer

Last Updated: May 18, 2020

Marriage and family therapists support and help individuals, couples, and families manage various conflicts and relationship issues. These therapists offer decision-making guidance, help clients foster healthy coping mechanisms and skills, and connect clients with community services and resources.

Those interested in pursuing a career in marriage and family therapy must earn a graduate degree in the field. Fortunately, learners can pursue a variety of affordable online marriage and family therapy programs that offer a flexible, accessible path to earning a master's degree.

Prospective students should seek out quality programs that meet the standards for state licensure. We ranked the best low-cost master's in marriage and family therapy online programs, featuring accredited programs designed to prepare students for clinical practice.

Methodology

View ranking methodology here.

Top 10 Best Low-Cost Online Master's Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy
Rank University
1 LeTourneau University
2 Messiah College
3 John Brown University
4 Concordia University-Saint Paul
5 Pepperdine University
6 Concordia University, Wisconsin
7 Amridge University
8 Touro University Worldwide
9 City University of Seattle
10 Fresno Pacific University

 

What to Expect From a Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy

Earning a master's degree in marriage and family therapy online allows candidates to complete coursework at home, without any campus visits. While specific requirements and courses vary from program to program, many curricula feature similar components in order to prepare students for licensure and practice.

Most students complete their master's degree in marriage and family therapy online in 2-3 years, depending on their enrollment status. These programs often require around 60 credit hours, including at least 12 credit hours in a practicum, field experience, or internship.

After completing the required coursework and internship hours, students may sit for any certification or licensure exams required in their home state. Each state holds different requirements for counseling licensure, so you should check with your state counseling board for specifics. Most accredited online marriage and family therapy programs aim to adequately prepare students for licensing exams and practice.

Career Outlook for Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists work in a variety of industries, including individual and family services, healthcare, and outpatient care. Many also work for state and local governments, providing counseling and care for state employees and within family services divisions.

These therapists work with all kinds of patients, but primarily serve those dealing with relationship and interpersonal issues. They may specialize in working with couples, or provide family members with individual and group therapy. They may also work specifically with children and teenagers, helping young people navigate life changes within their family unit.

Marriage and family therapists earn a median annual wage of $50,090. However, an individual therapist's earning potential can vary based on factors like experience, education, employer, and location. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs in marriage and family therapy to grow by 22% in the coming years, much faster than other occupations.

Top Low-Cost Online Master's Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy Degree 2020

20

University of West Alabama

Livingston, AL

UWA opened its doors about 25 years before the Civil War, originally as a school for women only. Now the public university enrolls about 5,000 students -- men and women alike -- on its Livingston campus. UWA offers several programs through distance learning, including an MS in family counseling.

The degree does not prepare students for professional licensure, but it can train individuals like paraprofessionals or clergy who do not need licensure to practice. Courses focus on psychology theory, counseling techniques, and professional ethics. Each learner also completes a three-credit internship at the end of the program.

This family and marriage counseling online degree consists of eight-week courses, and students can take 1-2 years to graduate. However, applicants can transfer up to nine credits and graduate even more quickly.

Courses Include

  • Lifespan development and learning
  • Systems of psychotherapy
  • The therapeutic relationship
  • Advanced techniques in family counseling
  • Marriage and family therapy

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $429/credit
  • Credits: 33
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

 

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19

Brandman University

Irvine, CA

Located in Irvine, California, Brandman began over 150 years ago as a military institution. Today, the university offers degrees for everyone but still offers a steep tuition discount and many benefits to military personnel and veterans. The university features many online programs, including a master's in marriage and family therapy.

The curriculum mainly consists of core counseling and psychology courses, in addition to marriage, family, childhood, and adolescent therapy theory. However, students can also choose from electives covering topics like environmental mental health, sexual disorders, and substance abuse. Learners can pursue a hybrid option of the program to integrate on-campus courses into their education, as well.

Each student completes three practicums to fulfill the supervised work experience required by the state. The degree meets the requirements for marriage and family therapy licensure in California, along with 40 other states.

Courses Include

  • Family therapy theories and techniques: a modern emphasis
  • Family systems theories and techniques: a postmodern emphasis
  • Marital systems and studies and domestic violence
  • Clinical issues in human diversity
  • Community and environmental mental health

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $660/credit
  • Credits: 60
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission

 

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18

Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA

Liberty operates as a private, Christian institution in Lynchburg, Virginia. The enormous institution reports an enrollment of over 100,000 students, many of them pursuing one of the school's 450 online degrees. This includes the MA in marriage and family therapy, which prepares students for licensure in Virginia.

Each enrollee takes 39 credits of core coursework before moving on to specialization courses, one practicum, and two internships. Courses follow an online format, but students also participate in weeklong intensive residencies on campus. At the end of the program, each MA candidate takes a comprehensive exam to evaluate their readiness for state licensure. On average, students complete the program in 2.5 years.

In addition to offering one of the more affordable online marriage and therapy programs, Liberty also provides considerable tuition discounts to military personnel, veterans, and first responders.

Courses Include

  • Assessment, diagnosis, and treatment planning in family counseling
  • Advanced couple and marital counseling
  • Human sexuality
  • Counseling children, adolescents, and families
  • Substance abuse: diagnosis, treatment, and prevention

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $565/credit for full-time students; $615/credit for part-time students
  • Credits: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

 

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17

Prescott College

Prescott, AZ

Arizona-based Prescott College enrolls just under 1,000 students in its unique undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. Its MS in counseling includes more than 20 electives, which allow students to opt for an emphasis in marriage, couple, and family counseling.

Learners complete most of the degree through online coursework. However, they must still participate in a few on-campus requirements to connect with their professors and classmates. Each enrollee must complete one practicum and a two-semester internship. They also need to pass a mandatory comprehensive exam before they can graduate and apply for state licensure.

Master's candidates can supplement their degrees by simultaneously pursuing postgraduate certificates in adventure-based psychotherapy, ecotherapy, expressive art therapy, or equine-assisted mental health.

Courses Include

  • Psychopathology: diagnosis and treatment planning
  • Research and program evaluation in mental health counseling
  • Social justice in counseling
  • Marriage, couple, and family counseling
  • Mindfulness in clinical practice

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $825/credit
  • Credits: 60
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

 

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16

Regent University

Virginia Beach, VA

With about 11,000 students, Virginia Beach-based Regent University offers several degrees on campus and through distance learning, including an MA in marriage, couple, and family counseling.

Although students take the bulk of this marriage and family therapy master's program online, the program also requires two in-person components. MA candidates must participate in two weeklong residencies on campus, which include an orientation, intensive learning, and hands-on workshops.

In addition to the required courses and internship hours, students can choose from several electives to tailor their education to their career goals. Some of these electives include issues in sexual abuse, counseling of women, and treating PTSD. Before they graduate, all students need to pass a comprehensive exit exam. The program ultimately prepares students for marriage and family therapy licensure in Virginia.

Courses Include

  • Addiction therapies for individuals and families
  • Career and lifestyle development
  • Marital and couple therapy
  • Models of family therapy
  • Theories of human sexuality

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $710/credit
  • Credits: 60
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

 

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15

University of Massachusetts Boston

Boston, MA

UMass Boston is a public research university with over 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled. The university's master of education in counseling primarily follows an online format, except for a two-week, on-campus orientation and study session at the start of the degree.

The curriculum begins with two intensive clinical courses. Students typically complete these classes within the first two weeks, in late June and early July. The curriculum then switches to a distance learning format and focuses on counseling services to children and adolescents.

During a two-semester internship in a school, students meet online every week for a three-hour seminar. Full-time learners typically graduate in two years. The degree equips students to obtain school counselor licensure in Massachusetts and several other states.

Courses Include

  • Group counseling for children and adolescents
  • Psychopathy and diagnosis
  • Sociocultural considerations in counseling
  • Trauma and crisis counseling
  • Life span human development

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $575/credit
  • Credits: 60
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education

 

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14

Houston Baptist University

Houston, TX

At HBU, students can pursue an online master's degree in marriage and family therapy. The degree integrates a Baptist perspective into the program with courses in spirituality, theology, and counseling.

Overall, students take 60 credits of professional counseling core and marriage and family courses. The degree includes a relatively strict curriculum plan, but enrollees can choose between human sexuality or gender issues and differences as their electives. To qualify for state licensure, each degree-seeker should participate in at least 700 hours of supervised work in a practicum spanning three semesters.

To graduate, each student must earn a minimum 3.0 GPA and cannot receive a below a "C" in any course. They must also pass a written comprehensive exam and obtain a recommendation from the department.

Courses Include

  • Human growth and development
  • Spirituality, theology, and counseling
  • Premarital counseling and counseling enrichment
  • Assessment and counseling with couples and families
  • Counseling children, adolescents, and families

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $575/credit; additional $250/semester for online courses
  • Credits: 60
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

 

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13

Mid-America Christian University

Oklahoma City, OK

Although it began as South Texas Bible Institute in the 1950s, MACU changed its name and moved to Oklahoma City over the next half-century. The school offers several faith-centered degrees, including the M.S. in counseling with an emphasis in marital, couples, and family counseling. Accelerated courses last five weeks, allowing professionals to pursue their degrees while continuing to work.

Students can pursue this low-cost master's in marriage and family therapy online. The curriculum starts with counseling core requirements covering human development and therapy techniques. If students complete 18 credits of these courses with a minimum 3.0 GPA, they can apply for the marital, couples, and family emphasis. By incorporating a practicum and internship, the degree prepares students to sit for a marriage and family therapy licensure exam.

Courses Include

  • Interpersonal communication in counseling and relationships
  • Marital and family treatment techniques
  • Human sexuality in counseling
  • Clinical issues of aging, death, and dying
  • Child/adolescent psychopathology/counseling

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $642/credit
  • Credits: 60
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

 

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12

Lee University

Cleveland, TN

With a campus in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of Cleveland, Tennessee, Lee provides approximately 5,300 students with a private, nonprofit education. The school opened its doors in 1918 and maintains an affiliation with the Church of Christ, an evangelical denomination of the Christian church.

The school offers four graduate programs through online learning, which includes a 36-credit MS in marriage and family studies. The degree does not prepare students for state marriage and family licensure. Instead, it equips learners with the skills they need to work in family ministries or family services agencies.

Because this program does not consider licensure requirements, master's candidates in this program do not need to fulfill a certain number of internship or practicum hours. Instead, they can either carry out thesis research or take a comprehensive final exam. If a learner plans to pursue a Ph.D. in family studies, a thesis prepares them for this next step. Full-time students can complete the program in two years.

Courses Include

  • Family life education methodology
  • Parenting
  • Family resource management
  • Ethics, family law, and public policy
  • Intimate relationships

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $785/credit
  • Credits: 36
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

 

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11

Abilene Christian University

Abilene, TX

Based in central Texas, Abilene Christian University offers a 60-credit marriage and family therapy master's degree through online learning. The degree prepares students for the national marriage and family therapy exam and incorporates Christian theory and perspectives in its curriculum.

This affordable online marriage and family therapy program allows students to choose between three concentrations: treatment of trauma, child and adolescent therapy, and medical family therapy. Students can also skip a concentration and take the general route. Course requirements depend on the specialization, but all enrollees take courses covering family theory and research.

MA candidates must complete 500 supervised work hours during internships over several semesters. To prepare for this experience, learners take a pre-internship course during which they role-play counseling with each other.

Courses Include

  • Couples therapy
  • Sexual therapy
  • Systemic diagnosis and assessment
  • Systemic trauma and violence
  • Family therapy with children and adolescents

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $825/course credit; $470/internship credit
  • Credits: 60
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

 

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10

Fresno Pacific University

Fresno, CA

FPU has offered a Christian-centered education on its California campus since it began in 1944 as the Pacific Bible Institute. FPU now features a marriage and family therapy master's degree that includes all of the requirements to prepare graduates for licensure.

FPU offers the program in a blended format, in which students take courses online and on campus. Learners complete theological studies, practical studies, and personal/social formation courses. They must each complete a capstone, which involves either an advanced family studies course or a thesis. They can also choose to travel to Israel for a summer session, or they can participate in the Hispanic summer program.

This degree includes 3,000 supervised work hours through practicum and internship experiences that MA candidates need for California state licensure. About 71% of FPU graduates pass the marriage and family therapy licensure exam on the first try, and 100% pass the law and ethics exam.

Courses Include

  • Human development
  • Family violence
  • Aging and long-term care
  • Person, family, and culture
  • Counseling children

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $530/credit
  • Credits: 65
  • Accreditation: Association of Theological Schools; WASC Senior College and University Commission

 

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9

City University of Seattle

Seattle, WA

When CityU began operating in 1973, the school aimed to provide practical degrees for returning students and professionals. The university now enrolls over 2,000 learners, the majority of them graduate students.

Individuals enrolled in CityU's MA in counseling take courses with online and on-campus course components. They can choose to enroll full time and graduate in two years or complete the program in three years of part-time enrollment while working. The degree offers a track for students aiming for mental health counselor licensure and a pathway for those looking to obtain marriage and family therapist licensure.

After completing core psychology and counseling courses, students then take specialized courses within their emphasis area. MA candidates must complete practicum and internship courses to qualify for licensure. The curriculum also requires each enrollee to complete a capstone project and a comprehensive exam.

Courses Include

  • Testing and assessment
  • System theory: trauma counseling and disaster mental health
  • Systemic theory: marriage, couple, and family counseling
  • Advanced child development and play theory
  • Child and adolescent psychopathology and psychopharmacology

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $520/credit
  • Credits: 90
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs; Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

 

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8

Touro University Worldwide

Los Alamitos, CA

TUW, a private university with Jewish roots, is based in Las Alamitos, California, but enrolls students in many online programs. Students pursuing its MA in marriage and family therapy can choose from three tracks: clinical, nonclinical, and licensed professional clinical counseling.

Each track requires varying amounts of practicum hours and course credits. The licensure track includes the most demanding requirements, which involves 500 practicum hours and four extra courses for a total of 82 credits. Clinical students need to complete 500 practicum hours as well, but they complete 10 fewer coursework credits than their licensure-track peers. Nonclinical students do not need to complete any supervised work hours, and the entire program only includes 54 credits.

TUW designed this degree for professional learners, so they can simultaneously work full time while pursuing their degrees. Nonclinical students can finish the degree in 18 months, while clinical and licensure candidates take 2-2.5 years to graduate.

Courses Include

  • Contemporary issues in marriage and family therapy
  • Couples counseling
  • Child-focused family therapy
  • Development within the family cycle
  • Aging, illness, and long-term care concerns

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $500/credit
  • Credits: 54-82
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission

 

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7

Amridge University

Montgomery, AL

Located in Montgomery, Alabama, Amridge operates as a small, private school with about 750 students. The university began offering distance courses at an early stage in 1993, and it continues to feature online education programs like the MA in marriage and family therapy.

MA candidates can complete this affordable online marriage and family therapy program in seven semesters or 2.5 years. Students take 60 required credits in counseling, family systems theory, and psychology. They can also choose to enroll in an additional four courses in grief psychology, professional ethics, and career development.

Students can enroll to prepare for family and therapy licensure. However, MA candidates must take it upon themselves to meet all the supervised work requirements through practicum and clinical experiences.

Courses Include

  • Theories of marriage and family therapy
  • Human sexual development
  • Interpersonal and family dynamics
  • Counseling for abusive relationships
  • Psychopathology and psychopharmacology

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $675/credit for full-time students; $750/credit for part-time students
  • Credits: 60
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

 

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6

Concordia University, Wisconsin

Mequon, WI

CUW operates as part of the Concordia University System, which holds an affiliation with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. This Mequon-based school allows students to pursue an MS in family science through distance learning.

The 36-credit program integrates 120 practicum hours throughout its 12 required courses. Students can choose to enroll in individual and group counseling courses, although these require on-campus instruction. All learners must carry out thesis research before graduating. This includes a thesis seminar in which students defend their research.

The program does not qualify graduates to earn therapist licensure. However, students may earn the certified family life educator credential if the National Council on Family Relations approves the school's application. Graduates of the program find jobs, such as life scientists, childcare workers, and religious family educators.

Courses Include

  • Human development
  • Professional ethics
  • American family today
  • Marriage and family relations
  • Family law and public policy

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $614/credit
  • Credits: 36
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

 

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5

Pepperdine University

Malibu, CA

Pepperdine, a school of about 8,000 students in Malibu, California, offers an online MA in clinical psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy. Students who want to obtain marriage and family therapist licenses qualify for the licensure exam with this master's program.

Pepperdine follows a unique format, offering units instead of credits and following a four-term, year-round schedule. Courses usually consist of three units, and MA candidates can complete this marriage and family therapist online degree in 24-36 months.

An enrollee with an undergraduate degree in a non-psychology area must complete 68 units, including two foundational psychology courses. Learners who already possess a bachelor's degree in the field can bypass these requirements and graduate with 62 credits. MA candidates complete supervised fieldwork through two-unit practicums taken over four consecutive terms or an entire calendar year.

Courses Include

  • Diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders
  • Theories of counseling and psychotherapy
  • Individual and family treatment of substance abuse
  • Mental health systems, advocacy, and practice
  • Individual, couple, and family development: a life cycle approach

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $1,585/unit
  • Credits: 62-68 units
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission

 

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4

Concordia University-Saint Paul

Saint Paul, MN

As part of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Concordia University System, CSP offers an online master's in family science. While the degree does not lead to marriage and family therapy licensure, it does hold approval from the National Council on Family Relations. This means that graduates can opt to earn the certified family life educator (CFLE) credential.

The program focuses on family dynamics, training students to maintain healthy, well-functioning family systems. Courses cover philosophy and theory related to the family unit. Toward the end of the degree, each enrollee takes either a reflective assessment course or a graduate study abroad experience. An MA candidate can also take a general capstone course or a capstone leading to CFLE certification, which includes creating a portfolio of past projects and coursework.

Courses Include

  • Systemic dynamics of family
  • Family communication and relationships
  • Intimate relationships
  • Seminar in human growth
  • Parent education

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $395
  • Credits: 36
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

 

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3

John Brown University

Siloam Springs, AR

JBU opened its doors in 1919 and continues to provide a Christian education -- both online and on its campus in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. The MS in marriage and family therapy allows students to pursue the 64-credit degree through a hybrid format, with about one-third of its courses offered online.

The curriculum includes counseling core courses, a research course, and marriage and family therapy courses. A Christian foundation in counseling course teaches students how to consider their faith-based perspective in their career. In addition, degree-seekers can explore play as a therapeutic force in children's lives, with an optional emphasis in play therapy.

The degree prepares students to become licensed family therapists. It includes two practicums and two internships to meet state licensure requirements. These supervised work experiences must consist of 500 direct client contact hours, including 250 systemic and relational hours.

Courses Include

  • Diagnosis and case management
  • Family systems
  • Child and adolescent counseling
  • Professional development and ethics
  • Principles of marital therapy

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $560/credit
  • Credits: 64
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

 

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2

Messiah College

Mechanicsburg, PA

At Messiah, a Christian college based in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, students can enroll in an MA in marriage, couple, and family counseling. Learners can pursue this low-cost master's in marriage and family therapy online. The degree prepares graduates to obtain marriage and family therapist licensure in Pennsylvania and several other states.

The 60-credit program includes introductory courses to counseling theory and techniques, specializations, and classes incorporating the college's Christian worldview, like spiritual formation and faith-based counseling. To graduate, each student must complete a comprehensive exam and visit at least one professional conference.

All learners must participate in a 100-hour practicum and 600 hours of internship experience. The internship should also include 10 supervised work hours with people of different cultural backgrounds, and 10 hours working with clients with disabilities.

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1

LeTourneau University

Longview, TX

Based in Longview, Texas, LETU offers a 66-credit MA in clinical mental health counseling for aspiring professionals in the field. The degree requires foundational psychology courses, but the curriculum also includes advanced courses in family and couples assessment, therapy, and treatment. The curriculum weaves Christian theology into required courses, as well.

Each enrollee must complete one practicum and two internship courses. The practicum consists of 100 supervised work hours, while the internships require 600 supervised hours in total. For both experiences, students must work under the watch of licensed mental health professionals. Each MA candidate needs a 3.0 GPA average in their practicum, internships, and coursework to graduate. LETU reports a 93% job placement rate for psychology and counseling graduates.

Courses Include

  • Counseling diverse populations
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Integrative theology for counselors
  • Family assessment
  • Couples therapy and treatment

 

Unique Features

  • Cost: $615/credit
  • Credits: 66
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

 

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