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

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

| Staff Writers

Best Low-Cost Online Master’s Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy
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Marriage and family therapists specialize in helping people overcome issues in relationships. Currently, over 66,000 individuals work as marriage and family therapists in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of marriage and family therapists could increase by 14,800 from 2019-29 — about 22%.

Prospective marriage and family therapists can expect to complete a four-year bachelor’s program before spending two years earning a master’s degree.

If that level of full-time commitment seems intimidating, online marriage and family therapy programs may be a good option for you. Distance education offers a greater degree of flexibility and independence, allowing candidates to study from the convenience of home, saving time and money on the campus commute. Online degree-seekers can enroll part time and sometimes even choose accelerated options.

Keep reading to learn more about the best marriage and family therapy programs.

Advertisement BestCounselingDegrees.net 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.

Featured Online Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Top 10 Best Low-Cost Online Master’s Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy

Rank School Location
1 LeTourneau University Longview, TX
2 Messiah College Mechanicsburg, PA
3 John Brown University Siloam Springs, AR
4 Concordia University-Saint Paul Saint Paul, MN
5 Pepperdine University Malibu, CA
6 Concordia University, Wisconsin Mequon, WI
7 Amridge University Montgomery, AL
8 Touro University Worldwide Los Alamitos, CA
9 City University of Seattle Seattle, WA
10 Fresno Pacific University Fresno, CA

Methodology

View ranking methodology here.

  1. LeTourneau University
    Location

    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

     

  2. Messiah College
    Location

    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.

  3. John Brown University
    Location

    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

     

  4. Concordia University-Saint Paul
    Location

    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

     

  5. Pepperdine University
    Location

    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

     

  6. Concordia University, Wisconsin
    Location

    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

     

  7. Amridge University
    Location

    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

     

  8. Touro University Worldwide
    Location

    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

     

  9. City University of Seattle
    Location

    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

     

  10. Fresno Pacific University
    Location

    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

     

Applying to a Low-Cost Online Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy

Most schools offering marriage and family therapy master’s programs online expect applicants to hold an accredited bachelor’s degree. Some prefer to see candidates with a degree in psychology, counseling, or a related field. However, other marriage and family programs consider applicants with unrelated degrees, provided those students submit impressive undergraduate transcripts.

Admission committees usually set a minimum GPA requirement between 2.5-3.0. However, a 2.6 GPA does not guarantee success. Applicants can increase their chances of gaining admission with a higher GPA.

In addition to transcripts, prospective students are typically expected to submit other materials, like personal statements and academic letters of recommendation. Some schools also require applicants to submit GRE or MAT scores.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to become a marriage and family therapist?

    Marriage and family therapists must complete extensive schooling and supervised work experience to earn licensure. They need a four-year bachelor’s degree, two-year master’s degree, and at least two years of supervised work — about eight years in total. Part-time students may spend even longer on their studies.

  • What is accreditation and why is it important?

    Prospective students rely on the accreditation process to ensure that a school offers a high-quality education. Accreditation guarantees that degree-seekers will earn a valuable degree, while unaccredited programs should be avoided. Look for programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE).

  • What is the difference between a marriage and family therapist and a psychologist?

    The main difference in the two professions involves their clientele. Marriage and family therapists meet with couples or family groups, whereas psychologists tend to guide people with serious mental health issues. Psychologists work one-on-one or in group settings, while marriage and family therapists work specifically with the two-person couple or family unit.

  • How much do marriage and family therapists make?

    According to the BLS, marriage and family therapists made an annual median salary of about $49,610 in 2019. Salaries vary by location, with the top paying states including Hawaii (where the annual mean wage reaches $79,660), Maine ($75,640), and Colorado ($74,900).

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