Marriage and family therapists serve a variety of important roles for their clients. From their issues with stress, addiction, and marriages to problems with their children, work, or low self-esteem, therapists help clients discuss their emotions and acquire the skills to cope with their problems. It is also an excellent time to earn a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for marriage and family therapists will increase by 23% by 2026.
With this degree, you can work in medical centers, outpatient care centers, or hold a position in the state government. Alternatively, you may choose to start your own private practice. Whatever your career aspirations, this degree also prepares you to sit for the marriage and family licensure exam. The list below contains our top 10 accredited programs to help you find the best online degree option for your needs.
A note on accreditation and licensure: All schools in this list of online master’s in marriage and family therapy are regionally accredited. Two of them are also accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), and five are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Students graduating from regionally accredited programs, and even more so from COAMFTE and CACREP accredited programs, have a competitive career advantage and often experience a more seamless process towards licensure. Post graduation requirements for licensure vary by state. It is recommended that you check with your state licensing board directly to determine if the program you are interested in meets the educational requirements necessary to work towards licensure in your home state. Following graduation you can begin the licensure process of completing clinical hours and supervision and taking the licensure exam. You must be licensed by your state to practice as a counselor (or work under the direct supervision of a licensed counselor). Contact your state board directly for further information.
Internship/ Practicum Experience: Most online master’s in marriage and family therapy degrees require the completion of a supervised internship and a practicum experience. Do not let these requirements dissuade you from pursuing these programs. The practicum and internship requirements are built into the programs to be completed in ways that feel manageable for even the busiest students. To support students in obtaining licensure following graduation, COAMFTE and CACREP standards require the completion of supervised direct client contact clinical hours. Practicum and internships are generally completed in your local community and provide valuable learning opportunities and skill development. Additionally, the experience you gain and the relationships you build during this time are good resume builders and references for future employment opportunities.
Residency: Many of the online marriage and family therapy degree programs listed here also require what is called a residency. The residency is a brief visit to campus where students and faculty meet face-to face. Residencies generally take place a couple of times during the course of the program for a few days to a week at a time. Residencies provide numerous benefits, including developing relationships with fellow students and faculty, developing clinical and counseling skills, and enhancing the educational experience overall. Many graduates of online counseling programs list the residency as a top highlight. Most residencies take place on the main campus. Generally, additional costs per residency apply (fees, airfare, lodging, meals etc.). All residencies listed by the programs are included here.
If you are motivated to pursue an online master’s in marriage and family therapy degree, choosing the school that is the best fit for you is the first step towards accomplishing your goal and advancing your career.
For information on how these programs were selected for the ranking, see the methodology statement at the end of the article.
Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy Online
Amridge University is a private Institution affiliated with the Churches of Christ in Montgomery, Alabama. Distance Learners can earn a master of arts degree in marriage and family therapy. The curriculum focuses on foundational therapeutic techniques, modern scientific research in the field, and clinical practices necessary for success in today’s competitive job market. Upon graduation, Amridge students can offer therapeutic services to individuals, couples, and Families. In many cases, graduates seek careers in church settings, private practice, governmental agencies, and community organizations. Distance learners typically complete the 60-credit hour program in seven semesters. Additional courses are available for those who need additional classes for licensure in their state.
Oklahoma City, OK
Online Master of Science in Counseling, Marital, Couples and Family Counseling/Therapy Emphasis
MACU is a private, Christian, liberal arts college in Oklahoma City. Online learners can earn a master of science in counseling, marital, couples and family counseling/therapy emphasis. Over the course of 60-63 required credit hours, students hone their research and analytical skills and learn the foundational elements of effective therapy and counseling. MACU students can choose from optional concentrations in clinical mental health counseling, addiction and substance abuse counseling, and marital, couples, and family counseling/therapy, each of which requires 33-36 credit hours. Regardless of concentration, master’s students need a minimum of six practicum or internship hours for graduation.
Los Alamitos, CA
Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy Online
TUW offers the master of arts in marriage and family therapy with three specialized tracks: clinical, non-clinical, and licensed professional clinical counseling track. TUW students receive extensive training while in direct contact scenarios with couples, families, and children. Online learners must also complete a total of 500 practicum client contact hours and at least 100 supervision hours. Each degree requires approximately 18 courses or 54-73 credit hours for graduation, depending on the chosen track. TUW graduates are prepared for work in community health centers, working as part of a team or individual, as well as private practices.
Online Master Of Science In Professional Counseling With an Emphasis in Marriage And Family Therapy
Grand Canyon University offers a hybrid or online master of science degree in clinical mental health counseling with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy. With courses like counseling the culturally-diverse, lifespan and development, and counseling program evaluation, Grand Canyon students learn the fundamentals of counseling traditional and nontraditional families. Distance learners complete a total of 74 program credits and two 16-week counseling internships. Incoming students may be eligible to transfer up to 12 credits toward the degree. Part-time students typically complete this degree in less than five years. Grand Canyon graduates often move on to careers counseling parents and their children, premarital couples, families, and individuals.
San Diego, CA
Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy Online
San Diego’s Northcentral University is a regionally accredited online school. The master of arts in marriage and family therapy takes approximately 33 months to complete. Online learners take 45-60 credit hours of rigorous training to be ethical and culturally sensitive marriage and family therapists. This IACSTE-accredited program offers degree specializations such as therapy for LGBTQ couples, military families, and child and adolescents. While learners take most courses online, therapy students must complete a practicum and supervised clinical activities in their home communities for credit. Incoming students may be eligible to transfer up to six graduate semester credits toward their master’s degree. In most cases, Northcentral students complete this degree in three years or less.
Virginia Beach, VA
Online Master of Arts in Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling
Regent University’s master of arts in marriage, couple, and family counseling program integrates systematic research and counseling theory to prepare students for the family therapist licensure exam and clinical practice with families, couples, adults, and children. Excluding the residency, all courses and requirements are available online. Students complete two week-long residencies on campus in Virginia Beach. Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA or higher. In addition to official transcripts and a resume, prospective distance learners submit their GRE or GMAT results and participate in an admissions interview. Learners complete 60 credits over the course of two years to be eligible for graduation.
Online Master of Arts in Counseling, Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling Track
Messiah College is a private Christian institution established in 1909. This school offers an online master of arts in counseling degree with an emphasis in marriage, couple, and family counseling. This is a 60-credit hybrid program with the majority of its classes available online. Students also attend weeklong intensive courses at the campus in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. The program prepares students to sit for the Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist exam in Pennsylvania and most other states. Prospective students should have a bachelor’s degree with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Applications should include a personal statement, answers to the counseling admissions questions, two letters of recommendation, and a resume. Before admission to the program, all distance learners participate in an in-person or online interview.
Palo Alto, CA
Online Master of Arts in Counseling with an emphasis in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling
Established in 1975, PAU’s master of arts in counseling degree with an emphasis on marriage, family, and child counseling prepares online learners to pursue a marriage and family therapist license. This program combines scientific research with extensive clinical training. Learners complete a minimum of 700 hours of counseling-related fieldwork or practicum experience over the course of 9-12 months. Additionally, master’s students need a minimum of 280 hours of direct counseling experience to be eligible for graduation. PAU graduates typically seek careers in private practices, schools and colleges, social service agencies, religious organizations, and mental health centers. Online students usually complete the required 93 quarter units and degree requirements over 3-4 years.
#2 Capella University
Online Master of Science in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy
Capella University is a for-profit institution serving over 35,800 students. Established in 1993, Capella offers a master of science degree in marriage and family counseling in both online and blended formats. Distance learners take courses such as couple and marital therapy, utilizing systematic approaches, marriage and family counseling, and therapy theory and practice to acquire foundational skills in treatment and clinical practice. This 92 quarter credit program prepares Capella students for state licensure exams in most states. Online students complete 23 courses and typically take 1-3 per 10-week quarter. This program holds accreditation from both the COAMFTE and CACREP.
Master of Science in Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling
Established in 1970, Walden University is a for-profit institution located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This master of science in marriage and family counseling prepares students for work in evidence-based counseling practices. Online students acquire the skills to diagnose mental and emotional health disorders, help couples and families resolve interpersonal issues, and provide counsel on divorce, child rearing, school issues, and violence. Students choose from a general counseling track or a specialization in addiction counseling, career counseling, forensic counseling, military families, or trauma and crisis counseling. The degree requires 90-96 total quarter credits, including 9-15 quarter credits of field experience. Students also complete a 100-hour practicum and 600-hour internship. Most students complete this online master’s degree in 48-60 months.
Methodology:This list was created using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs and the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. We looked for programs offering master’s degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy/Counseling. We retained schools that offered this degree in a distance education format. Additionally, we evaluated schools based on regional accreditation and only accepted regionally accredited schools. We evaluated each program’s website and tuition (per credit hour). Schools that were accredited by CACREP/COAMFTE were grouped then ranked by tuition, the remaining schools were then grouped and ranked by tuition.
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