What Is Marriage and Family Therapy?
For those who want to make a difference for the families and children in their community, becoming a marriage and family therapist may be an excellent career choice. However, this occupation requires a master's degree in marriage and family therapy (MFT), so students may wonder what they should study as an undergraduate. One option is a bachelor's degree in MFT, which can also lead to careers in community service.
Couples and families who are struggling with issues — from poor communication to behavioral problems to significant health problems or loss — often seek couples therapy or family counseling from mental health professionals. Many prefer to work with licensed marriage and family therapists who have been specially trained to provide therapeutic guidance that helps people replace unhealthy beliefs and behaviors with healthy, productive approaches. To be effective in this role, therapists must have well-developed listening and communication skills, plus the ability to demonstrate compassion and empathy.
Most marriage and family therapists work in private practice, but they can also be found in hospitals and mental health treatment centers. Some therapists work evenings and weekends to accommodate their clients' schedules. They may work with individuals, couples, or family groups.
All states require marriage and family therapists to be licensed. Licensure requirements usually include a master's in marriage and family therapy or counseling, 2,000-4,000 hours of supervised clinical practice, and a passing score on a state exam. A bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for a master's degree, although the undergraduate degree can be in MFT, counseling, psychology, or other related fields.
Online Bachelor's in Marriage and Family Therapy Degrees
MFT degree programs go by many names. Most are Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees, but the degree name could be family studies, family science, human development and family relationships, or something similar.
Like most undergraduate degrees, a bachelor's degree in marriage and family therapy typically requires the completion of 120-126 credit hours. Full-time students usually complete a bachelor's program in four to five years, while part-time students may need a little longer.
About half of the courses in an online MFT program will be general education courses, while the other half will focus on the major. Some programs also require at least one internship or practicum, and a few also require some type of capstone project. Admission requirements for a marriage and family therapy program may include a 3.0 or higher GPA in high school, strong letters of recommendation, and a persuasive personal essay.
In general, marriage and family coursework is structured to help graduates understand family relationships and marriage, as well as human development across the lifespan, cultural diversity, and child socialization. One of the primary objectives of these programs is to prepare graduates to work in service-oriented organizations where they can assist families in pursuing wellness, preventing conflict, and dealing with common life challenges in effective ways.
Courses in an Online Bachelor's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy
Online bachelor's programs in marriage and family therapy include a diverse array of courses. Some introduce students to human services by looking at community resources and case management, while others provide background information such as nutrition and the historical context of marriage and family. At the core of every program, however, are several psychology courses focused on children, adolescents, and adults, including:
Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Families
Today's families take many forms, including single-parent, multigenerational, LGBTQ+, and blended families. This course explores family systems and common family life issues from a variety of historical, cultural, and demographic perspectives.
This course looks at how individuals grow and develop from conception through consecutive life stages and finally to death. Coursework covers topics such as personality, emotion, behavior, human sexuality, and communication patterns, particularly among family members.
Modern Family Relationships and Issues
In this course, students are introduced to the science behind the stages of family development, including dating, cohabitation, marriage, child-rearing, and retirement. Coursework also addresses some of the many issues families may face, such as divorce, financial hardship, and substance abuse.
How Much Does an Online Bachelor's in Marriage and Family Therapy Cost?
The total cost of earning an online marriage and family therapy degree varies dramatically. Typical annual tuition fees for MFT bachelor's programs range from approximately $4,400-$38,800. Although online students do not have to pay for room and board or for transportation to and from school, they will need to pay for books, supplies, and other fees.
Eligible students may be able to help fund their college degrees by receiving financial aid from the federal or state government or from the schools they attend. Online learners may also apply for private scholarships available to students enrolled in mental health and counseling programs.
What Can You Do With a Marriage and Family Therapy Bachelor's Degree?
Graduates with bachelor's in marriage and family therapy are equipped to work in community service. Marriage and family therapy jobs, however, typically require candidates to have a master's degree in MFT, counseling, social work, or a similar subject.
Annual Median Salary: $48,860
Job Growth Rate: 17%
Community health workers typically work with members of a specific group or who have a specific condition or illness. They work with individuals, educating them on health issues and providing informal counseling and support. Community health workers also collect data, help identify the needs of the community they serve, and report findings to social service and health care providers.
Annual Median Salary: $74,000
Job Growth Rate: 15%
Social and community service managers typically work for government-funded or nonprofit agencies where they oversee programs geared toward a particular demographic, such as children or people experiencing homelessness. Some of their administrative duties include managing outreach activities, developing educational programs, analyzing data on their program's efficacy, and implementing improvements to their program.
Annual Median Salary: $61,820
Job Growth Rate: 8%
MFT degree holders may be interested in working with high school students as life skills teachers. Teachers design and implement lesson plans that help students develop essential skills, such as basic financial management, food preparation, and housekeeping, as well as soft skills like active listening and problem-solving. Life skills teachers can also be found working with younger children and adults. Regardless of class level, you will probably need a teaching credential in addition to your bachelor's degree to work as a teacher.
What to Look for in an Online Marriage and Family Therapy Program
When you're determining which program is the best online bachelor's in marriage and family therapy program for your needs and goals, there are many factors to take into account. Besides cost, some other important considerations regarding an online degree include the following:
Is the school accredited by an approved agency? To check, use the databases provided by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education. Accreditation is important because enrollment in an accredited school is required for you to be eligible for federal financial aid, and it may be required to transfer credits to another school or for acceptance into graduate school.
Does the college or university's location matter to you? If you're studying online, this may not be an important consideration. However, you may want to consider the school's location as it relates to resident and nonresident tuition fees.
Faculty and Staff
Are the online marriage and family therapy program's faculty members experienced practitioners? Studying with a combination of academics and practicing professionals may give you both the scientific grounding and practical knowledge you need. These instructors and other staff members may become mentors or members of your professional network.
Online Program Format
Does the program's online format work for you? Some online MFT programs feature asynchronous courses, meaning that you complete assignments on your own time as long as you meet the deadlines. Other programs, however, feature synchronous courses, which require you to join in virtual class meetings at designated times. Choose a format that fits with your schedule and personal learning preferences.
Does the school offer resources, such as career coaching, for online students? If you're considering an online program, you may want to confirm that these resources are available to you before enrolling.