Best Online Marriage & Family Therapy (MFT) Master's Programs

By OnlineU Staff | Updated 1/18/2022
2020 Best Online Master's in Marriage & Family Therapy Badge

A marriage and family therapy (MFT) master's degree helps train graduates to provide short-term, targeted counseling services. Online MFT programs may focus on topics such as addiction in familial settings while also preparing students for licensure. Our list highlights the 10 best value colleges offering online master's programs in this field, which we ranked by comparing annual tuition to mid-career salary. Pepperdine University, ranked #1, offers an MFT degree for $49,135 annually, with graduates earning a reported salary of $116,194.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

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RankSchool Annual Tuition Mid-Career Salary
# 1 #1 Pepperdine University $49,135 $116,194
# 2 #2 Houston Baptist University $10,350 $91,800
# 3 #3 Lamar University $6,600 $88,700
# 4 #4 Abilene Christian University $18,150 $81,300
# 5 #5 Regent University Online $17,850 $68,014
# 7 #7 Amridge University $11,475 $59,300
# 8 #8 Liberty University $11,300 $54,300
# 9 #9 Prescott College $27,120 $56,500
# 10 #10 University of West Alabama $14,157 $49,900
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo

2020 Online Colleges Offering Marriage & Family Therapy Degrees - Ranking Details

#1 Pepperdine University

  • Annual Tuition: $49,135
  • Median Salary: $116,194
  • Locations: Malibu (CA)
  • Accreditation: WSCUC

The Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy program at Pepperdine University teaches students the skills necessary to pursue the licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) credential. Students in this program complete coursework online and fulfill the clinical training portion at locations convenient to them. Pepperdine graduates have the skills necessary to help individuals, couples, and families cope with a variety of life’s challenges, including conflict, divorce, mental illness, trauma, addictive behavior, and substance abuse. The online marriage and family therapy program, which includes 62–68 units of coursework and four sessions of fieldwork, can be completed in as little as two years.

#2 Houston Baptist University

  • Annual Tuition: $10,350
  • Median Salary: $91,800
  • Locations: Houston (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The online Master of Arts in Human Services Counseling degree at Houston Baptist University offers a concentration in marriage and family. This program provides students with the academic training needed to help others cope with challenges in life. The curriculum of this online marriage and family therapy program has a Christian focus with a solid mix of psychology, social work, and sociology. Students choose electives in subjects such as human sexuality, gender issues, and premarital counseling to learn theories and techniques they can apply to their practices serving a diverse range of clients.

#3 Lamar University

  • Annual Tuition: $6,600
  • Median Salary: $88,700
  • Locations: Beaumont (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Lamar University is a member of the Texas State University system. Its online Master of Education in Counseling and Development – Marriage, Couple, and Family program teaches the advanced skills needed for counselors to build an evidence-based practice. Coursework covers topics in family life, intergenerational influences, legal principles, ethics, professional conduct, mental health, and more. The 60-credit marriage and family therapy program can be completed in as few as 30 months and includes a residency, a 15-week practicum, and a 15-week internship.

#4 Abilene Christian University

  • Annual Tuition: $18,150
  • Median Salary: $81,300
  • Locations: Abilene (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The online Master of Marriage and Family Therapy program at Abilene Christian University is designed for counseling professionals who seek to help families and couples cope with challenges and obstacles in their relationships. The 60-credit marriage and family therapy program teaches Christian-based principles that counselors can apply to serving their clients in a variety of clinical or medical environments, including secular settings. Completion of this online graduate program will enable students to take the Marriage and Family Therapy national certification exam.

#5 Regent University Online

  • Annual Tuition: $17,850
  • Median Salary: $68,014
  • Locations: Virginia Beach (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The online Master of Arts in Human Services – marriage & family ministry program at Regent University is designed for individuals seeking to advance their professional skills in couples and family counseling. The Christian-centered curriculum of this online marriage and family therapy program focuses on the science, theories, and techniques that will help educate and empower families as well as protect children. The graduate coursework combines lectures presented by award-winning faculty members, as well as small discussion groups, podcasts, and chat rooms. A master's degree in marriage, couple & family counseling is also available online. This program prepares students to provide mental and emotional support to people through careers in advocacy, therapy, and community leadership. Students interested in learning how to apply theories of psychology to counseling can pursue an online master's in psychology- marriage & family therapy through Regent.

#7 Amridge University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,475
  • Median Salary: $59,300
  • Locations: Montgomery (AL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Amridge University offers two options for students seeking an online master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. The Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy is a 60-credit program designed to prepare students for licensure in marriage and family therapy in their state. The degree can be completed in as little as seven semesters, and students can enroll either part-time or full-time. The school also offers a Master of Divinity in Marriage and Family Therapy, which provides teaching in theology and practical ministry. This 96-credit degree prepares students to pursue LMFT licensure in their respective states. For this degree, students are responsible for coordinating practicum and clinical hours to fulfill face-to-face clinical practice requirements. Online courses are administered through the Canvas learning management system, and students are expected to meet weekly deadlines and participate in online discussion forums on a regular basis. Students have full access to virtual career services and the entire library catalog.

#8 Liberty University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,300
  • Median Salary: $54,300
  • Locations: Lynchburg (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Liberty University offers multiple options for students pursuing an online master’s in marriage and family therapy. The Master of Arts in Human Services Counseling is available in three concentrations: Family Advocacy, Public Policy and the Future, Marriage and Family Studies, and Marriage and Family. The degree requires students to complete 30 credit hours and takes an average of one and a half years to finish. Liberty University also hosts an online Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy program, which requires students to complete 60 credits hours and takes an average of two and a half years to finish. This degree requires two on-campus intensive courses that take place over a week and are designed to prepare students for LMFT licensure. The online Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling degree is also available, and students can choose from three concentrations: Marriage and Family Studies, Parent and Child/Adolescent, and Marriage and Family. This degree requires students to complete 36 credits and takes an average of two years to finish. It is designed to prepare students to provide counseling services in their current ministry. Finally, the Master of Divinity Youth and Family Ministries is a 75-credit degree that usually takes two years to complete and is meant for students pursuing a career in ministry. Online courses at Liberty University are administered in an eight-week format with eight start dates per year. Students have access to academic support through the library, writing center, tutors, study aids, and IT support.

#9 Prescott College

  • Annual Tuition: $27,120
  • Median Salary: $56,500
  • Locations: Prescott (AZ)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Prescott College offers a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with an emphasis in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling. The 60-credit program is designed to prepare students for licensure in their respective states. There are entry dates in August and January of each year. The curriculum takes a client-centered approach and requires a short residency where students will report to campus to network with peers and faculty members. Degree participants will be required to complete a supervised counseling practicum, participate in a supervised counseling internship, and sit for the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Exam at the end of their marriage and family therapy program. Online courses are administered through the MyClassroom learning platform, and classes are flexible to fit with schedules of working professionals. Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and must submit official college transcripts, a personal essay, a current resume, and two letters of recommendation to be considered for admission.

#10 University of West Alabama

  • Annual Tuition: $14,157
  • Median Salary: $49,900
  • Locations: Livingston (AL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The University of West Alabama offers a Master of Science in Family Counseling that can be completed entirely online. The 33-credit marriage and family therapy program takes an average of one to two years to complete, and students can enroll either part-time or full-time. Courses take eight weeks to complete. UWA has six terms per year, with summer terms lasting six weeks. The degree program is meant for professionals who already have obtained licensure and are looking to expand their knowledge of family counseling issues. The curriculum explores topics like systems of psychotherapy, marriage and family therapy, educational statistics, and life-span development and learning. Online classes are delivered asynchronously through the Blackboard learning management system, and students are expected to participate in weekly class discussions and submit assignments to meet regular deadlines. Students have access to online academic advising and technical support through the university’s help desk. Applicants are required to submit official college transcripts along with their online application.

Overview of an Online MFT Program

A master's program in MFT covers theoretical, clinical, and research practices associated with providing professional therapy to couples and families. With the traditional nuclear family becoming less common, students learn how to work with individuals from a range of relational contexts. Coursework and practical hours, in turn, train graduates in techniques meant to help families face life changes, mental health issues, or other challenging circumstances.

An online master's in MFT is designed to prepare students for a career in counseling and equip graduates with the necessary knowledge and experience to take state licensure exams.

An online master's in MFT is designed to prepare students for a career in counseling and equip graduates with the necessary knowledge and experience to take state licensure exams. Furthermore, with the option to enroll fully online, this learning format may be ideal for adults who have busy schedules involving personal, professional, or family obligations.

Are you unsure about pursuing an MFT degree? Consider exploring other master's programs that are offered online, including a master's in psychology or counseling psychology.

How Long Will It Take Until I Can Start Practicing as an MFT?

It can take several years to begin practicing as an MFT after receiving your bachelor's degree. You will likely spend a majority of this time completing a graduate degree — such as a master's — which is a requirement for licensure in all 50 states and typically takes two years of full-time study to complete. Some programs can take longer, depending on the time it takes to meet the clinical hour requirements of your degree program.

After achieving your master's, you will need additional clinical experience completed under the supervision of a designated supervisor. The number of postgraduate hours varies by state but typically falls into the 2,000-4,000 range. Depending on whether you work full- or part-time, it can take an additional 2-3 years to meet this requirement. Once you meet these conditions, you need to prepare for and pass the board exams.

Cost of Online Marriage and Family Therapy Degrees

Based on our analysis of 22 schools, an online MFT master's degree may cost between $8,625-$50,490 per year, with a median annual tuition of $18,850.

In addition to affording the up-front costs of graduate school, students interested in this program should also consider whether pursuing this online degree at a specific school would lead to a long-term payoff in terms of salary.

Notably, online degrees are sometimes cheaper than in-person programs because, in addition to paying lower fees, online students may qualify for in-state tuition regardless of their residency status. Distance learners may also avoid the costs associated with relocating, daily transportation to and from school, and on-campus housing — leading to significant savings.

However, online programs may come with unique costs. For instance, without on-campus library access, distance learners will likely have to purchase all required textbooks. Learning from afar can also require that students pay for cloud storage services hosted by their university.

Online students may be able to lower their educational costs by applying for federal, state, or private financial aid. Those interested in financial aid should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

What You'll Need in Order to Apply

Being accepted into an MFT program may be slightly more difficult when compared to other postbaccalaureate disciplines because students may have to meet unique criteria, such as demonstrating their prior real-world experience in the field. While each school typically sets its own admission requirements for graduate school, some competitive MFT counseling programs expect applicants to pass an interview and have a minimum B grade in child development, sociology, or counseling at the undergraduate level. In general, students will need to meet the following conditions in order to apply to an MFT master's program:

  • A bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field with a minimum 3.0 GPA
  • 2-5 letters of recommendation describing the candidate's ability to achieve a graduate MFT credential, along with a personal statement or essay
  • GRE scores in at least the 50th percentile for each of the verbal, quantitative, and writing sections

Common Courses

The curriculum for an online MFT master's includes classes in psychology, sociology, and clinical research, to name a few. In some cases, students can elect coursework that covers the legal and ethical aspects of providing therapy in familial settings as well as the challenges associated with serving vulnerable populations. They may also choose classes that focus on specializations — such as medication, substance abuse, and sexuality — while developing skills in communication, research, and negotiation. Below is a list of courses students can expect to take in an MFT master's program.

Couples Therapy

Students take this class to prepare for treating couples undergoing marital or premarital conflict. They familiarize themselves with various theoretical perspectives, drawing on research-based methods to understand different forms of intervention. This class may also cover how relationships between couples have changed over time.

Group Counseling for Children and Adolescents

This elective course focuses on group therapy and emphasizes working with children, adolescents, and their families. Students study how to manage and lead group sessions to address the environmental, behavioral, and cognitive factors shaping relationships between siblings and parents. Learning techniques may include role-playing, mock interviews, traditional lectures, and discussion.

Medical Family Therapy

When families face challenging medical circumstances, a trained MFT professional helps them address difficult emotions and practical considerations. Students in this class train in family systems theory, learning how to support individuals coping with a loved one's illness or navigating palliative care.

Psychopathology and Diagnosis

Students enrolled in this course may practice how to diagnose a range of mental health disorders. This includes learning how to identify unique behavior related to schizophrenia, bipolarism, and depression, while also treating individuals through a mixture of medication and therapy.

Sociocultural Considerations in Counseling

MFT professionals often provide services to diverse populations. In this course, faculty introduce students to the role of culture, therapy, and counseling, including how to work with individuals that live in a multicultural society.

Trauma and Crisis Counseling

This class focuses on the psychology of trauma, particularly as it relates to factors such as abuse and neglect. In addition to learning how these challenges affect everyday behavior in adults, adolescents, and children, students focus on remedying specific conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.


Students complete roughly 500 supervised clinical hours as part of an MFT master's degree. This involves interacting directly and indirectly with patients in various clinical settings — such as interviews, assessments, and interventions. In general, full-time MFT master's students spend 20 hours a week completing practicum requirements.

Many online MFT programs help distance learners gain placement at a clinic in their area of residence. Online students typically research where they can complete practicum hours before working with a dedicated faculty member during the application process. It's important to note that some programs may expect online learners to make their own practicum arrangements.

You may be interested in exploring our data studies about online education or checking out our student guides, which include scholarship opportunities.

Career Options for MFT Professionals

MFTs may work in schools, hospitals, outpatient centers, and private practice clinics. A master's degree in this field — along with licensure — is designed to prepare graduates in offering counseling services to families and couples. They can also pursue careers in individual and family services, an economic sector that added 165,004 jobs in the last 12 months according to data from Burning Glass, a data analytics company. Specifically, they may find work with Volunteers of America or Sevita Health in parts of the country where demand for their services is high — such as California, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. Below is a list of potential career paths for MFT master's graduates, with salary and job outlook data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Marriage and family therapists
Median Annual Salary: $51,340
Job Outlook: 16%

Marriage and family therapists require licensure and provide short-term, solution-based services to individuals addressing challenges, including alcoholism, mood disorders, or marital distress, to name a few. They typically help children, parents, and couples identify sources of stress and develop coping mechanisms, working one-on-one with clients and in group settings.

Median Annual Salary: $82,180
Job Outlook: 8%

Psychologists research the emotional and environmental factors that shape various kinds of human behavior. They publish studies and typically look for ways to improve therapy practices, with some also providing clinical services. While an MFT master's program provides training in psychology, this career requires students to complete a doctoral degree in most cases.

Rehabilitation counselors
Median Annual Salary: $37,530
Job Outlook: 10%

Rehabilitation counselors help individuals manage their mental or emotional disabilities so they may lead independent lives. They work with a variety of clients, including veterans, the elderly, families, and students, often serving as a bridge by connecting with clients’ employers to communicate specific needs.

School and career counselors
Median Annual Salary: $58,120
Job Outlook: 11%

School and career counselors help children and adolescents navigate various social and behavioral challenges. These professionals identify challenges students face, such as neglect and abuse, and provide them with resources for additional support. They also help prepare students for life after high school.

Job Outlook for Marriage and Family Therapists

With the need for mental health professionals increasing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, marriage and family therapists are also in high demand. In fact, as the section above shows, openings for MFT providers are increasing at a higher rate than other client counseling areas — with the exception of substance abuse professionals. In turn, the BLS estimates that there will be 8,500 new positions in this field every year through 2030. These findings correspond to data from Burning Glass, which shows that the job outlook for individual and family services is projected to increase by over 35% in the next decade.

Licensure Requirements

Licensure helps ensure that practicing MFT professionals are effectively trained to offer counseling services. As of 2009, all 50 states require MFT providers to have this stamp of approval. To apply for licensure, MFT graduates must go through their state's licensing board. They need a master's degree and — depending on the jurisdiction — 2,000-4,000 hours of postgraduate clinical experience to meet licensure requirements. Applicants also need to pass board exams and renew their qualification annually, which usually involves completing specific courses and paying a fee. It's important to note that states' licensing boards do not rely on certification from the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, a professional association that provides resources and information to individuals interested in this field.

This website offers school details to prospective students as an informational resource. The appearance of a school listing on this website should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the school by this site.

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