An online master’s degree in marriage and family counseling leads to a stable career helping others. Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) are mental health professionals who assist people with problems such as alcoholism and depression by focusing on the individual and their relationships. MFTs earn an average salary of $49,000 per year, and with more and more insurance companies reimbursing for mental health treatment, the projected growth rate for the industry is higher than average. Our ranking of the best online master’s in marriage and family counseling programs will help you decide whether a career as an MFT is right for you.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MASTER'S IN FAMILY COUNSELING PROGRAMS?
Pepperdine University Malibu, California
ADMISSIONS RATE 38%
GRADUATION RATE 84%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 3%
RETENTION RATE 94%
DEFAULT RATE 3%
Pepperdine is a Christian school that emphasizes leadership and diversity. The main campus is located in Malibu, California. The school's master's in marriage and family therapy online comprises 11-12 sessions. Six credits of foundation coursework, 62 credits of master's level coursework, and four clinical rotations are required. The program prepares graduates for California licensure as a marriage and family therapist or professional clinical counselor. The curriculum emphasizes social justice, service, and strengths-based counseling. Core coursework includes multicultural counseling, psychopharmacology, and substance abuse treatment. Students receive aid from a dedicated placement team to find and secure their approved practicum and internship placements. The school participates in the Yellow Ribbon matching program with veterans' affairs to provide educational benefits for eligible military veterans.
Messiah College Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
ADMISSIONS RATE 79%
GRADUATION RATE 77%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 12%
RETENTION RATE 88%
DEFAULT RATE 2%
Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, offers one of the best online master's in marriage and family counseling programs available. The school's online master's in counseling prepares students to sit for the marriage and family therapists licensure exam in Pennsylvania and other states. Students complete most of the 30 required credits of coursework online and attend two required, one-week, intensive courses on campus in Grantham. The program takes 3-4 years to complete; an accelerated two year option is also available. For admission, a minimum 3.0 GPA, nine credits of behavioral science prerequisites, and an interview are required. Transfer credits may be awarded for courses completed within the previous seven years with a minimum grade of B.
Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, Florida
ADMISSIONS RATE 59%
GRADUATION RATE 44%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 39%
RETENTION RATE 80%
DEFAULT RATE 4%
Nova Southeaster, located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, has a commitment to cultural diversity, inclusion of marginalized groups, and international sensitivity. The school's 60 credit MS in family therapy provides training using a systemic, theoretical curriculum and concentrates on brief, cost-effective models of family therapy. Student must complete 500 hours of client contact 100 supervision hours. Full time students can complete the program in two years, which includes required summer attendance. Part time students typically take three years. Admissions selection criteria include a minimum 3.0 GPA, GRE scores, and an emphasis on familiarity with systemic therapies, including an admissions essay with specific citations from literature. An interview may also be required. Transfer credits are evaluated on a case by case basis.
Concordia University-Wisconsin Mequon, Wisconsin
ADMISSIONS RATE 67%
GRADUATION RATE 58%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 26%
RETENTION RATE 76%
DEFAULT RATE 6%
Concordia University-Wisconsin, founded in 1881, is affiliated with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. The school provides a Christian education with a holistic approach and includes professional church work as part of its curriculum. CUW offers the MS in education with a family life emphasis in 47 states. Students must complete 36 credits and a capstone project. Coursework is delivered entirely online through the Blackboard classroom platform. The curriculum prepares students to earn a certified family life educator designation upon completion of the online master's in marriage and family counseling. Transfer credits may be available for military and work experience. Educators teaching in Christian schools who join a cohort may receive up to a 25% discount on tuition.
Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion Marion, Indiana
ADMISSIONS RATE 95%
GRADUATION RATE 60%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 45%
RETENTION RATE 82%
DEFAULT RATE 7%
Indiana Wesleyan, founded in 1920 in Marion, is a Christian school affiliated with the Wesleyan Church. The school's online master's degree in marriage and family counseling includes 60 credits of coursework with a clinical emphasis and a family systems approach. The program prepares students for licensure as a marriage and family therapist in Indiana. Students must complete 1,000 internship and practicum hours for the marriage and family counseling/therapy master's. Full time students can complete the program in three years; part time students typically take four to five years. Admission requirements include a minimum 3.0 GPA, six credits in psychology, six credits in Bible studies, GRE scores, and an interview. Up to nine transfer credits may be accepted. Military personnel and veterans may receive a discounted tuition.
Regent University Virginia Beach, Virginia
ADMISSIONS RATE 84%
GRADUATION RATE 49%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 66%
RETENTION RATE 80%
DEFAULT RATE 5%
Regent University, founded in 1977 in Virginia Beach, is a Christian institution that offers an online master of arts in marriage, couple & family counseling. The program prepares students to sit for the marriage and family licensing exam in most states. Learners complete 57 credits of coursework and two one-week residencies that are offered in January and August. An accelerated option is available for students who attend both residencies during their first year. Regent offers one of the best online master's in marriage and family counseling programs. Requirements for admission include a minimum 3.0 GPA, GRE or MAT scores, and attendance at a pre-admission online workshop. An application fee waiver is available for students who attend an online admissions information session.
Dallas Baptist University Dallas, Texas
ADMISSIONS RATE 42%
GRADUATION RATE 58%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 17%
RETENTION RATE 72%
DEFAULT RATE 8%
Dallas Baptist, founded in 1898, offers an online master's degree in marriage and family counseling with an emphasis on ministry. Students choose between four concentrations for the MA in family ministry, which includes special needs family ministry, Christian counseling, leadership, and a custom option. Students who choose the custom concentration choose three classes that align with their career and personal interests. Learners complete 36 credits of online and hybrid courses, including 15 credits of family ministry, three elective credits, and the nine credit concentration. Accelerated degree options are available, and the school maintains partnerships with other institutions, which students and interns can receive benefits through, such as course credit or tuition assistance. Admissions requirements include a minimum 3.0 GPA, evidence of sound moral character, and one year of active church membership.
Abilene Christian University Abilene, Texas
ADMISSIONS RATE 50%
GRADUATION RATE 61%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 8%
RETENTION RATE 79%
DEFAULT RATE 9%
ACU Online offers one of the best online master's in marriage and family counseling programs. The school's master of marriage and family therapy comprises 60 credits of coursework and a 500 hour internship. The program can be completed in 32 months. Students focus on one class at a time with six- or seven-week terms. Four concentrations are available: child and adolescent therapy, treatment of trauma, therapy with military families, and medical family therapy. Medical family therapy is also available as a 15-credit, 11-month certificate program. Admissions requirements include proof of a quality of life that reflects high moral standards and a video interview. Transfer applicants are not charged an application fee.
Touro University Worldwide Los Alamitos, California
|GRADUATION RATE 0%
|ONLINE ENROLLMENT 90%
|RETENTION RATE 100%
|DEFAULT RATE 4%
Touro, a Jewish-sponsored institution, offers an online master's degree in marriage and family counseling with three tracks. For the MA in marriage and family therapy non-clinical track, students complete 54 credits, and no practicum is required. The clinical track requires 60 credits of coursework and six practicum credits. Students who choose the licensed professional clinical counseling track complete 73 credits of coursework and nine practicum credits. Graduates are eligible for licensure as marriage and family therapists in California and most other states. Students can complete the coursework entirely online, and the practicum can be completed out of state at approved sites. The school's accelerated admissions process requires no GRE scores and is transfer-friendly; options for credit include challenge exams and military experience.
Southern California Seminary El Cajon, California
|GRADUATION RATE 86%
|ONLINE ENROLLMENT 36%
|RETENTION RATE 0%
|DEFAULT RATE 4%
A Christian institution in El Cajon, Southern California Seminary offers an MA in marriage and family therapy with a family systems approach. The program requires 78 credits of coursework, including 18 credits of biblical foundations coursework and nine practicum credits. Students seeking licensure as a marriage and family therapist in California can take an additional nine credits to prepare for licensure exams. Licensure in other states is possible, although not guaranteed; students should review the requirements of their state's licensing board. Admission requires a reference from a pastor or chaplain. SCS's program is among the best online master's in marriage and family counseling options. The school considers each applicant's background on a case by case basis and does not automatically disqualify applicants with difficult histories.
University of Massachusetts-Boston Boston, Massachusetts
ADMISSIONS RATE 69%
GRADUATION RATE 42%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 10%
RETENTION RATE 78%
DEFAULT RATE 8%
Established in 1964, UMass Boston offers an online master's degree in marriage and family counseling with an integrative family systems approach. The school's MS in counseling with a family therapy emphasis requires students to earn 60 credits, including a capstone, and prepares students for licensure in family therapy in Massachusetts. Students also complete 900-1,200 internship hours at an approved site close to their residence. The program operates on a cohort model, in which groups of students complete the requirements together over a period of three years. Most coursework is delivered online. An intensive two-week summer session at UMass is required, with housing accommodations provided by the school. Admission requirements include GRE scores, a minimum of five social science courses, an interview, and one year of work experience in a clinical setting.
Fresno Pacific University Fresno, California
ADMISSIONS RATE 63%
GRADUATION RATE 54%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 2%
RETENTION RATE 80%
DEFAULT RATE 7%
Fresno Pacific, founded in 1944, offers an online master's degree in marriage and family counseling that integrates Christian theology with theory and practice. The MA in marriage and family therapy requires students to earn 65 credits of blended online and residential courses, preparing students for the licensure exams in marriage and family therapy in California. The program has diverse practicum opportunities, including options for summer study in Israel and the Hispanic summer program. The core courses integrate marriage and family therapy and ministry students. Learners will take coursework in grief counseling and aging. Admission requirements include a minimum 3.0 GPA, GRE scores, introductory prerequisites in psychology and human development, and 50 hours of face to face counseling experience.
Lee University Cleveland, Tennessee
ADMISSIONS RATE 85%
GRADUATION RATE 52%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 13%
RETENTION RATE 79%
DEFAULT RATE 12%
Founded in 1918 in Cleveland, Tennessee, Lee is a Christian institution that is sponsored by the Church of God. The school emphasizes responsible living in a complex world. For students interested in working in administrative roles in family service or family church ministry, Lee's offering may be among the best online master's in marriage and family counseling programs available. The MS in marriage and family studies is comprised of 36 credits, which includes 21 core credits, 15 elective credits, and a comprehensive final exam or a thesis for students considering doctoral work. The program does not offer licensure. Core coursework focuses on human growth and development, human sexuality, and systems theory. A minimum of four semesters of study are required; full time students typically complete the program in two years.
Amridge University Montgomery, Alabama
|GRADUATION RATE 40%
|ONLINE ENROLLMENT 100%
|RETENTION RATE 67%
|DEFAULT RATE 9%
Located in Montgomery, AL, Amridge University is an independent Christian school with a commitment to distance education and spiritual vitality. The school offers an online master's degree in marriage and family counseling with an emphasis on family systems and sensitivity to social and cultural diversity. The MA in marriage and family therapy comprises 60 credits and prepares students for licensure in marriage and family therapy in their resident state. A dual licensure option is available for students seeking licensure in marriage and family therapy and professional counseling; this requires additional coursework. Students are responsible for locating and arranging their own practicum and clinical experiences. Full-time students typically complete the program in seven semesters; part time options are also available.
University of West Alabama Livingston, Alabama
ADMISSIONS RATE 73%
GRADUATION RATE 29%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 51%
RETENTION RATE 66%
DEFAULT RATE 11%
The University of West Alabama, chartered in 1835 in Livingston as a church-related academy for women, offers an affordable online master's degree in marriage and family counseling. The program is tailored for students who are not seeking professional licensure or certification. Emphasizing a non-pathology based perspective, the MS in family counseling requires students to earn 33 credits of coursework that are delivered in eight-week terms. Curriculum requirements include an internship. Coursework includes professional ethics and educational statistics. Most students complete the program in 12-18 months. Up to nine credits of graduate work completed within the previous nine years may be accepted. Student resources include an assigned personal success coach.
City University of Seattle Seattle, Washington
|GRADUATION RATE 47%
|ONLINE ENROLLMENT 58%
|RETENTION RATE 0%
|DEFAULT RATE 6%
CityU boasts over 20 locations in the Northwest and worldwide. The school has trained clinicians since 1994. The online master's degree in marriage and family counseling comprises 48 credits, including five sections of supervised counseling experience that totals 600 hours. The program is offered as a concentration through the MA in counseling. Most of the learning is face-to-face, with additional asynchronous online coursework also required. Students complete the program in a regional cohort. The school offers a two-year intensive, full-time option and a three-year, part-time option. Graduates are qualified to apply for associate licensing in Washington and can work toward licensure as a mental health counselor or a marriage and family therapist. Admissions requirements include a minimum 2.75 GPA and an interview.
Houston Baptist University Houston, Texas
ADMISSIONS RATE 33%
GRADUATION RATE 33%
ONLINE ENROLLMENT 4%
RETENTION RATE 70%
DEFAULT RATE 9%
Houston Baptist, founded in 1960 and affiliated with the Southern Baptist Church, offers an online master's in marriage and family counseling that prepares students for licensure as a marriage and family therapist in Texas. The MA in marriage and family therapy emphasizes research-supported counseling skills. Required coursework is delivered online and on-campus. Students complete a three semester supervised practicum in an approved setting. Graduates must pass the jurisprudence exam and complete a minimum of two years (3,000 hours) of supervised work experience in marriage and family services before earning licensure. Admissions requirements include GRE scores, an interview, and a minimum grade of B in introductory psychology and statistics classes. Applicants with a minimum 3.0 GPA may receive a GRE waiver.
Mid-America Christian University Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
|GRADUATION RATE 39%
|ONLINE ENROLLMENT 69%
|RETENTION RATE 59%
|DEFAULT RATE 15%
Mid-America Christian University, located in Oklahoma City, offers an affordable MS in counseling with a marital and family therapy emphasis that students can complete entirely online. On-campus and hybrid options are also available. The program prepares students for licensure in therapeutic counseling and integrates a Christian perspective to facilitate success in secular and ministry settings. Most students complete the 48-credit program in two years; an accelerated option is also available. Classes begin in October, November, and December. The school evaluates transfer credits on a case by case basis, and there is no maximum number of allowable transfer credits. Military personnel and veterans may be eligible for transfer credit based on experience, and they also receive a 15% tuition discount with proper documentation.
Western Seminary Portland, Oregon
|GRADUATION RATE 0%
|ONLINE ENROLLMENT 21%
|RETENTION RATE 0%
|DEFAULT RATE 3%
Western Seminary, which is located in Portland, Oregon, has additional campuses in California and Washington. The school is a pioneer in seminary distance learning. The school's online master's in marriage and family counseling requires the completion of 24 credits online and 49 credits on campus. The MA in marital and family therapy comprises 72-73 credits and can be completed in three years. The program prepares students for licensure in California and other states. Students must complete 225 hours of supervised counseling. Admissions requirements include a minimum 3.0 GPA and foundational knowledge of psychology. Transfer credits can fulfill up to 50% of the required coursework. An advanced standing option is available, permitting students to waive up to 12 credits of theology and biblical studies if they demonstrate subject competency in an interview.
Palo Alto University Palo Alto, California
|GRADUATION RATE 0%
|ONLINE ENROLLMENT 15%
|RETENTION RATE 0%
|DEFAULT RATE 6%
Palo Alto University, founded in 1975, offers programs in the behavioral and social sciences, including an MA in counseling with an emphasis in marriage, family, and child counseling. The school maintains international collaborations, permitting students in China and Latin America who are studying for the online master's in marriage and family counseling to obtain local clinical practicum training. Students complete 93 quarter credits, mandatory fieldwork and intensives, and a 700 hour practicum. All coursework can be completed online. Students must attend a one-week summer residency at the Palo Alto campus. Students complete practicum and internship requirements in their home community. Most distance learners complete the program in 11-12 quarters, or approximately three years. The program prepares students to pursue California licensure as a marriage and family therapist or professional clinical counselor.
How to Choose an Online Master's in Family Counseling Program
In addition to the cost of tuition, there are many factors to consider when choosing the best online master’s in marriage and family counseling program for you. The program should be accredited by an appropriate agency, such as the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education, to ensure it meets minimum educational standards to prepare students for careers in mental health. Also look carefully at the offered classes to make sure they will help you meet licensing requirements for the state in which you intend to practice. This may require speaking with an advisor.
Most importantly, ensure the program’s schedule and format fits your lifestyle. Online programs may be part-time, full-time, or accelerated, and coursework may be delivered in synchronous or asynchronous formats; the former requires students to attend classes at any time, and the latter allows students to complete work at their convenience. Evaluate your options and decide which is best for you.
Careers for Graduates of Master's in Family Counseling Programs
Graduates with an online master’s degree in marriage and family counseling pursue careers working at outpatient care centers, specialty healthcare facilities, religious organizations, and private practices. Salaries depend on geographic location and type of organization, but the typical salary is about $50,000, with increased income potential for experienced professionals. The table below includes examples of common positions for graduates with an MFT master’s degree.
Mental health therapist
Mental health therapists suggest therapies to help patients with a variety of issues. They keep detailed records and often coordinate treatment with other care providers, monitoring progress and acting as a resource in crisis situations.
Median Salary: $46,833
Median Salary: $48,932
Social and community services manager
Median Salary: $51,089
Licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT)
Median Salary: $51,330
Mental health program manager
Median Salary: $55,247
Job Outlook and Salary
Marriage and family therapists and those with MFT degrees treat issues such as anxiety, alcoholism, sex addiction, and substance abuse. The demand for mental health professionals is growing, as an increasing number of insurance companies and healthcare providers recognize the need for early intervention.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a combined 19% increase in employment for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists by 2024. While specific opportunities and salaries vary by industry and geographic location, graduates of online master’s in family counseling programs can expect ample job opportunities.
|Projected Employment, 2024
Salary Growth by Experience for Graduates of Family Counseling Programs
Many jobs requiring an MFT degree have respectable starting salaries, but more importantly, careers in marriage and family counseling have great potential for income growth. The longer you work in a profession, the more money you can expect to earn, meaning a career in family counseling is both personally and financially rewarding.
Family Counseling Professional Organizations
Joining a professional organization makes applying your degree to a professional role less overwhelming. Professional associations offer resources such as job boards, networking events, continuing education opportunities, and annual conferences to help members stay apprised of developments in the field. With many regional, national, and international associations, the field of marriage and family therapy offers plenty of peer support, including the following top organizations:
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
- With more than 25,000 members, AAMFT is one of the biggest professional organizations in the field. Membership includes free legal consultations, discounts on insurance, and a subscriptions to the association’s journal and magazine.
- American Family Therapy Academy
- This selective organization aims to advance theories, therapies, research, and professional education in the field. Membership requires a recommendation from a current member. Members receive discounts to the annual conference and are included in a member database.
- National Council on Family Relations
- This diverse organization focuses on family research, practice, and education. Membership includes access to three professional journals, online resources, and a member newsletter.
- International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors
- As a division of the American Counseling Association, the member network includes social workers and psychologists, as well as marriage and family counselors. Members have opportunities to mentor others, assume leadership roles, and earn a family therapy certification.
- International Family Therapy Association
- This organization’s international conferences promote and support family therapy practices. Members receive discounted conference fees, free journal and newsletter subscriptions, and access to members-only forums.
To determine the best online business management programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the 25 best online business management degree programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.