Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy

Marriage and family therapists help families and couples cope with relationship issues. They can work in private practices, mental health facilities, and churches. Therapists often address issues such as substance abuse, stress, low self-esteem, addiction, infidelity, job loss, and divorce. To become a marriage and family therapist, individuals need their master's in marriage and family therapy, psychology, or another related mental health field. Individuals must then gain their licensure in order to practice. Although licensing requirements vary by state, all students must obtain clinical experience and pass an exam.

The average annual marriage and family therapist salary is $48,790. In 2017, the median annual wage for marriage and family therapists was highest in state government roles at $72,580, followed by outpatient care centers at $48,390. Individuals interested in becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist can take comfort in a job outlook that is projected to grow 23% between 2016 and 2026.

Earning Your Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy Degree Online

Online MFT programs are attractive because of their flexibility. Students can complete coursework anywhere, and since most online courses are delivered asynchronously, students can complete assignments at their own pace. Many institutions offer discounted tuition rates to online students, and some universities allow online out-of-state learners to pay the in-state tuition rate since they are not physically on campus. Distance learners also save money by not having to pay for parking and commuting when they pursue marriage and family therapy master's programs online. Students interested in online Ph.D. programs in marriage and family therapy enjoy the same flexibility.

Master's in marriage and family therapy students receive the same quality of education online as on-campus students. The same instructors teach the courses and make similar assignments. Programs requiring internships or clinical components offer online students the chance to complete their requirements at an approved nearby location. Because online students can work and attend school at the same time, they gain work experience before graduation.

How Long Does It Take to Earn Your Marriage and Family Therapy Master's Degree Online?

Typically, the credit requirements for coursework is around 55 to 60 credits for online marriage and family therapy graduate programs. If students are interested in non-clinical practice, they are not required to complete practicum courses and hours or face-to-face clinical hours. Those interested in the clinical path must complete around two practicum courses and 300 practicum hours plus about 225 face-to-face clinical hours. MFT programs can take students between two and three years to complete.

Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy Degree

Online marriage and family therapy programs, including online marriage counseling, each have their own unique admission requirements. Students applying to online MFT programs must provide transcripts from their bachelor's program. Students must meet GPA requirements to be considered for admittance to a master's program. MFT programs typically do not require students to take the GRE exam or provide other standardized test scores.

Master's applicants do not need previous experience or clinical hours, but they must complete these requirements if they are admitted into the program. Many programs require students to complete a psychosocial history form to ensure they can function as a marriage and family therapist. Many programs also request letters of recommendation, written statements, or admissions interviews.

Courses in an Online Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy Program

Master's in marriage and family therapy programs cover a wide variety of topics including marriage counseling and couples therapy, family therapy, and sexual therapy. Students also learn about cultural diversity and unique family dynamics.

  • Couples Therapy: Students learn about theories and techniques used in marriage and family therapy and how to relate them specifically to struggling couples.
  • Family Therapy: Students learn about the supportive counseling methodology and principles used to help families who are struggling with different problems to function as a united family.
  • Cultural Diversity in Marriage and Family Therapy: Learners explore different sectors of cultural diversity, focusing on gender, ethnicity, and social class in psychotherapy practice. Students develop their cultural competence, awareness, and sensitivity.
  • Dynamics of Military Families: Students review the components of military family relationships and explore the different, unique struggles military families face.
  • Sexual Therapy: Students learn about sexual therapy and how it can be implemented within marriage counseling. They explore different techniques and skills to help couples improve their sexual relationships.

Job and Salary Outlook for Online Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy Graduates

The marriage and family therapist occupation is projected to grow 23% between 2016 and 2026. Marriage and family therapists have a higher growth rate than counselors, social workers, and other community service specialists by 7%.

States With the Highest Employment of Marriage and Family Therapists

State/District Employment
California 16,420
New Jersey 4,220
Florida 3,290
Arizona 1,510
Maryland 1,370
Source: BLS.gov

What Does a Marriage and Family Therapist Do?

Marriage and family therapists counsel people who need help overcoming problems within their families and relationships. They work in private practices, churches, and mental health facilities. Marriage and family therapists help clients express their emotions and discuss their experiences. They also help them process their reactions and adapt to life changes such as divorce or job loss. Marriage and family therapists use a family-oriented perspective during treatment, helping clients cope with issues such as substance abuse, low self-esteem, addiction, and stress. They assess, evaluate, and treat clients in order to improve their outlook on life, family relationships, and their marriage.

Top-Paying States and Districts for Marriage and Family Therapists

State/District Annual Mean Wage
New Jersey $74,130
Colorado $68,200
Hawaii $67,020
Maine $66,360
Arizona $64,480
Source: BLS

Licensing and Certification for Marriage and Family Therapists

Each state has its own counseling requirements for licensure, but most counselors or therapists must be licensed to practice in their state of employment. In some states, counselors must complete the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE). Some states require the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). Other states require counselors to complete both examinations for licensure. The NCE exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions that assesses the knowledge, abilities, and skills that are crucial to providing quality counseling services. The NCE is required for counselor licensure in many states. It is one of two examination options to obtain National Certified Counselor certification.

The NCMHCE consists of 10 clinical simulations that test a broad area of competencies. The NCMHCE is required in certain states for counselor licensure and is required for the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor certification. The NCMHCE, along with the NCE are the two options for individuals interested in obtaining their National Certified Counselor certification. Study guides are accessible to individuals taking either the NCE or the NCMHCE.

Accreditation for a Marriage and Family Therapy Degree Online Program

There are two major accreditation types: regional and national. Regional accreditation is the more widely accepted form of accreditation. Regionally accredited institutions easily transfer credits and degrees to other institutions. Courses in these programs are usually instructor-led, and graduates of regionally accredited programs are eligible for all corporate tuition reimbursement plans. Nationally accredited institutions are often more affordable, but the credits from those programs do not easily transfer and are sometimes not accepted at all. National accreditation typically pertains to certificate programs as opposed to degree-granting institutions, and the courses are often self-study. Graduates from a nationally accredited program are often not considered for tuition reimbursement plans.

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) provides accreditation to master's and doctoral counseling programs of all disciplines offered in the U.S. and throughout the world. The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education and CACREP are the accrediting agencies for online marriage and family therapy programs. The agencies regulate the programs to ensure students receive the highest quality of education.

Professional Organizations for Marriage and Family Therapists

Students enrolled in online marriage and family therapy programs can benefit from joining a professional organization. These organizations allow distance learners to connect with other professionals or students in the marriage and family therapy field. Events and seminars allow members to network and explore possible job opportunities.

  • American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: The AAMFT represents more than 50,000 marriage and family therapists around the world. The organization promotes research and education to improve family relationships.
  • IAMFCOnline: The International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors encourages professionals to discuss family-related issues, emphasizes collaboration, and provides training and resources to professionals.
  • International Family Therapy Association: IFTA hosts international conferences to improve, promote, and strengthen the quality of family therapy and the relationships within families.
  • National Council on Family Relations: NCFR is a nonprofit that focuses on family research, education, and practice. The organization boasts members from all 50 states and more than 35 countries who are dedicated to strengthening family relationships.
  • American Family Therapy Academy: AFTA boasts members who are some of the top national and international family therapy clinicians, researchers, academics, policymakers, and program directors.

Online Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy Scholarships

Students pursuing their master's in marriage and family therapy can choose from many different scholarship opportunities. Each scholarship requires its own unique criteria that students must meet in order to be considered.

Future Counselors of America Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Students enrolled in psychology and counseling programs who intend to pursue a career in relationship counseling or a related field may apply. Applicants need a 3.5 minimum GPA and must submit an essay to be considered.
Amount: $1,000

Ida M. Pope Memorial Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Female students who have Hawaiian ancestry or heritage and are pursuing a degree in health, counseling, social work, science, math, or education may apply. Applicants need a 3.5 minimum GPA to be considered.
Amount: Varies

National Federation of Republican Women National Pathfinder Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Women pursuing careers related to counseling and substance abuse may apply. Applicants must be Republican students who are majoring in psychology, counseling, or another related field.
Amount: $2,500

Pride Foundation Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Students who are members of the LGBTQ community and are pursuing a degree in counseling or psychology may apply. Applicants must be residents of Alaska, Idaho, Washington, Montana, or Oregon with strong leadership skills and a dedication to social justice and LGBTQ matters.
Amount: $1,000-$10,000

American Psychological Foundation Graduate Student Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Students enrolled in a psychology graduate program may apply. Applicants must submit a research proposal to be considered.
Amount: $1,000-$5,000

APA Society Convention Research Awards
Who Can Apply: These awards are granted to students enrolled in a psychology or counseling graduate program. Applicants must complete competitive research, and if they are chosen, they must attend and present at the annual APA convention.
Amount: $500

California Psychological Association Foundation Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Minority students who are pursuing a graduate degree in psychology-related fields may apply.
Amount: $2,000

Colorado Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Master's students who are living in Colorado due to a grant from The Colorado Trust may apply. Applicants must be enrolled in a counseling program and have experience with minority or rural communities.
Amount: $5,000

Fred Adair Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship is offered to master's-level counseling students living in Virginia. Interested students must have experience with military service members, minorities, or rural communities.
Amount: $5,000

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Research and Education Foundation Master's Student Minority Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship is awarded to master's minority students who are interested in pursuing a career in marriage and family therapy.
Amount: $2,000