Online Marriage and Family Therapy Programs

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An online marriage and family therapy (MFT) degree program mainly focuses on family dynamics and issues that are faced in the family unit. Some courses discuss how marriages, families, and relationships function. But others look at the ways that family life can affect mental and emotional well being.

Many online MFT programs can help to get a student ready to pursue a license as a marriage and family therapist. Marriage family therapists can play an important role in their patient’s lives. They help client’s discuss their emotions and they also help to teach them the skills to cope with their problems. The goal of an MFT is to help people manage and overcome problems within themselves and in other relationships. These professional counselors use a group based point of view. Often, they work with couples, children and parents.

As a part of their goals, MFT counselors strive to help their clients deal with issues like stress, addiction and divorce. In order to do this, marriage and family therapists need to have many skills including patience and leadership skills, just to name a few. Some MFTs might also decide to pick out a specialty. For instance, some may decide that they would like to work with military families, troubled teens or LGTBQ couples. If this sounds like a career path you’d like to pursue, you’ll need a master’s degree and a license to practice. Luckily, this is a perfect moment to get started. Healthcare is rising in popularity. And, the demand for marriage and family therapists is growing much faster than average.



Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral Psychology

Learn about individual, family, and community problems and their solutions. This degree focuses on the study of human behavior as well as how people interact with one another.

Course Examples:

  • Statistics and Research
  • General Psychology
  • Social Problems and the Workplace

Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy – General Family Therapy

Work on development of skills for professional practice as a marriage and family therapist. It also fulfills the requirements that are needed to be able to pursue an MFT license.

Course Examples:

  • Family Systems Theory
  • Couples’ Counseling
  • The Couple Life Cycle

Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage & Family Therapy – Medical Family Therapy

Understand how to help individuals, couples and families that are facing medical, emotional or other difficulties. A PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy deals with issues from medical family therapy to conflict resolution.

Course Examples:

  • DMFT internship
  • Systemic Leadership
  • The Business of Therapy


In order for a student to become a marriage and family therapist, a master’s degree is essential. Most master’s programs in MFT will help you gain the skills you need to handle many types of issues from many types of clients. They will also teach you how to give your clients the guidance that they need so that they can deal with their problems. The majority of course work in an MFT program will be in family studies and MFT clinical practice. Students will also usually take at least one research course. A student must also do an internship which is also known as clinical experience. Students can plan to spend about 15 hours per week doing their internship.

Gaining an online degree from an MFT program is a great way to jump start your career in family or marital therapy. Online MFT programs allow students to work on their own time without having to give up their current source of income. It is also usually easier to get a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy online than from a traditional degree program.

Some of the areas that an MFT degree program focuses on are:

  • Divorce
  • Trauma causing events
  • Child rearing
  • School issues
  • Family Violence
  • Drug, alcohol abuse, addictions
  • Couple conflicts

Other programs deal with family structure and issues that exist within one’s mind. They also look at life cycle dynamics, influences that have an affect on many people in a family and healthy ways for a family to function. Learning these topics will teach students the necessary skills to help their clients identify and prevent problems and promote better outcomes. This can help to create family wellness.

Below are degree levels and some of the careers you can pursue with each of these degrees in MFT:

Bachelor’s Degree

There are many ways to become an MFT and you can start the process at any stage. However, you must have a master’s degree in order to have a career as an MFT counselor. Earning a bachelor’s degree is usually the first step toward becoming an MFT counselor. But you most likely won’t be able to take any of the courses you need for the MFT license exam until after you have earned your bachelor’s degree. Most bachelor’s degree programs require that students complete general courses and courses in science. By junior year, most students will have chosen their area of focus – in topics such as counseling, psychology or social work. Students can then begin to take elective courses.

A bachelor’s degree in fields like psychology or counseling is designed to help prepare students to learn how to provide therapy to an individual or to a group of people. Students may also learn how to assess a mental health condition and find treatment options for their patients. Although, a bachelor’s degree in these related fields can also act as good preparation for a student that wants to become an MFT, it is not enough to take the MFT licensing exam. The courses in these degree programs help students develop a basic idea on how to treat mental issues. They also touch on social problems and counseling techniques. All of these are taught so that a student has the skills and knowledge that they need to pursue their master’s degree and perform clinical work.

Course topics include patient assessment, research methods and how to treat and solve problems. Many students must complete hands on training through an internship. A student that earns their bachelor’s degree will not be able to become an MFT, but many can use their degree to become:

Social Worker

A social worker helps people solve and cope with problems in their daily lives. They perform many different tasks that help people who are struggling with come area of their life. A social worker can have a wide range of duties such as helping people in finding and applying for social services, protecting and helping children and assisting in the health care field.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree will prepare students to diagnose and treat many mental health issues. Most of these issues come from things like anxiety, depression, and other areas that can cause stress. Master’s degrees in MFT also prepare you to work as a licensed therapist. This includes being able to help couples and families deal with the issues they are facing in their lives and relationships.

At the master’s level, MFT coursework often includes several key topics. These may go into areas such as psychopathology, which is the scientific study of mental disorders. But they also involve other topics like addiction and substance abuse. Other topics could deal with the laws and ethics that guide modern counseling. Students may review case studies to learn about different methods and techniques that are used to deal with patients.

However, master’s programs in marriage and family therapy are longer than they used to be. Most students will do two years of full time coursework before earning their MFT. Students that graduate with an MFT specialization are competitive for positions similar to the ones listed below:

Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors help people who suffer from mental or emotional problems. This includes addiction and eating disorders. They also often work with other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Professionals in this field may provide both support and treatment. Like the MFT, a mental health counselor may need to get a license to be able to practice in all states.

However, master’s programs in marriage and family therapy are longer than they used to be. Most students will do two years of full time coursework before earning their MFT. Students that graduate with a master’s degree in MFT are viewed as more competitive for positions similar to the ones listed below:

Couple Therapist

Couple therapists study and use many of the current trends in their field to deal with the treatment of couples. This type of therapy deals with the challenges faced in a marriage or long term relationship. Therapists that work with these couples often explore the couple’s life cycle and points of change or distress. Issues like divorce and domestic violence are also talked about. These kinds of therapists may also try to create a bond with the couples to foster positive change in the couples.

Medical Family Therapist

Medical family therapists looks at issues that individuals, couples, and families face during times of chronic illness. Many of these therapists will learn how to work with patients and how to work with their families who are having difficulty because of their illness. Some therapists may help their clients identify health complaints and diseases. Others discuss how social norms and cultural beliefs can impact the illness experience.

Military Family Therapist

A military family therapist focuses on the issues that affect members of the military and their families. Military counselors work with service men and women that have issues with anxiety, depression or stress. They also work with the family of those service members to deal with the stress that goes with being away from or dealing with the death of a loved one. Many are trained to work with service members and their families in areas such as secondary trauma, grief and loss, and substance abuse, just to name a few.

Child and Adolescent Therapist

A focus in child and adolescent therapy looks at children’s mental and emotional behavioral difficulties. Courses in this field focus on learning about the phases a child goes through and how to best work with both children and their parents. Child and teen counselors provide their patients with the coping skills that are needed to achieve both emotional and mental health. Students studying child and adolescent therapy learn how to work with children and teenagers. They also learn how to help their clients deal with stress and conflict.

LGBTQ Couple and Family Therapist

Same sex couples face many of the same issues that most couples do. But, they deal with many unique issues that can create challenges as well. LGBTQ couple counselors specialize in working with clients in the LGBTQ community. The main focus of these counselors are to help same sex couples in their relationships.  An LBGTQ couple or family therapist helps their clients develop the skills to live a healthier life. In this type of field counselors will use the most current understandings in the field. They also usually take a family systems lens to LGTBQ couples and their families.

Doctoral Programs

Doctoral programs often combine coursework with research. This may help students better their skills in areas like problem solving. At the same time, they may develop skills in working with a focal group. Or the business knowledge to work in a private practice.

Another part of an online MFT program is hands on work. This usually means that students have to complete a set number of supervised internship hours. Many schools allow students to take most of their classes online (if not all). But internships and other clinical supervision activities are often completed in a student’s community.

Students who work toward getting an MFT degree online may also choose to focus their studies on a specific area. For example, working with a certain type of population such as the LGTBQ community or military veterans. If not, one may want to gain skills to work with a defined issue like addiction.

We’ve listed a few examples below. It’s important to choose a program that you feel aligns with your personal goals and concerns. Each area of focus comes with its own topics, research and training.

PhD and Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapist

PhD and Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapists (DMFT) work with clients that face challenges in one or more of their relationships. A PhD in family counseling can lead to many different careers in areas like counseling or working with individuals or groups to improve the quality of their life. DMFT programs may take between four to five years to complete. To go for your DMFT requires a dedication to the field more than other degrees in this field. These programs may entail about 69 credit hours.


To become a licensed MFT, a master’s degree in counseling or marriage and family therapy is needed. Marriage and family therapy courses focus on the ways marriages, families and relationships work. They also look at the ways in which these relationships can affect mental or emotional disorders.

These programs train students to look at mental and emotional issues and the impact that they can have on a family. Master’s programs in MFT include courses that cover family systems, human development and group therapy. Other courses deal with topics like communication between couples and research methods.

Master’s programs can take at least two years to complete and they usually require both coursework as well as clinical, or “hands on”, experience.


There are a lot of things that are the same in psychology and in marriage and family therapy. For instance, both of these types of professionals can treat clients that have many different types of problems. Psychology, however, has a more general focus while marriage and family therapy tends to be more of a specialty.

Some students looking for an MFT degree program might think a degree program in psychology is close enough. But this is not the same thing as getting an MFT degree. An MFT degree program can be very different from a psychology degree program. For example, even though both an MFT program and a clinical psychologist program can be very difficult, usually MFT is less so. And even though both have a similar course and focus on similar ideas, each has a very different path when it comes to getting your license.

A master’s degree in psychology will not allow a student to sit for the MFT licensing exam. And while a clinical psychologists needs to have a doctorate degree in order to practice, an MFT will only need to have a master’s degree to do so. Also, when it comes to doing internships, students that are going for an MFT degree are expected to do most of their clinical hours with couples or families.

Some common courses include:

Introduction to Professional Counseling: Develop the skills and commitment needed to become a professional counselor.

General Psychology: Learn the major topics in psychology and how they apply to the way humans behave.

Theories of Personality: Become aware of the general approaches that are used to understand people's personalities.

Life Span Human Development: Explore the main theories used to explain the changes people go through in their lifetimes.

Addictions and Substance Abuse Counseling: Deal with systems theory explanations of substance abuse and review approaches to group and family therapy.

Biological Foundations of Psychology: Understand the relationship between our biology and our behavior.


In all states, marriage and family therapists need to have a license. The steps you need to take in order to become an MFT include earning your bachelor’s degree, completing your master’s degree program and acquiring hands on training. You also need to pass the MFT exam and complete any continuing education courses that may be needed in order for you to keep your license.

A license requires a master’s degree which can take about 2-3 years to complete. Students will also need from 2,000 to 4,000 hours of hands on training in order to earn a license which can be anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. Also called an internship or residency, these hands on hours are important in applying the skills you learn to real life. Once a person has their degree and after finishing their internship hours, they most likely have what is needed so that they can take the MFT licensing exam. The MFT exam is available at any authorized PSI testing center. Keep in mind that MFT licenses are different in each state so completing requirements in one state does not mean you have done so for another state.

An MFT license usually lasts for a period of 2 years. In order to maintain your license as an MFT, you must have your MFT license renewed. Before you can renew your license, though, you must have earned enough credits from taking classes that are meant to continue your education. These credits are also known as CEUs. An MFT can also earn CEUs for supervising or teaching.

Licensing information for marriage and family therapists can be found through the Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB).



Even though no two online MFT degree programs are the same, there are many master’s level degrees that may take a full time student less than 3 years to complete. Many schools create programs that are meant to be completed in less than 3 years. See the chart below for some examples, then refer to individual schools for details.

School# of Credits RequiredStart DatesMinimum Months to Complete
Northcentral University45Every Monday33
Grand Canyon University37Multiple start dates25
Liberty University60Multiple start dates30


The cost of a degree will vary depending on the school you go to. On average, tuition costs for MFT majors are $6,666 for in state public colleges, and $28,980 for out of state private colleges. Prices may change between schools so make sure to check recent figures.

School# of Credits RequiredCost Per CreditTotal Tuition Cost
Northcentral University45$548$41,540
Grand Canyon University74 quarter credits$515$38,110
Liberty University60$565$33,900


Last checked, there were 3,467 degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy were awarded to students. The majority of these programs were master’s degrees. The table below shows some of the schools that awarded the most MFT degrees.

School2017 Degrees Awarded2019/20 Graduate Tuition
University of Phoenix California296$16,752
Capella University179$14,767
Brandman University166$11,880
Northcentral University129$16,983
Alliant International University San Diego119$24,255
Palo Alto University110$22,184
Pacific Oaks College87$20,847


There are 4.28 million people in the work force who have a career in the marriage and family therapy field. While the average age is 42.8, people joining the work force are getting younger. Most recent graduates are female.


States with the highest employment level of marriage and family therapist professionals are listed here. You can see salaries vary in each location.

StateEmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
New Jersey4,300$75,930


Below you’ll find a guide to some of the more popular career paths that many MFT graduates pursue. We’ve also listed the minimum education that is needed to enter the field along with salary (2018) and job outlook through 2028.


Licensed marriage and family therapists treat a wide range of mental health problems including depression and anxiety. They can help people to learn coping skills to handle and resolve issues. Often, they help their client’s discuss their feelings and help to teach them the skills to cope with their problems. Their goal is to help people manage and overcome problems within themselves and in other relationships.

According to 2020 BLS data:

Median Salary: $49,610 per year
Job growth through 2029: 22% (Much faster than average)
Entry level education: Master’s Degree


Counseling psychologists help people to gain control of their feelings. They help their patients deal with and make sense of many types of emotional and mental problems. This can include issues at home, at work, or in the community. Psychologists often need a doctorate degree and state issued license.

According to 2020 BLS data:

Median Salary: $80,370 per year
Job growth through 2029: 3% (Much faster than average)
Entry level education: Doctorate (PhD or PsyD) degree


Mental health counselors help people who suffer from mental or emotional problems. This includes addiction and eating disorders. They also often work with other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Professionals in this field may provide both support and treatment. Like the MFT, a mental health counselor may need to get a license to be able to practice in all states.

According to 2020 BLS data:

Median Salary: $46,240 per year
Job growth through 2029: 25% (Much faster than average)
Entry level education: Bachelor’s or Master’s depending on job

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