Best Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) Online Programs

Learn about top-ranked online MFT programs that have the accreditation and flexibility you need to clinically practice as a licensed marriage and family therapist and pursue other rewarding work counseling others.

If you’re interested in the therapy field and want to help people work through some of life’s most challenging issues, a master’s in marriage and family therapy online program can help you reach that goal. Through flexible and affordable online coursework, MFT programs give you the knowledge and training required to become a licensed therapist, qualify for related roles in social work and counseling, or move onto advanced doctoral studies.

The following guide spotlights the top online MFT programs, explores degree requirements, and provides other critical information you’ll want to know before enrolling. Keep reading to get started on your path to earning your online MFT degree.

College Spotlights: Best Online MFT Programs for 2021

The best online MFT programs provide the academic and hands-on training needed for securing state licensure and providing compassionate and competent therapeutic care. Both flexible and affordable, these online programs explore the theories and best practices in the field.

Below are three stand-out MFT programs. Later in 2021, we’ll publish our full rankings, so check back to review our comprehensive list of the best online MFT programs.

University of West Alabama

The University of West Alabama’s flexible and affordable master’s in marriage and family therapy online program is primarily designed for students who already have professional licensure. This 33-credit degree comprises mostly asynchronous coursework and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Students typically complete the degree in 12-24 months.

Through classes taught by licensed therapists and counselors, core courses cover topics like techniques of educational research, marriage and family therapy, and systems theory in psychology. Specialized elective coursework includes the therapeutic relationship, advanced family counseling techniques, and assessment techniques in family counseling. You must also complete a professional internship before graduation.

Applicants need a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. This online master’s does not prepare students for licensure as a counselor or therapist.

Fresno Pacific University

Fresno Pacific University’s online MFT degree provides you with the skills needed to offer effective counseling in a clinical setting. Affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren Church, FPU’s program combines theory, theology, and practical skills to supply the necessary training for MFT licensure in California.

FPU’s online master’s in marriage and family therapy requires 65 credits for graduation. In addition to core coursework like introduction to counseling and professional ethics in counseling, you’ll tackle several Bible-based courses. Topics include the church and God’s mission in the world, theology for integration, and a Bible knowledge seminar. Students are also required to complete two semesters of hands-on practicum experience.

Prospective students need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 3.0. They must also submit three letters of recommendation and official GRE scores. Fresno Pacific also notes that applicants should demonstrate a commitment to Christian ministry and service.

Mid-America Christian University

Located in Oklahoma City, Mid-America Christian University offers a 60-credit online M.S. in counseling with a specialization in marital, couples, and family therapy. As a Christian university, coursework is taught from a biblical perspective and integrates Christian values. This degree prepares students with the skills they need to secure Oklahoma licensure and provide competent counseling to clients.

Core counseling coursework includes essential topics like individual counseling and psychotherapy techniques, interpersonal communication in counseling and relationships, and marital and family treatment techniques. You must also complete a 100-hour practicum in a university-approved clinical setting.

Before graduation, plan to participate in an internship with a minimum 600 hours of supervised service. The number of clinical hours may be adjusted to accommodate other state requirements for online students seeking licensure.

Advantages of Earning an Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy

Earning a master’s in marriage and family therapy online offers graduates the essential academic and professional training needed to provide effective care while meeting the requirements for state licensure. If you’re interested in a career as a marriage and family therapist, this degree is a great option. Below are some advantages of earning an online MFT degree:

  1. Flexibility

    Whether you’re a working, licensed therapist or interested in entering the field, the flexibility of online coursework allows you to complete your academic requirements while keeping up with personal and professional responsibilities. Through cutting-edge, web-based platforms, you’ll engage with instructors and classmates. Common tools used include live lectures, web conferences, and discussion boards for engaging with course material.

  2. Career Advancement

    An MFT supplies the theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience needed to provide clients with competent therapeutic care. In addition to those skills, this online degree often acts as a pathway towards securing the necessary licensure to work in a clinical environment. An MFT offers additional academic credentials for licensed students that can expand career options and increase pay.

  3. Hands-on Experience

    If you’re interested in gaining MFT licensure, practicum and internship experience in a clinical setting provides hundreds of required hours of hands-on experience. Essential to both earning a license and professional growth, the opportunity to learn from seasoned professionals in the field gives valuable experience with some of the real-world challenges encountered on the job.

What You’ll Learn in an Online Marriage and Family Therapy Programs

During your tenure as an online MFT student, you’ll learn the theoretical and practical skills needed to provide effective, empathetic, and expert therapeutic care. Introductory coursework covers topics like research methods and ethical issues in the field. Specialized coursework introduces topics such as principles of family therapy, child and adolescent counseling, and diagnosis and case management.

In addition to online courses, programs with a clinical track require you to tackle hundreds of practicum and internship experience hours. These hands-on experiences prepare you for clinical careers while meeting the requirements necessary for state licensure. Popular courses offered in many MFT programs are detailed below.

Popular Courses

  • Human Sexuality in Counseling

    This online course explores the assessment and intervention skills needed to effectively address issues arising in sexual relationships. Students examine common sexuality issues in family counseling and gain awareness of their preconceptions and assumptions related to sexuality issues. Students also gain a solid understanding of the underlying theories and best practices in the field.

  • Clinical Issues of Aging, Death, and Dying

    This course explores ideas of aging, death, and dying through an interdisciplinary lens. By examining the cultural, biological, and historical elements, students gain the information and skills needed to address the ethical, legal, and emotional elements essential to aging and end-of-life care. Students also explore theories surrounding grief and grieving and popular therapeutic intervention skills.

  • Addiction and Chemical Dependency Counseling.

    By examining the historical, theoretical, and practical foundations of addiction and recovery, this course provides critical information to address substance use issues competently. Students look closely at the impact of addiction on families and relationships. They also develop individualized strategies and treatments as clients encounter the stages of addiction and recovery.

  • Group Dynamics and Counseling

    This course introduces students to the theoretical and practical tools essential to effective group counseling. Students explore and analyze group dynamics in a therapeutic setting while negotiating any professional and ethical issues that may arise. They also learn the key techniques and best practices for approaching group counseling.

  • Child/Adolescent Psychopathology and Counseling

    By evaluating various disorders and diagnoses of children and adolescents, students gain the theoretical and practical knowledge to address client issues and formulate treatment plans. Plan to explore developmental, social, and behavioral problems related to experiences such as violence, divorce, and abuse.

Accreditation for Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy Online Programs

When searching for an online marriage and family therapy master’s program that best fits your needs, make sure to consider each program’s accreditation. Schools that have earned their academic stamp of approval from regional accreditation meet exacting standards as set by the accrediting institutions. As a result, you can feel comfortable that the school is worth your time and money.

In addition to regional accreditation, specialized accreditation for MFT programs is earned through the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs. These organizations evaluate faculty, verify regional accreditation, and analyze student achievement data before awarding accreditation. If you’re unsure whether a school or program holds proper accreditation, consult the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

What You Can Do with a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy

Entering the field of marriage and family therapy will give you the satisfaction of helping clients effectively and healthily navigate familial and marital relationships. MFT graduates enter a field underscored by challenging and meaningful work and find employment in environments such as mental health clinics, adoption agencies, and private practice. An MFT degree provides specialized knowledge that can broaden your career options and increase your salary.

This degree also acts as a gateway towards further academic pursuits, as many graduates go on to earn doctorate degrees in areas like social work and psychology. Keep reading to learn more about what you can do with your MFT degree.

Marriage and Family Therapist

These trained and licensed professionals help clients address problems they face in marital and family relationships. Often working in private practice, marriage and family therapists help clients cope with difficult situations and develop strategies to address behavioral issues. They work with both individuals and groups and bring a family-focused perspective when evaluating mental health issues.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$32,070

$49,610

$87,700

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers oversee organizations and programs that encourage public wellness. Often coming from a therapeutic background, these professionals work with the community to address mental health, income instability, and homelessness. They also plan outreach activities, analyze client data, and take part in fundraising activities.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$41,220

$67,150

$112,480

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Substance Abuse Counselor


These trained professionals help their clients address substance use disorders and behavioral issues and provide support when navigating challenges that arise in early recovery. Substance abuse counselors recommend treatment goals, evaluate client needs, and develop skills needed for a life without drugs and alcohol.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$29,520

$46,240

$76,080

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Social Worker

Often trained with a background in marital and family issues, social workers help their clients address challenges they confront in everyday living. These clinical professionals assess client needs and diagnose mental health and behavioral problems. They also advocate for community resources and develop public programs to address community needs.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$31,790

$50,470

$82,540

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Community Health Worker

Working as an essential link between the communities they represent and healthcare professionals, community health workers design strategies to improve community health while expanding access to necessary care. They collect community data, conduct outreach programs, and provide counseling and social support. Community health workers also work as advocates for community needs.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$26,660

$40,360

$68,350

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Costs and Financial Aid for Online Master’s Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy

Before enrolling in an online MFT program, understand the financial commitment that comes with your degree. Along with tuition costs, additional fees, and the cost of books and other materials, expenses can add up quickly. Make sure you read all the fine print, so you’re not surprised by a larger bill than expected.

The majority of schools have many financial aid options. From loans to scholarships, make sure you do the legwork to see where you can get some financial assistance. Additionally, schools such as Liberty University offer discounted tuition rates for military veterans and first responders. When looking at schools, realize that tuition rates can vary wildly. For example, Pepperdine University charges $1,645 per credit while the University of West Alabama charges $429.

The following table gives an idea of what your MFT degree might cost.

What Your Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy Could Cost

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Est. Total Tuition Cost

University of West Alabama

33

$429

$14,157

Amridge University

60

$675

$40,500

Liberty University

60

$565

$33,900

FAQs About Earning Your Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy Online

What are the admissions requirements for an online master’s in marriage and family therapy?

Admissions requirements for online MFT programs differ slightly from program to program. For example, some schools require a 3.0 undergraduate GPA while others require a 2.5, and some look for relevant experience while others accept career changers. Make sure you pay close attention to admissions requirements since an incomplete application gives the impression that you may lack attention to detail and could omit valuable information needed in the admissions process. If you have questions regarding the process, make sure to reach out to an admissions counselor. Below are some standard admissions requirements.

  • Fully completed application
  • Application fees
  • All academic transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Professional resume
  • GRE scores
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA

How long will it take to finish my master’s in marriage and family therapy online?

Most online MFT programs require about two years to complete. Your enrollment as a full- or part-time student has a significant influence on how long it will take you to finish your degree. Transfer credits can also offset the amount of time required as can finding an accelerated option. Additionally, if you’re already a licensed therapist, omitting mandatory licensure coursework can also cut down on how long the degree program takes.

Can I earn a master’s in marriage and family therapy 100% online or do I need to visit campus?

Some of the best online MFT programs offer traditional coursework entirely online. Whether synchronous or asynchronous, schools use cutting-edge digital platforms to give you an academic experience that closely mirrors on-campus options. As a result, you have the freedom to complete classes while maintaining personal and professional responsibilities. In addition to online coursework, MFT programs require in-person, hands-on practicum and internship experience if you’re looking to obtain licensure.