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Quality Matters: Today’s Best Accredited Online MFT Programs

If you’re looking for accredited online MFT programs, this is your comprehensive resource. Find spotlight schools, costs, steps for licensure, and answers to your MFT questions below.

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A young girl is sitting on a couch with her parents. The father has his arm around her, and the mother is sitting beside her, showing concern. Another person, perhaps an online MFT program counselor from a COAMFTE-Accredited institution, is sitting across from them, partially visible on the right side of the image.

Are you drawn to making a meaningful difference in people’s lives? Have you always wanted to work with couples or families? Sounds like counseling may be the right career path for you, specifically an online degree in marriage and family therapy (MFT).

Accredited online MFT programs can lead you toward a lucrative career and meaningful work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for marriage and family therapists is projected to grow by 15% from 2022 to 2032, a healthy rate signaling a need for more therapists — especially when contrasted against the 3% national average for all industries.

When you complete accredited marriage and family therapy programs online, you’ll find flexibility is key; you’ll be able to balance your work and life schedules while earning your degree. Our guide spotlights top universities and their requirements, as well as everything you need to know about earning a degree from an accredited marriage and family therapy program. Keep reading — answers to your MFT questions are just down the page.

Common Questions About Accredited MFT Programs

What is COAMFTE accreditation?

COAMFTE stands for the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. It’s a specialized body that evaluates and accredits graduate-level institutions that offer marriage and family therapy programs.

Schools with a COAMFTE accreditation have programs that meet rigorous standards in curriculum, faculty qualifications, clinical training, and student outcomes, ensuring they’re high-level programs. This accreditation typically lasts seven years, but this may vary depending on location.

Why is attending an accredited marriage & family therapy program important?

COAMFTE-accredited marriage and family therapy programs online have met the rigorous standards set forth by the governing body to ensure a quality education. Additionally, accreditation translates to eligibility for licensure upon graduation as well as professional recognition, as employers often require graduation from accredited programs. Finally, availability of state and federal financial aid also often hinges on accreditation status of a program/institution.

Are COAMFTE-accredited programs more academically difficult?

COAMFTE-accredited programs maintain a certain academic standard, but that doesn’t mean they’re inherently more difficult. Still, accreditation ensures a quality education and that students receive comprehensive training in their specialized field of study.

A host of factors contribute to the academic difficulty of a program — including individual faculty expectations, student knowledge of/comfort in a topic, course level, and much more. Academic rigor that meets a universal standard is certainly part of the evaluation, but students should want to ensure their program is robust; after all, you’ll enter the field well prepared for challenges you’ll face down the road.

Can I earn my MFT 100% online, or do I need to go to campus?

There are some MFT programs that can be completed entirely online, but most will require at least one visit to campus to complete intensives and get hands-on experience. These on-campus experiences are also designed to give students the opportunity to meet their peers and gain important networking skills. But intensives typically only last a few days, making them doable for most students. Still, it’s something to think through before landing on your final choice.

Are accredited MFT programs more expensive?

The cost of tuition for accredited online MFT programs is determined by several factors, and certainly, the cost of accreditation is part of the equation — but likely a small one. It’s also important to note that unaccredited programs may seem less expensive on paper, but what they’re offering will not provide a return on investment if licensure and employment hinge on the need for graduation from an accredited program.

Also, as the nonprofit Education Fund reminds students, you’ll have more financial aid options open to you if you choose an accredited school — and you can also look for scholarships designed just for counseling graduate students. Regardless, you’ll find schools reflecting a range of tuition costs throughout your research, so you’ll have options If an affordable online MFT program is your priority.

College Spotlights: Accredited Online MFT Programs

Through your research, you’ll find numerous online, COAMFTE-accredited marriage and family therapy programs available to you. Graduates of these programs are well-equipped to facilitate couples and family therapy for clients from a diverse range of backgrounds. Online programs additionally promise a level of affordability and convenience that in-person degrees simply can’t.

If you’re looking to pursue an MFT degree that meets the highest standards, find top-tier online options accredited by COAMFTE below.

Capella University

Logo of Capella University featuring a stylized red shield with a large "C" and the name "Capella University" in green next to it, promoting Online Clinical Psychology Master’s Degrees.

The online MS in Marriage and Family Therapy offered by Capella University helps prepare you for an initial license as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). The program offers many favorable statistics showing its effectiveness. Among them: According to its Alumni Outcomes Survey 2022-2023, 97% of program graduates agreed that the faculty and coursework prepared them to enter the field; additionally, 100% of 2020 grads found jobs after graduation.

Tuition for this 72-quarter-credit program (including 16 courses, two residencies, and internship requirements) is estimated at $497 per credit, and Capella offers discounts for active military and various scholarships to make its online program more affordable for students.

You’ll apply and enhance the skills and knowledge learned in the classroom through your residency and internship, meaning you’ll enter your profession prepared to address real-life challenges that will improve your clients’ lives.

Indiana Wesleyan University

The Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Counseling through Indiana Wesleyan University is a 60-credit graduate program students can complete online. Indiana Wesleyan is a Christian university, so there is a focus on Christian values within your coursework.

Students pay $602 per credit hour. For the 60-credit MFT program, you’ll pay a little over $36,000 over two years. To graduate, students must complete 300 in-person clinical hours at a community health center. 100 of those hours must be related specifically to couples of family therapy.

Indiana Wesleyan has a state-of-the-art therapy and research center to help students gain the skills they need. Students see regular video recordings of other classmates’ therapy sessions and get paired with an advisor for live supervision. Plus, the university provides numerous research opportunities.

Financial aid is available through grants, loans, scholarships, veterans benefits, and employer reimbursement for certain students. Indiana Wesleyan University provides a counseling scholarships page prospective students can check to find their financial aid options.

Loma Linda University

A logo featuring a maroon emblem with an open book, a torch, and laurel leaves, accompanied by the text "Keller Graduate School of Management" in gray. The emblem is on the left, and the text is on the right.

Loma Linda University is a private university in California that offers either an online or on-campus MS in Marital and Family Therapy. As a seventh-day Adventist university, the school has a Christian leaning, so courses are taught from this framework.

An online MFT degree from Loma Linda can be completed in two and a half years, with both part-time and full-time options available. Acceptance into Loma Linda’s MFT program isn’t based on GRE scores and there are no prerequisites required. However, students must complete an internship within the Loma Linda University Health system or their community as part of the program.

On top of the general MFT degree, Loma Linda offers a Medical Family Therapy specialization for students interested in working with patients and families living with an illness, injury, or disability. MFT students can also earn a certificate in Play Therapy or Drug and Alcohol Counseling alongside their degree. Regardless of specialization, all graduates are eligible to pursue California licensure as a marriage and family therapist.

Northwestern University

Northwestern has long been a recognizable name when it comes to elite universities. Its online MS in Marriage and Family Therapy program doesn’t require GRE scores for admission, but applicants do need to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university to be considered.

Northwestern’s online MFT program requires students to take 25 graduate-level courses, all taught by professors with extensive experience in the field. Many of the faculty members helped develop the school’s integrative systemic therapeutic (IST) model — a cornerstone of the MFT program curriculum.

The program requires students to complete 400 hours of clinical fieldwork in their communities before graduation. Northwestern has a dedicated placement specialist team that works with students to find the right fieldwork placement for each student’s unique student goals and interests.

Syracuse University

Syracuse University offers an online MA in Marriage & Family Therapy. It’s a 60-credit program that’s mostly online and requires a short on-campus residency to build a network with classmates and faculty; 51 are core credits, but students can also choose from nine elective credits. Tuition is estimated at $1,139 per credit hour.

Students must also complete a 500-hour clinical practicum within their local communities to get the hands-on experience they need to counsel individuals, couples, and families.

Syracuse University’s MFT program is particularly unique because it focuses on diversity and inclusion. Students learn socially just, anti-racist, LGBTQ-affirmative practices that help them work with clients from diverse backgrounds.

Costs and Financial Aid for COAMFTE Accredited Online MFT Programs

When you decide to pursue a master’s degree, you must understand the substantial financial commitment that comes with doing so. Although most degrees are two-year commitments, the costs can add up. As we’ve noted, you’ll find a wide range of tuition costs, and whenever possible, students should look into scholarship options offered by the school and by outside organizations.

Before deciding to enroll, make sure you have the financial means to afford any student loan payments. While a master’s can help you advance your career, it should never cause you so much financial strain that you can’t work payments into your budget.

How Much Your Online MFT Might Cost

All universities set their own prices and credit requirements for their individual graduate degree programs, so you won’t pay a standard price across the board. The table below outlines the costs of a few of the universities we’ve discussed to give you a better idea of the range of costs you might expect.

School Program No. of Credits Est. Resident Tuition
Capella University MS in Marriage and Family Therapy

72

$35,784

Indiana Wesleyan University MA in Marriage & Family Counseling

60

$36,120
Loma Linda University MS in Marital and Family Therapy

90

$70,649
Northwestern University MS in Marriage and Family Therapy

25

$129,300
Syracuse University Marriage & Family Therapy MA

60

$68,340

How to Become a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT)

To become a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) you’ll need to meet the requirements of your state’s licensing or regulatory board. Because each state’s requirements are unique, you’ll need to pay close attention to the requirements of the state in which you wish to practice.

Step 1: Research Your State’s MFT Licensure Requirements

As noted, each state has different licensing requirements for LMFTs, so you’ll want to research your specific state guidelines before beginning your graduate education. This will help you to ensure that you’re meeting all requirements and not omitting important steps.

To make the research process as simple as possible, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy has compiled a helpful database of licensure requirements organized by state. Through this resource, you can learn exactly what is needed in your state to become a licensed LMFT.

Step 2: Earn Your Accredited Online MFT Degree

A crucial step in becoming an LMFT is to complete an MFT graduate degree. This degree will teach you the necessary skills to help patients improve their lives. MFT degrees specifically focus on how to help couples, families, and children live happier, healthier lives.

Not only will earning a degree ensure you have the education needed to pursue a career as an LMFT, but it will also help you gain valuable connections that can help you advance your career. From faculty to other students, your peer network can be an important resource for your future career success.

Step 3: Pass All Required Exams

Before you can become a licensed MFT, you’ll need to pass the exams required in your state. No matter which state you live in, you’ll need to pass the MFT National Examination, which is administered by the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Board. To qualify to take this exam, you’ll need to apply for it through your state’s board and receive an approval code.

Some states will mandate additional testing. For example, Maryland requires you to pass a jurisprudence exam, which tests your knowledge of state-specific laws and regulations.

Step 4: Gain Supervised Field Experience

Once you’ve successfully passed your exams, you’ll need to meet your state’s requirements for supervised field experience. How many hours you’ll be required to complete, as well as what is required of you during this time, again varies widely depending on where you’re pursuing your license.

In Utah, for example, you’ll need to complete 4,000 hours of marriage and family therapy training within two years, including at least 1,000 hours of mental health therapy with 100 hours of direct supervision. On the other hand, in Minnesota, you’ll similarly need to complete at least 4,000 hours of experience, but this time with 1,000 hours spent working directly with clients under the general supervision of a board-approved supervisor and at least 200 hours of direct supervision.

Step 5: Apply for Your LMFT License

Once you’ve completed the education, examination, and clinical experience requirements to become an LMFT, you can officially apply for your license. As with the steps above, you’ll again need to go through your state or jurisdiction’s regulatory board to do so.

To get an idea of what you can expect, let’s look at Wyoming. The Wyoming Mental Health Professions Licensing Board requires you to submit the following to be considered for an MFT license:

  • A completed application
  • A $393 application fee
  • Proof of citizenship or lawful presence
  • Two copies of the FD-258 fingerprint card
  • Your school transcripts
  • A signed VESE form
  • Your official exam score reports
  • Official verification of certification in any other jurisdictions you’re licensed in

Career Outlook for Marriage & Family Therapists

A career in marriage and family therapy is rewarding and involves helping clients navigate the complexities of their relationships. Before you choose this career path, it’s natural to have questions about income levels and job prospects. To give you an idea of salary and demand, we’ve researched the highest-paying states and the states that have the most MFT openings.

Top-Paying States for Licensed MFTS

Below are the five states that have the highest mean salaries for marriage and family therapists. The table also shows the growth rate for this position; keep in mind that the national average for all jobs is 3%. With this context in mind, it’s clear that geographic location of high-paying states is diverse, and projected growth is high for most of these locations.

State Mean Salary (2023) Projected Growth (2023-25) Avg. Annual Openings

New Jersey

$92,120

1.7%

340

Maryland

$87,090

4.7%

100

Utah

$83,980

12.1%

290

Virginia

$76,480

Unavailable

Unavailable

Alaska

$74,420

Unavailable

Unavailable

Sources: BLS, 2023; Projections Central, 2023

States That Employ the Most Marriage & Family Therapists

Coastal states like California and Florida are expected to have thousands of job openings within the next few years, but much like the data illustrating which states pay the most, the diversity of locations is again evident. Below, find states with the most projected annual openings, including growth percentages and mean salaries.

State Number of Jobs (2023) Projected Growth (2023-25) Median Salary (2023)

California

34,100

5.6%

$52,230

New Jersey

4,770

1.7%

$86,030

Minnesota

3,820

4.2%

$65,870

Florida

3,770

9.3%

$46,000

Utah

2,310

12.1%

$77,600

Source: Projections Central, 2023; O*Net OnLine, 2023