9 Best Online Marriage and Family Therapy Degree Programs

    9 Best Online Marriage and Family Therapy Degree Programs

    Earning an online master’s degree in marriage and family therapy (MFT) can open up a rewarding career path as a licensed marriage and family therapist. MFTs help couples, families, and individuals improve their relationships and mental health through counseling and therapy.

    With an increasing number of accredited schools offering online MFT graduate programs, it can be difficult to determine which one best aligns with your goals, budget, and schedule. This guide examines the top 9 online marriage and family therapy master’s programs to consider based on academics, affordability, and online learning options.

    Overview of an Online Marriage and Family Therapy Degree

    A master’s degree, along with state licensure, is required to practice as a marriage and family therapist in most states.

    A Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accredited online MFT master’s program takes 2-3 years to complete. It combines coursework in relationship therapy techniques, human development, ethics, research methods, and clinical practicum experiences.

    Once you graduate, you’ll need to accrue 2,000-4,000 hours of supervised clinical work before eligible for state licensure. After meeting your state’s licensure requirements as an LMFT, you’ll be qualified for a rewarding career helping clients improve their mental health through therapy.

    Benefits of Earning an Online Marriage and Family Therapy Degree

    Pursuing an online marriage and family therapy master’s degree offers many advantages:

    • Saves money on transportation and housing costs
    • Maintains work and family responsibilities
    • Flexible schedule
    • Increased access to accredited programs
    • Learn from faculty experts online

    With careful program selection, online students receive the same quality education and training as on-campus alternatives to gain the skills to pursue licensure.

    Methodology for Selecting the Best Online MFT Programs

    Which online marriage and family therapy graduate programs provide the best educational experience and career value?

    To answer this question, I researched accredited online MFT master’s programs across the country. My ranking methodology scored each school using the following criteria:

    • Accreditation
    • Marriage and family coursework
    • Clinical training
    • Student satisfaction
    • Affordability

    I assigned points for each criterion and added up the scores to produce the final ranking. I also factored in admissions data to showcase accessible yet rigorous options offering strong career support.

    Through this analysis, I present the 9 best online marriage and family therapy degree programs.

    1. University of Southern California
    2. Northcentral University
    3. Concordia University St. Paul
    4. Capella University
    5. Saint Mary’s University
    6. Pacific Oaks College
    7. Mercy College
    8. University of West Alabama
    9. Brandman University

    What Are the 9 Best Online Marriage and Family Therapy Degree Programs?

    Follows are in-depth overviews of my top recommended online marriage and family therapy graduate programs to help you find your best fit.

    University of Southern California Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy

    The University of Southern California’s Online Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy offers unmatched academic excellence and flexibility.


    • CACREP-accredited curriculum
    • Live online classes in the evenings
    • World-renowned USC faculty
    • 140 hours of clinical practicum
    • Optional in-person capstone retreat
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    The broad-based 60-unit curriculum provides clinical and research training through evening synchronous classes and self-paced coursework. Students complete two 60-hour clinical practicum experiences to gain necessary patient contact hours for state licensure eligibility.

    An optional weeklong capstone retreat also allows online learners to collaborate face-to-face with faculty and colleagues to present clinical portfolios.

    As an added bonus, graduates earn alumni status at the prestigious USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

    Northcentral University – Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

    Northcental University offers an online Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy providing tailored specializations in key areas like child and adolescent therapy and trauma.


    • Specialized concentration options
    • 100% online course delivery
    • No required login times
    • 120-hour practicum
    • Scholarships available

    Students complete coursework and clinical training on a flexible schedule. Areas of specialization such as offered such as Child and Adolescent Therapy, Faith-Based Counseling, Medical Family Therapy, and Trauma allow you to focus your studies and tailor your training.

    A minimum 120-hour practicum helps prepare for state regulatory board licensure requirements after graduation.

    Concordia University Saint Paul – Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

    Concordia Saint Paul’s CACREP accredited online program emphasizes Christian values and service in its training for marriage and family therapists.


    • Faith-based curriculum
    • CACREP accredited
    • 0nline synchronous classes
    • 650-hour clinical requirement
    • Five start dates per year

    The 60-credit MAPLING focuses the MFT curriculum on Christian-informed studies and practices for those seeking faith integration in counselor training. You take online classes through pre-schedule Zoom meetings to collaborate with faculty and peers in real-time.

    With available summer, spring and fall start dates, the program offers flexibility for your schedule. The integrated clinical experience requires 650 hours working with individuals, couples and families seeking therapy to build your skills.

    Capella University: MS in Marriage and Family Therapy

    Capella University’s online Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy degree holds Premier status from the Council of Excellence in Marriage and Family Therapy Education.


    • COAMFTE Premier accredited
    • Flexible self-paced courses
    • 140-hour practicum
    • Licensure exam prep
    • Military tuition discounts

    The flexible self-paced curriculum allows you to progress each 12-week quarter on your own timetable through asynchronous course modules. Required synchronous web conferencing sessions and two 70-hour clinical practicums provide interactive training.

    Test prep resources also help you successfully pass the National MFT Licensure Exam after graduation. And Capella offers discounted military tuition as well as $2,500 in annual MFT scholarships.

    Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota – MS in Marriage and Family Therapy

    Saint Mary’s CACREP accredited online Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy degree immerses students in intensive clinical training experiences.


    • CACREP accredited
    • Live interactive online classes
    • 480-hour practicum
    • Lutheran Christian emphasis
    • Telemental health training

    The program takes a practitioner-scholar training approach through synchronous course meetings and an intensive integrated 480-hour clinical practicum. This hands-on training fully prepares students for post-graduate LMFT licensure.

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    A grounding in Lutheran Christian beliefs also informs the relational emphasis of coursework and clinical experiences to align with the university’s faith-based mission.

    Pacific Oaks College – MA in Marriage and Family Therapy

    Pacific Oak College offers an online/low residency hybrid option for pursuing a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy degree on an affordable and flexible schedule.


    • Blended online/on-campus classes
    • Small cohort model
    • Monthly payment plans
    • Bilingual therapy focus
    • Up to $16,00 in aid per year

    The 63-unit curriculum blends online coursework with onsite experiences during three brief summer residencies at Pacific Oak’s San Jose, CA campus. Using a low residency hybrid model gives access to immersive training while minimizing disruption for working professionals.

    A focus on bilingual therapy skills also helps prepare students for meeting client needs in diverse populations. And Pacific Oaks offers financial assistance allowing full-time students to complete the program tuition-free.

    Mercy College – MA in Marriage and Family Therapy

    Mercy College offers an online Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy providing a practitioner-focused education at an affordable price.


    • CACREP accredited
    • Live remote supervision
    • No weekday or evening requirements
    • $100 annual scholarship
    • One of most affordable options

    The flexible 60-credit curriculum features self-paced online courses with asynchronous and synchronous learning in counseling theories/techniques, ethics, human development, research and clinical practicum. You receive supervised clinical training through daytime, evening and weekend placements offering schedule flexibility.

    An annual merit-based scholarship up to $100 also provides financial assistance to online learners. And at $715 per credit hour, Mercy College offers an affordable path to entering the counseling field.

    University of West Alabama – MA in Marriage and Family Therapy

    The University of West Alabama provides an online Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy focused on rural mental health services.


    • COAMFTE accredited
    • Rural mental health focus
    • Virtual reality therapy training
    • 2x annual admission
    • $500 scholarship opportunity

    UWA tailored its program to train therapists to meet specialized needs in rural communities. Coursework covers therapist self-care, rural healthcare systems and using telemental health services to increase access to counseling.

    Virtual reality therapy simulations also prepare you for effectively using telehealth technologies. With scholarships available and spring/fall start dates, UWA makes an innovative online MFT education accessible.

    Brandman University – MS in Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy

    Brandman University offers a fully online Master of Science in Psychology with Marriage and Family Therapy specialization providing educational accessibility for working professionals.


    • Interactive online classes
    • Flexible admission requirements
    • Credit for prior learning
    • Military/veteran support
    • Under $500 per unit

    This affordable accelerated program offers flexibility whether starting or advancing your counseling career. Credit for previous undergraduate and life learning coursework can fulfill some master’s requirements to shorten your time-to-degree.

    And Brandman accommodates military service commitments allowing you to pause and resume studies if deployed or transferred during your program. With six start dates per year and tuition under $500 per unit, the program removes barriers earning an MFT credential.

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    Frequently Asked Questions About Online Marriage and Family Therapy Degrees

    Are online marriage and family therapy degrees respected?

    Yes, online marriage and family therapy master’s programs are just as respected as traditional on-campus degrees when accredited. Distance students receive the same quality curriculum, faculty training, clinical supervision and credentialing required for licensure.

    Top programs featured in this guide hold accreditation from organizations like CACREP and COAMFTE. These bodies enforce rigorous standards so online graduates receive equitable education to campus counterparts.

    Is licensure available with an online degree?

    Students graduating from a accredited online marriage and family therapy master’s qualify to pursue state licensure by meeting the same standards as on-campus graduates. Typically, this involves background checks, passing national/state board exams, and logging 2,000-4,000 hours of supervised clinical work.

    Online programs integrate equivalent core content and hands-on training through remote synchronous supervision technology. This allows distance students to gain necessary patient contact and clinical skills today’s licensing boards require.

    Does online learning limit access to faculty and peers?

    Quality online marriage and family therapy programs facilitate collaboration through live videoconferencing platforms during scheduled class times. This virtual face-to-face access creates cohort connections and real-time discussions you’d find in a classroom.

    Recorded lectures and asynchronous discussions also provide flexibility to interact with your instructors and classmates on your own time each week. Direct messaging, text, email and phone access gives additional support channels.

    By using current educational technology and instructional design, top online MFT graduate programs provide community engagement comparable to bricks-and-mortar alternatives.

    Can I work full-time while earning my online degree?

    Many students continue working full-time jobs or manage caregiver duties while progressing through online marriage and family therapy programs. Self-paced courses allow you flexibility when fulfilling assignments around life responsibilities. Synchronous meetings also often take place during evenings and weekends.

    With available night and weekend internship placements, clinical training integrates into standard work schedules. Responsible online programs also assist students in finding local community health providers to complete practicum hours.

    While demanding, balancing an online MFT education with full-time work is achievable by leveraging schools’ scheduling flexibility and location convenience.

    How long does it take to complete an online program?

    Online marriage and family therapy master’s degrees typically take 2-3 years to complete as a full-time student just like on-campus programs. Those attending part-time can expect closer to 3-4 years. Scheduling flexibility does allow self-paced learners to potentially fast-track coursework or take extended breaks when needed.

    The lockstep structured clinical training components tend to set the timeline. Most programs require between 12-15 credit hours per academic term. Maintaining this course load keeps time-to-degree on par with a campus-focused curriculum.

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