Ranking Top 20 Graduate Degree Programs in Marriage and Family Therapy 2016

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August 2016

There are a number of ways in which people interested in counseling and psychology can help people in need. One of the exciting specialty areas is that of Marriage and Family Therapy. Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT’s) are highly skilled mental health professionals who have received extensive training in providing therapy to members of a family. To become an MFT, one must receive the proper training and earn their license in this area. Once licensed, these professionals are prepared to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders inside the context of marriage, couples and family systems. MFT’s work in private practices, rehabilitation facilities, schools, hospital, mental health facilities and other related areas. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook, this specialty area  employs 30,150 nationwide, with a median income of $51,730 and the top 90 percent earning $78,920. To work as a marriage and family therapist, you must have a minimum of a master’s degree in this area. This list outlines the top 20 programs in the United States offering a master’s level degree in the field of marriage and family therapist. To be considered, each college or university must be appropriately accredited, with higher consideration being given to those schools with accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE).

Ranking Methodology

This ranking list was formulated to outline the very best Graduate Programs in Marriage and Family Therapy in the United States according to a combination of several ranking factors. To be considered, each school must have received Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Factors considered:

Average Annual Cost of Graduate Attendance

One of the major factors being considered is the average annual cost of attendance. Schools offering academic training while also keeping student costs low are given higher consideration. Tuition data was collected using the College Navigator Tool.

Points:
Under $15,000 / $15,001 – $20,000/ $20,001 – $30,000:
3 Points / 2 Points / 1 Point

College Ranking

The next consideration was whether or not a school has been granted acknowledgement by a national ranking body. The major source of such national notoriety comes from the US News and World Report Best Colleges List. The Data being considered for this ranking list is National Ranking, Top Public School and Best Value Ranking.

Points:

US News and World Report Best National University Ranking:
Top 150 / Top 100 / Top 50 / Top 25
1 Point / 2 Points / 3 Points / 5 Points

US News and World Report Best Value School and Top Public School Ranking:
Top 100 / Top 50 / Top 25
1 Point / 2 Points / 3 Points

Accreditation

In order to be included in this ranking list an appropriate ranking body must regionally accredit each college or university. Those schools that have received additional accreditation are given an edge over schools without the stamp of accreditation.

Points:

Each Accreditation: 1 Point

Number of Degree Options or Areas of Specialization

Those schools’ specializations and degree options allow students to find a degree path that best fits their career goals.

Points:
More Than One Degree or Area of Specialization = 2 Points

Grading Process

Once the points have been tallied the schools are arranged into groups by the amount of points they have earned. In the cases of ties, preference was given to those schools with the lowest tuition rates. The main purpose of this list is to highlight the top graduate Marriage and Family Therapy programs in the United States. Specializations, awards and achievements earned by the school or department have also been noted.

Ranking Top 20 Graduate Degree Programs in Marriage and Family Therapy

#20 – Drexel University – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Drexel University Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe Couple and Family Therapy Department

Points: 6
Program Website

The Couple and Family Therapy Department at Drexel University trains students to become leaders in the modern mental health environment by offering high quality education and excellent clinical preparation. Students learn to function as therapists who are culturally aware as well as culturally sensitive. There are four excellent graduate programs, each with a firm framework upon which students can build their careers in couple and family therapy. The internationally esteemed faculty has expertise in areas including Culture, Trauma, Medical Family Therapy, Health Policy, Supervision and Training, Forensic Family Therapy, Divorce Mediation, Substance Abuse, Youth and Family Violence, Sex Therapy, Interdisciplinary Healthcare Initiatives, LGBT and Mixed Orientation relationships and EFT. There are four graduate training programs that include a master’s degree, a doctoral degree and two graduate certificates.

Master of Family Therapy Degree Program: The MFT program offers students training to become professional MFT counselors. The educational and training experience in this program is comprised of seven major components:

  1. Historical development of systems theory and cybernetics and use of the systems paradigm in treatment
  2. Comprehensive survey of major models of change in couple and family therapy, with emphasis on assessment and treatment
  3. Conceptual understanding of complex relational dynamics across the family life cycle
  4. Person of the Therapist Training
  5. Ethical, legal, and professional responsibilities of couple and family therapists
  6. Quantitative and qualitative research in couple and family therapy
  7. Supervised clinical practicum in which students receive a minimum of 100 hours of supervision and 350 hours of face-to-face client contact

Post-Master’s Certificate Program in Couple and Family Therapy:
 This certificate program allows the students to continue their education in couple and family therapy along with Drexel’s innovative professional training programs.

Post-Graduate Certificate Program in Medical Family Therapy: This Post-Graduate certificate program in Medical Family Therapy bridges gaps in the healthcare system.

Doctoral Degree Program in Couple and Family Therapy: The PhD Program in Couple and Family Therapy prepares students for careers in academia, research, and behavioral healthcare. This program emphasizes critical thinking and mastery in:

  • Advance Clinical Training in ABFT and EFT
  • Research and Publication
  • Clinical and supervisory skill development
  • Pedagogy and teachingHealth Policy

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $30,306
US News and World Report Ranking:
#99 Best National University
Degree Options:
Master of Marriage and Family Therapy
Doctor of Philosophy in Couple and Family Therapy
Post-Graduate Certificate Program in Medical Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

#19 – University of Louisville – Louisville, Kentucky

University of Louisville Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe Kent School of Social Work

Points: 6
Program Website

Students who plan to pursue a career in Marriage and Family Therapy have a unique degree option at the University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work. Students may pursue a Master of Science in Social Work with a specialization in Couple and Family Therapy (CFT). This specialization is committed to training professionals to work with at-risk individuals and families in community settings. The University began offering the first Marriage and Family Therapy courses in the 1970s, and in 1983 offered students a post-Master’s certificate. In 1994, the Family Therapy Program became a part of the Kent School of Social Work. The CFT program is one of only two programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. CFT coursework focuses on theoretical foundations, practical application, ethics, integration of research, theory and practice and supervised clinical practice. MSSW-CFT students complete coursework, practicum hours and faculty supervision to sit for MFT Licensure, in addition to being able to become Licensed Clinical Social Workers. The CFT coursework takes two years to complete and begins in the summer of the first CFT year. The curriculum in the MSSW-CFT Specialization meets the requirements for Kentucky licensure and clinical membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $11,522
US News and World Report Ranking:
#168 Best National University
#91 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Master of Science in Social Work with Specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#18 – University of New Hampshire – Durham, New Hampshire

University of New Hampshire Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe College of Health and Human Services

Points: 7
Program Website

The Marriage and Family Therapy Program at the University of New Hampshire prepares students for work in mental health, family service, medical, and human service settings. The emphasis is on fundamental, strategic, and universal approaches to marriage and family therapy. Second-year students can participate in an external internship that complements the clinical practicum completed on campus. The clinical training portion of the program outlines how to treat individuals, couples, and families. Students engage in supervised practicum experiences throughout their course of study. To become a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, students must complete 500 hours of clinical practice during the program. Additional hours of clinical practice under supervision will be required to meet AAMFT standards for clinical membership after graduation. The mission of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program is to stay “committed to educating and training qualified students to become competent marriage and family therapists who are able to understand the importance of integrating theory, practice, and research”.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $15,288
US News and World Report Ranking:
#103 Best National University
#47 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

#17 – University of Kentucky – Lexington, Kentucky

University of Kentucky Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe School of Human Environmental Sciences

Points: 7
Program Website

The Department of Family Sciences at the University of Kentucky confers master’s and doctoral level programs, with optional emphasis areas in adolescent development, aging, couple and family therapy, family finance and economics, and family processes. Graduates of either the master’s or doctoral programs are eligible to become Certified Family Life Educators (CFLEs), a professional certification administered by the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) that demonstrates competency in 10 primary areas:

  1. Families in Society
  2. Internal Dynamics of Families
  3. Human Growth and Development
  4. Human Sexuality
  5. Interpersonal Relationships
  6. Family Resource Management
  7. Parent Education & Guidance
  8. Family Law & Public Policy
  9. Ethics
  10. Family Life Education Methodology

The Couple and Family Therapy emphasis requires a prearranged curriculum totaling 53 credit hours, comprised of 15 credit hours of core family sciences courses, 18 hours of core couple and family therapy courses, 10 hours of supervised practicum, 3 hours of a data analysis or program evaluation course, 1 hour of a professional development seminar, and 6 credit hours for the thesis or scholarly project. Students also must complete 500 client contact hours.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $12,212
US News and World Report Ranking:
#129 Best National University
#62 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#16 – Colorado State University – Fort Collins, Colorado

Colorado State University Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe Department of Health and Human Sciences

Points: 7
Program Website

The Colorado State University Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program is the sole master’s degree program in the state of Colorado  accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) and labeled as a Carnegie One research institute. TheMFT program’s mission is to “train ethical, culturally sensitive, systemically oriented marriage and family therapists.” This graduate level program is designed to train professionals who will use evidence-based practices and a thorough understanding of human development to effectively assess, diagnose, and treat a wide range of population of individuals, couples and families. Students also are trained work in clinical, research, academic, and policy-making settings. The program maintains a commitment to train clinicians who comprehend and apply diversity in clinical, research, academic, and policy-making settings and are skilled consumers and producers of research related to MFT. Students complete course work in research methods and  a thesis project, as well as engage in course work in Human Development and Family Studies and courses in therapy and clinical work. The Department of Health and Human Sciences has a number of important program goals so that graduates will possess  conceptual, perceptual, executive, evaluative, and professional competencies.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $10,924
US News and World Report Ranking:
#127 Best National University
#61 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#15 – East Carolina University – Greenville, North Carolina

East Carolina University Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe College of Health and Human Performance

Points: 7
Program Website

Students wishing to pursue studies in Marriage and Family Therapy at East Carolina University can choose from two excellent graduate level programs. The Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy (MS-MFT) prepares students to work as marriage and family therapists who are grounded in systems theory and its application to clinical practice. The MFT uses a wide range of clinical and theoretical emphases. The curriculum highlights the importance of collaborative work within larger systems. Students are encouraged to cultivate a customized style that combines theory with technique. Marriage and Family Therapy graduates will have the following  skills:

  • Ability to complete a bio-psychosocial/spiritual intake
  • Proficient diagnostic skills
  • Culturally sensitive treatment and interventions for clients
  • Critical evaluation of scholarly articles
  • The department has outlined a number of factors that make this program one of the strongest of its kind, including:
  • A variety of internship opportunities including medical, agency, school, private practice, and military settings.
  • State-of-the-art audio/visual technology for observing and recording and live therapy and supervision
  • Faculty with diverse interests who have earned numerous awards and honors
  • A learning environment that fosters diversity and tolerance
  • Rigorous and frequent supervision from AAMFT Approved Supervisors

The Doctor of Philosophy in Medical Family Therapy degree program is the first doctoral program in Medical Family Therapy (MedFT), introduced in the fall of 2005. The mission of the MedFT doctoral program is to “advance students learning in the areas of research, theory, clinical practice, leadership, supervision, and teaching in order to prepare and qualify them to pursue employment as researchers, educators, administrators, and/or clinicians in the field of medical family therapy.” Doctoral candidates engage in active research, teach, and supervise others from a “relational and systemic perspective through the incorporation of a biopsychosocial-spiritual approach.”

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $6,407
US News and World Report Ranking:
#194 Best National University
#111 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy
Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#14 – Syracuse University – Syracuse, New York

Syracuse University Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics

Points: 8
Program Website

Students at Syracuse University who wish to pursue a career as a marriage and family counselor or therapist should check the excellent programs supported by the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamic. The Marriage and Family Therapy (SUMFT) program’s mission is to “educate and train clinicians, scholars and researchers in the profession of Marriage and Family Therapy.” This mission is carried out through the “Self and Systems” training and supervision approach, which combines the assimilation of self-comprehension of students in clinical training with a systems framework for clinical work with clients. Students can pursue either a Master of Arts (MA) or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in marriage and family therapy. Both programs offer students a solid foundation in marriage and family therapy theory and application. Students receive comprehensive experiential training, both at the Couple and Family Therapy Center, an on-campus clinical training and research facility, as well as in local community settings. Throughout the programs, difference and diversity are embraced and all students meet with clients who span a broad range of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, culture, age, or other difference/diversity category. The MA in MFT is also available as a part-time program.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $33,358
US News and World Report Ranking:
#61 Best National University
#45 Best Value School
Degree Options:
Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy
Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

#13 – Michigan State University – East Lansing, Michigan

Michigan State University Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe Department of Human Development and Family Studies

Points: 8
Program Website

The Couple and Family Therapy (CFT) doctoral program at Michigan State University is a fully accredited program with a commitment to training leading therapists who are also qualified as researchers and trainers of future therapists. Students in this program are expected to acquire a methodology to therapy that is personally relevant and grounded in comprehensive theory and practice.  Students pursue a course of study and research that is suited personally and professionally to their needs. The mission of the doctoral program in Couple and Family Therapy  is to “produce leaders in CFT research and practice by providing CFT faculty and students from a range of academic backgrounds with high quality research opportunities, teaching experiences, and clinical activities.” The educational objectives that have been put forth by the program include:

  • To prepare students who are competent researchers, teachers, clinicians, and therapy supervisors.
  • To create and maintain a couple and family therapy faculty who are productive researchers and who demonstrate effective teaching, clinical, and supervisory skills.
  • To maintain and enhance a doctoral program that is successful in (a) developing and implementing research that is relevant and appropriate to the CFT and Human Development and Family Studies fields, (b) creating a positive learning environment; and (c) enhancing lives of individuals and larger systems through faculty and student efforts.
  • To create a doctoral couple and family therapy program in which diversity in its many forms is honored through research, teaching, and presentations and publications by students and faculty.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $15,504
US News and World Report Ranking:
#75 Best National University
#29 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#12 – Auburn University – Auburn, Alabama

Auburn University Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe College of Human Sciences

Points: 8
Program Website

Auburn University has a nationally recognized Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy (MS-MFT) degree program. The  program  trains students to pursue careers as marriage and family therapists. Students  must complete a specific course sequence to be eligible for AAMFT clinical membership upon graduation. The core areas include the multidisciplinary areas of individuals, families, and communities, with an emphasis on relationships and the bio-psychosocial foundations of functional development and well being. Students engage in course work that maintains a balance between the need to gather foundational knowledge about the family and the developmental processes within the family, with rigorous training in how to intervene effectively in family processes. Students must complete a master’s thesis. Each year, six  qualified candidates are accepted into the program, and work through their studies with a diverse student cohort. Graduates must complete a minimum of 500 therapy hours, 250 of which must be relational in nature. They also will receive at least 100 hours of supervision (individual and group), 50 of which must be directly observed (live or videotaped). Upon graduation, students are prepared to begin entry-level family therapy careers, as well as to pursue doctoral training.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $10,194
US News and World Report Ranking:
#102 Best National University
#46 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#11 – University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Nebraska

University of Nebraska Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe College of Human Sciences

Points: 8
Program Website

The Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program at the Lincoln Campus of University of Nebraska is designed to train students to become effective marriage and family therapists. Students can to choose from a thesis or non-thesis option, depending upon their specific career goals. This program prepares graduates for work as a Licensed Mental Health Practitioner with a certification as a Marriage and Family Therapist. The curriculum and training protocol used in the program is accredited through the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), and is nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). The required coursework meets the academic requirements for licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist in Nebraska and in all but 2 of the 50 states where family therapy licensure is not available (Montana and West Virginia).

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $8,350
US News and World Report Ranking:
#103 Best National University
#47 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#10 – University of Rochester – Rochester, New York

University of Rochester Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe School of Medicine and Dentistry

Points: 9
Program Website

The graduate level Marriage and Family Therapy Program is part of the Graduate School at the School of Medicine and Dentistry. This program is housed within the University of Rochester Medical Center, and provides students the opportunity to learn about mental health and families in a collaborative multidisciplinary context. Students are exposed to the major family therapy concepts and clinical models. Due to the location at the University of Rochester Medical Center, students are located in a clinical practice site/hospital setting, as opposed to a traditional college campus setting. This provides the unique opportunity to learn about mental health and families in a direct care setting. The clinical training portion of the program starts with a diverse client population, presenting the full range of individual, couple, and family problems. Each student participates in live family therapy supervision, a team approach where families are seen by students under the supportive eye of a supervisor in marriage and family therapy.

Students can also pursue a Graduate Certification Program in Medical Family Therapy. This program is for professionals who already have an advanced degree (MS, MD or Ph.D.), and have an interest in specialty training in family therapy theory and clinical practice. Students trained in the major family therapy conceptual and clinical models, theories of family development across the life cycle and relevant research.  Supervised clinical training is completed with a diverse client population, presenting a broad range of individual, couple and family problems.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $35,132
US News and World Report Ranking:
#33 Best National University
#26 Best Value School
Degree Options:
Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy
Graduate Certification Program in Medical Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

#9 – University of Oregon – Eugene, Oregon

University of Oregon Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe College of Education

Points: 9
Program Website

The College of Education at the University of Oregon offers a Couples and Family Therapy (CFT) master’s degree program that is among the best in the country. This 90-credit, two-year program prepares students to become professional family therapists, with the minimum requirements for state licensure. Graduates are prepared to offer leadership in the field of systemic family therapy for students and mental health professionals in other disciplines. Graduates are prepared for employment in mental health centers, hospitals, health-maintenance organizations, family services clinics, churches, and the state department for children and families. A unique specialization offered at the college is the Spanish Language Psychological Service & Research Specialization. This innovative specialization is offered by the Counseling Psychology Program. The goal of this program is to train students for engaging in mental health services provision and research with Spanish speaking populations. Students will complete coursework designed to further their understanding and knowledge of Spanish-speaking, with opportunities to provide supervised clinical services to Spanish speaking clients, and engage in research with Spanish speaking participants.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $15,552
US News and World Report Ranking:
#103 Best National University
#47 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy
Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy with Spanish Language Psychological Service & Research Specialization (SLPSR)
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

#8 – Virginia Tech – Blacksburg, Virginia

Virginia Tech Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe Department of Human Development

Points: 9
Program Website

The doctoral level Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Virginia Tech is housed within the Department of Human Development. It is the oldest continuously accredited MFT doctoral program in the United States and brings in students from across the country and around the world. Students, faculty, and graduates of the program are all a part of the program’s records of achievement, winning esteemed honors, filling important positions in the field, and publishing some of the most highly regarded articles in the field. Student and faculty interests range from spirituality in therapy to ethnic identity, art and family therapy, gender issues, medical family therapy, sports and adventure based interventions, marital enrichment, business consultation, working with children, sexual orientation, and the therapist’s use of self, as well as many others. The goal of the department is to help students bring their ideas to life, develop their lives to the fullest, and influence their community and the world. Starting in the spring of the first year through spring of their second year, all students provide therapy for clients at the Family Therapy Center.  Students must complete a minimum of 1,000 clinical hours providing therapy and 200 hours of supervision to graduate. As many as half of these hours can be transferred from a students master’s degree program. Because students must be engaged in clinical practice while enrolled, they generally complete 200 to 300 hours of therapy at the center, regardless of any hours they transfer.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $13,585
US News and World Report Ranking:
#70 Best National University
#26 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#7 – Florida State University – Tallahassee, Florida

Florida State University Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe College of Human Sciences

Points: 9
Program Website

Florida State University is home to a doctoral program in Marriage and Family Therapy that has a long history in this field of study and practice. The program emphasizes supporting student clinical training while offering additional knowledge and skills to help students become prepared scholars who can assume academic positions at the top national universities. The strengths of the program lie largely in research regarding intimate relationships, family processes, and distressed families. Program expertise also includes applying and assessing best practices in psycho-education and clinical therapy. The mission of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program is to address “family processes and empirically supported relational interventions for today’s diverse families through engagement in programmatic scientific research and preparation of MFT scholars and leaders.” The philosophy is that students can best learn through active and unified participation in research, teaching, and clinical experiences. The major program focus is on research, teaching, and service activities in three major areas:

  1. Relational development and enhancement in young adults, couples, and families
  2. Distressed families and relational interventions
  3. The link between parenting processes and relational outcomes

 

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $11,543
US News and World Report Ranking:
#96 Best National University
#43 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#6 – Kansas State University – Manhattan, Kansas

Kansas State University Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe School of Family Studies and Human Services – The College of Human Ecology

Points: 9
Program Website

Kansas State University offers two graduate programs in the field of Marriage and Family Therapy. The School of Family Studies and Human Services confers the Master of Science in Family Studies and Human Services with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT). The program’s mission is to “provide the academic, clinical and professional training necessary for graduates to be successful clinicians in a variety of mental health settings.” The overarching goal is to train future clinicians who will appreciate diversity, value and integrate research into practice, and are prepared to pursue a doctoral education, if they so choose.

The College of Human Ecology offers the Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy. The program’s mission is “to educate and mentor family scientist-practitioners with the most advanced, cutting edge research training, for the purpose of developing scholars prepared to make significant contributions in academic and clinical settings.” The goal is to train eminent scholars who will embrace diversity and who are sought after due to their high level of competency as leading researchers, top-level clinicians, clinical supervisors and educators.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $9,633
US News and World Report Ranking:
#146 Best National University
#77 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy
Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#5 – Northwestern University – Evanston, Illinois

Northwestern University Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe Family Institute

Points: 10
Program Website

Northwestern University offers the Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy (MSMFT). The program’s aim is to “educate students to become knowledgeable, competent, systemic, culturally sensitive, ethical, and empirically informed Marriage and Family Therapists.” Graduates will have competence in a range of relevant problems, take knowledge from the field and put it into practice, demonstrate cultural sensitivity in their work, and have an appreciation for research. The program’s mission is embedded in that of The Family Institute (to strengthen and heal families from all walks of life) and Northwestern University (excellent teaching, innovative research, and the personal and intellectual growth of its students).

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $47,276
US News and World Report Ranking:
#12 Best National University
#19 Best Value School
Degree Options:
Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#4 – University of Maryland – College Park, Maryland

University of Maryland Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe UMD School of Public Health

Points: 10
Program Website

The Couple and Family Therapy (CFT) Master of Science program at the University of Maryland offers motivated students top-notch therapeutic skills, a high level of ethical integrity, intellectual curiosity and a  commitment to working with families from diverse populations. This program has been recognized as one of the top programs of its kind. Students receive real-world experiences through the Center for Healthy Families, a state-of-the-art training and research facility that provides free and reduced-cost counseling to hundreds of families annually. While enrolled in this program, students receive the supervised clinical training they will need for requirement fulfillment in those states with Couple and Family Therapy licensure. The CFT curriculum has two components: traditional coursework and supervised clinical practice with clients. The minimum total of credits required is 48 for the non-thesis option (Advanced Clinical Study) and 51 for the thesis option. Class work is completed in conjunction with 15 credits of clinical practicum seminars and 9 credits of supervision of clinical work. In the clinical practicum, theory and empirical knowledge are applied to specific client case material, with faculty supervision providing support and oversight of assigned cases.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $12,326
US News and World Report Ranking:
#57 Best National University
#19 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

#3 – University of Georgia – Athens, Georgia

University of Georgia Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe Department of Child and Family Development

Points: 10
Program Website

Students who wish to pursue a Marriage and Family Therapy degree at the highest level will be an ideal fit for the Doctoral Program at the University of Georgia. Through formal course work and practicum experiences in research, teaching, and service, students in this program gather competence in acquiring, integrating, and applying:

  • Substantive and theoretical knowledge of both child and family development
  • Knowledge of and skills for conducting research on individual and family development and behavior
  • Skills for engaging with individuals, families and other professionals in processes that prevent or solve problems and promote competence and well-being

Throughout their course of study, MFT students build a professional identity as a couple and family therapist and scholar. To develop a comprehensive scope of professional identity, the program is guided by the scientist-practitioner model and bio-psychosocial model.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $10,334
US News and World Report Ranking:
#61 Best National University
#21 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#2 – University of Connecticut – Storrs, Connecticut

University of Connecticut Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Points: 12
Program Website

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies highlights a number of ways that individuals develop within their social and familial contexts. Graduate study in this area includes study of theory, research, and intervention/practice, and their connection across the lifespan of individual development and within the context of family and social systems. A core curriculum has been created to provide all students with this foundation. Students can then choose to pursue an area of specialization of MFT with an emphasis on:

  • Lifespan Human Development (in ecological context)
  • Diversity & Culture
  • Promoting Healthy Individuals and Families (prevention, intervention, and policy)
  • Basic and Applied Research

The MFT specialization has a mission to “provide highly qualified professionals at the master’s and doctoral level, who possess the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to improve the quality of well-being, for individuals, families, and wider social systems.” Students can choose from a master’s degree or a doctoral degree, each of which provides top notch, robust training in the field of marriage and family therapy. The MFT program works with local, state, national, and international partners to further the knowledge base and strengthen the conditions that enhance family functioning. In addition to a master’s and PhD degree in MFT, students can apply for graduate certificates in Program Evaluation and Health Psychology.

As a complement to the individualized plan of study, doctoral students may also apply for Graduate Certificates in Quantitative Research Methods and College Instruction.

Additional credentials that MA and PhD students may pursue include:

  • The Family Life Educator (Provisional) Certificate of the National Council on Family Relations is available to students who have pursued training and experiences in human development, family systems and preventive approaches to promoting healthy family functioning and avoiding societal problems.
  • The Certificate in Culture, Health, and Human Development is a multidisciplinary certificate that supports graduate student training in the scientific understanding and active promotion of healthy human development in its cultural context.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $14,472
US News and World Report Ranking:
#57 Best National University
#19 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy
Graduate Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy
Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

#1 – Brigham Young University – Provo, Utah

Brigham Young University Best Graduate MFT ProgramThe School of Family Life

Points: 12
Program Website

Students planning to study Marriage and Family Therapy at Brigham Young University in Provo have the advantage of pursuing either their Master’s or Doctorate in this exciting area. The Department of Marriage and Family Therapy within the School of Family Life has outlined a number of program highlights that make the Brigham Young MFT programs among the best in the country. Some of these highlights include:

  • Diverse Training – With ten full-time, clinical faculty in the MFT programs, they represent a wide range of orientations toward therapy. Students in this program are exposed to an array of theoretical models and how to apply them in treatment
  • Experiential Learning – Training at both levels emphasizes closely supervised and rigorous practicum experiences. Students start treating clients during their first semester and are enrolled continuously for 12 to 20 months of practicum. For 1-4 hours each week, faculty members use video recordings and live observation to supervise students’ clinical work.
  • Excellent Training facilities – This training program has one of the best clinical and video tape facilities in the United States. There are 16 on-site therapy rooms and a videotape operations center operated by video technicians who record each therapy session. In addition, 11 of the therapy rooms have one-way mirror observation capability for live supervision. The BYU Comprehensive Clinic also houses a computer lab with data analysis capabilities that MFT students frequently utilize for entering case notes on the clinic’s confidential and secure system.
  • Program Options – There are two degree programs to choose from to allow students to attain meet their personal career goals. Students can choose to emphasize clinical practice, teaching, or research in their program. Generally, the MS program requires 2 full years including spring and summer terms. The PhD program generally requires 3 years.
  • Accreditation – Each program is fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
  • Licensing – The state of Utah licenses Marriage and Family Therapy as a profession, so this program helps students meet licensing requirements in Utah and other states.
  • Recreation and cultural activities – BYU is nationally recognized for several of its sports programs and is located near top-notch skiing, fishing, and hiking areas. Symphonies, theaters, ballet, and opera are some of the many cultural activities available in Provo and nearby Salt Lake City.
  • Non-Discriminatory Admission Process – Admission to Brigham Young University is nondiscriminatory. The university admits persons of any sex, race, creed, religion, or national origin who meet the university’s academic requirements and agree to abide by its standards of behavior. Qualified handicapped students are also admitted.
    Financial Assistance – BYU has been ranked as the best university for financial assistance in the MFT field.

Average Annual Graduate Tuition: $6,310
US News and World Report Ranking:
#66 Best National University
#16 Best Value School
Degree Options:
Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy
Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy
Accreditations:
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) Accreditation
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

Opportunities for a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy

A master’s degree in marriage and family therapy is an excellent way to jumpstart a career in the helping professions. Those students who graduate from a graduate degree program in this field from one of the top graduate programs in the country have a vast amount of opportunity for employment. MST’s can work as part of a private practice, practice in a hospital or other medical setting. After completing an accredited training program and securing licensure, an MFT can work with a number of populations, ranging from the severely mentally ill, to people who are struggling with a singular issue in their life. They can work with the large family unit, or focus on a smaller group, such as a parent and child or married couple. There is an endless amount of opportunity in this growing field. As the need for professionals with a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy grows each year, it is an excellent time to apply to one of these top master’s programs.

About the Author

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Rutgers University and then a Master of Science in Clinical and Forensic Psychology from Drexel University, Kristen began a career as a therapist at two prisons in Philadelphia. At the same time she volunteered as a rape crisis counselor, also in Philadelphia. After a few years in the field she accepted a teaching position at a local college where she currently teaches online psychology courses. Kristen began writing in college and still enjoys her work as a writer, editor, professor and mother.

 

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