By OPD Staff
Why earn a master’s in family counseling online? While some fields of psychology focus on research or statistical analysis, family counseling is a hands-on discipline for people who want to put their lessons into practice. In doing so, family counselors can help children and parents, siblings, partners, and spouses work through disputes and develop healthier relationships with one another.
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, you’ll first have to become a licensed counselor or marriage and family therapist (MFT). Every state has its requirements, but overall the qualifications don’t vary much from place to place. As such, there are plenty of online MFT programs that meet the necessary requirements for multiple states. This makes it easy for you to take advantage of all that online learning has to offer – from self-paced coursework to flexible scheduling – while still earning the credentials you need to work as a professional therapist. Even so, be sure to do your research to make sure the school you attend will provide the right training for you!
We created this ranking to highlight the best master’s in marriage and family therapy online. To start, we put together a list of schools* offering online graduate programs in this field. Next, we collected information on each qualifying college or university and ranked them in five categories: affordability, accessibility, experiential learning, accreditation, and relevance of coursework.
The affordability metric is exactly what it sounds like. Using data available on College Navigator (a government-run education database), we calculated each school’s average annual price based on its resident and non-resident tuition rates and fees.
In rating accessibility, we considered what percentage of the program’s classes are available online (excluding internships). About half of the degrees on this ranking are 100% online, while the other half feature some form of hybrid delivery. These range from mostly online programs with a few on-campus residencies to ones that include multiple on-campus courses.
Experiential learning refers to any opportunities that the program provides for hands-on education. Nearly all online marriage and family counseling master’s degrees include at least one practicum and/or internship, as this is typically a requirement for MFT licensure. To assess each program’s dedication to practical training, we looked at the minimum number of field hours they require students to complete.
We also awarded programs one extra point if they have a specialized accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE).
Lastly, we assessed coursework by looking at what percentage of the degree coursework focuses specifically on family counseling topics. This varies considerably from program to program; some are highly specific, while others cover broader counseling subjects with only a few courses specializing in marriage and family therapy. As such, this category helps to distinguish those schools that provide the most in-depth, targeted training for future MFTs.
After collecting all the data, we assigned points to each program in each category, tallied the totals, and calculated the final scores. The highest possible score was 10 points. Scroll down to find out more about the best online master’s degrees in marriage and family therapy!
*Note that we did not consider private for-profit institutions in this ranking, although there are plenty of for-profit colleges that offer graduate programs in behavioral psychology.
Ranking Top 25 Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy Online
#25. Western Seminary – Portland, OR
Online MA in Marital & Family Therapy
Western Seminary has one of the best online marriage and family counseling master’s degrees for Californians, especially those who hope to practice in a faith-based setting. That’s because the affordable M.A. program includes a strong focus on Christianity. That is, the curriculum features an overarching emphasis on biblical teachings and incorporates a few specific courses in theology. As a program graduate, you’ll meet the California Board of Behavioral Sciences’ LMFT requirements. And if you take just one additional course, you’ll also be eligible to sit for the national LPCC exam. Note, however, that you will have to complete some classes at either the San Jose or Sacramento campus.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,200/yr
#24. Pepperdine University – Pepperdine, CA
Online Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Marriage & Family Therapy
If hands-on experience is important to you, you’ll want to give Pepperdine a look. You’ll complete four clinical rotations while pursuing this school’s top master’s in family counseling online, giving you the chance to observe seasoned professionals and build your skills in real-world settings. While anyone can benefit from this program, California residents will especially appreciate the MFT’s paths to licensure: after graduating, you’re eligible to sit for both the LPCC and LMFT exams in California. If you intend to work elsewhere, you’ll want to contact your state’s licensing board to help plan your curriculum accordingly.
Average Tuition & Fees: $31,420/yr
#23. John Brown University – Siloam Springs, AR
Online MS in Marriage & Family Therapy
On this online MFT program ranking, John Brown University stands out with a degree that includes an optional area of emphasis in Play Therapy. Coursework focuses on ways to help kids express their feelings through play, making this program a particularly attractive option if you want to work with children. JBU’s MFT program also stands out for its smart use of both asynchronous and synchronous classes as well as for its tech-savvy and enthusiastic faculty. However, it also requires some on-campus classes and is, therefore, best suited for local residents. Degree candidates also benefit from the opportunity to practice their skills in JBU’s CARE Clinics.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,152/yr
#22. LeTourneau University – Longview, TX
Online Master of Arts in Counseling: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Specialization
Offered as a specialization within its M.A. in Counseling program, LeTourneau’s top online master’s degree in marriage and family therapy employs an attractive hybrid delivery model that gives you the best of both worlds. While you’ll complete most classes online, you’ll also benefit from face-to-face interactions with your instructors and classmates during a three-day intensive at the school’s campus in Longview, Texas. As for the course content, we should point out that this is a faith-based program: the curriculum incorporates Christian principles and encourages graduates to use “scripture, prayer, and other Christian disciplines” in their counseling practice.
Average Tuition & Fees: $20,115/yr
#21. National University – San Diego, CA
Online MA Counseling Psychology: MFT Area of Specialization
Another California-based institution, National University offers an affordable master’s in marriage and family therapy online that leads to LMFT certification in the state. The comprehensive curriculum covers both traditional and contemporary topics, including a focus on “cultural competence” and an understanding of how gender and sexuality issues can affect mental health. As for practical training, the program includes coursework on research methodology and requires that you complete two counseling practica in your community. And if you’d also like to prepare for the LPCC exam, you can do so simply by tacking on a few extra courses to the MFT curriculum.
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,232/yr
#20. Palo Alto University – Palo Alto, CA
Online Master’s Degree in Counseling: Marriage, Family, & Child Emphasis
At Palo Alto University, you earn a top online master’s degree in marriage and family therapy while completing nearly all your coursework in synchronous “virtual classrooms.” However, you will also need to visit the campus for an intensive week-long residency. The school makes the most of this residency, providing skills training exercises and interview assessments that will prepare you for the next step in the program: fieldwork. Indeed, fieldwork is a crucial aspect of this degree. The curriculum requires all students to complete at least 700 hours of hands-on work on their way to meeting California’s LPCC and MFT licensure requirements.
Average Tuition & Fees: $49,995/yr
#19. Bethel College – Mishawaka, IN
Online MA in Counseling: Marriage & Family
A proponent of the cohort model, Bethel College enables you to attend classes with the same group of students throughout your education. This gives you the chance to develop strong personal and professional relationships and to grow alongside your peers. The school, which has a strong affiliation with the Missionary Church, also encourages degree candidates to nurture their spiritual side. But this emphasis on faith doesn’t distract from the program’s academic goals. In fact, this affordable master’s in family counseling online program touches on an impressively broad range of topics. Classes cover everything from counseling theories to family relationships and provide hands-on practice through a practicum and internship.
Average Tuition & Fees: $6,950/yr
#18. University of Massachusetts – Boston, MA
Online MS in Family Therapy
Perhaps influenced by its metropolitan surroundings, UMB has developed a top master’s in marriage and family therapy online program for students who want to focus on urban issues. For example, the curriculum addresses the needs of marginalized populations and communities in city settings and emphasizes an attitude of social justice. This program is also a great choice if you value experiential learning. On top of the traditional internship, you’ll also participate in classroom exercises that mimic real-life family therapy issues and complete a final capstone project. Upon graduation, you’ll be ready for certification as an LMFT in Massachusetts.
Average Tuition & Fees: $25,243/yr
#17. Montana State University – Bozeman, MT
Online Master of Science in Counseling: Marriage and Family
With full-time study, you can earn Montana State University’s top online marriage and family counseling master’s degree in just two years. During that time, you will need to take summer courses and attend some on-campus classes (thanks to the program’s blended delivery format). While this model lacks the convenience of a 100% online degree, MSU more than makes up for it with affordable tuition, a CACREP-accredited curriculum, and comprehensive coursework. Plus, the program meets Montana’s LPCC curriculum requirements, and the 1,500-hour practicum will put you well on your way towards earning the 3,000 hours required for licensure.
Average Tuition & Fees: $12,206/yr
#16. Abilene Christian University – Abilene, TX
Online Master of Marriage & Family Therapy
With its four unique concentration options, Abilene Christian University easily stands out on this online MFT program ranking. Most importantly, this structure (you can focus on Medical Family Therapy, Treatment of Trauma, Child and Adolescent Therapy, or Therapy with Military Families) provides a way for you to specialize your knowledge and rise above the competition in the job market. The Medical Family Therapy option, for example, will train you to make connections between behavioral and traditional medical care so you can provide more comprehensive treatment to your patients. However, you also have the option to forgo a concentration altogether, instead choosing the electives that will best prepare you to sit for LPC certification in Texas.
Average Tuition & Fees: $19,890/yr
#15. Amridge University – Montgomery, AL
Online MA in Marriage & Family Therapy
Ambitious students who don’t want to stop with an MFT certification should consider Amridge University. Here, you can work with the deal to select courses that will prepare you for dual licensure in both MFT and Professional Counseling. Of course, the curriculum is primarily designed to help students achieve licensure in Alabama, but faculty will also work with you to meet the requirements in other states. Like other schools on this ranking, Amridge also has a Christian affiliation – making its affordable online master’s degree in marriage and family therapy particularly useful for those who want to practice in a faith-based setting. However, the comprehensive curriculum is equally applicable to secular practitioners.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,090/yr
#14. Campbellsville University – Campbellsville, KY
Online Master of Marriage & Family Therapy
Campbellsville’s top online marriage and family counseling master’s degree takes a decidedly philosophical approach, with coursework that focuses heavily on abstract ideas and theories. What’s more, the program features a hefty dose of Christian theology and ethics as part of its goal to produce graduates who will act as “servant leaders” in their local communities. That being said, the degree is also eminently practical: it leads to LMFT licensure in Kentucky, has COAMFTE accreditation, and comes with an average tuition of around $12,000. Keep in mind that you will have to attend nearly half of your classes at the Campbellsville campus, although most meet just once a week in the evening to accommodate working professionals.
Average Tuition & Fees: $12,204/yr
#13. Brandman University – Irvine, CA
Online Master of Arts in Psychology, Marriage & Family Therapy
With more than 20 campus locations in California, Brandman University makes it relatively painless for students to incorporate traditional classes into their affordable online master’s degree in family counseling. But if you can’t make it to those locations or don’t feel the need for face-to-face interactions, you can easily attend 100% online. Another perk of this program? It readies you for MFT licensure in both California and Washington. The broad curriculum includes general courses in theory and research before taking a deep-dive into marriage/family therapy techniques. Plus, a series of “specialized topics” gives you the chance to learn about niche areas of the field like sexual disorders and substance abuse.
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,460/yr
#12. University of Colorado – Denver, CO
Online MA in Counseling: Couple & Family Counseling/Therapy
For students interested in joining a counseling honor society, CU Denver offers a particularly attractive option. That’s because the school hosts a chapter of Beta Alpha Omega, which offers chances to network, discuss trends in the field, and flex your leadership skills. But that’s not the only reason it earns a spot on this online MFT program ranking. The CACREP-accredited curriculum, which emphasizes diversity, inclusion, and other progressive values, will also prepare you for licensure in Colorado. Bear in mind that this hybrid program requires some time on campus, so it’s best suited for Denver residents.
Average Tuition & Fees: $16,282/yr
#11. Medaille College – Buffalo, NY
Online Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy
Medaille College offers one of the best master’s in marriage and family therapy online degrees for residents of western New York. A unique hybrid schedule requires you to attend classes at the Buffalo campus one weekend each month; the rest of the time, you’ll take online classes and complete independent study projects. And thanks to a strong partnership with an outpatient clinic called BestSelf Behavioral Health, Medaille has even developed its own Family Counseling Center. This center gives local students a convenient opportunity to put their skills to work and gain invaluable hands-on experience.
Average Tuition & Fees: $15,894/yr
#10. Liberty University – Lynchburg, VA
Online Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy
Unsurprisingly, the evangelical-affiliated Liberty University incorporates biblical principles into every aspect of its affordable online marriage and family counseling master’s degree. You’ll even take a course called “Integration of Spirituality & Counseling,” and complete work related to pre-marital counseling as a part of your studies in marriage therapy. But even if you’d prefer a secular format to your degree, you might still want to consider Liberty simply for its rock-bottom tuition – which falls just under $8,500 – or its accolades as one of the best online programs of its kind. Note, however, that the curriculum will require you to complete a few on-campus intensives in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Average Tuition & Fees: $8,430/yr
#9. City University of Seattle – Seattle, WA
Online Master of Arts in Counseling: Marriage, Couple, & Family Counseling
Flexibility helps Seattle’s City University stand out on this online master’s degree in marriage and family therapy ranking. For example, you can opt for a full-time program and complete it in two years, or take three years if you’re a working professional. You’ll also benefit from access to a dedicated academic advisor who can help you plan your degree. Another perk: the curriculum prizes experiential learning from the get-go, making it a solid choice for anyone who wants to jump in and learn by doing. You will need to take the majority of classes at the Seattle campus, however, so this program is best suited for locals.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,914/yr
#8. Touro University Worldwide – Los Alamitos, CA
Online Marriage & Family Therapy Graduate Degree Program
For a completely online program that has no residency requirement, look to Touro University Worldwide. Given this school’s dedication to educating students in all walks of life, it’s no surprise that it has one of the most accessible and affordable master’s in marriage and family therapy online. What’s more, Touro’s program offers distinct tracks (Non-Clinical, Clinical, and LPCC) that cater to degree candidates’ career goals. As you’d expect, the LPCC option requires the greatest number of credits and the most practicum hours, but you’ll graduate having completed the requisite coursework for licensure in California – and quite a few other states, too!
Average Tuition & Fees: $9,000/yr
#7. University of West Alabama – Livingston, AL
Online M.S. in Family Counseling
Before applying to the University of West Alabama’s affordable online MFT program, be aware that it doesn’t lead to licensure. To be sure, it offers a comprehensive curriculum that can help you understand family related counseling issues. But because it lacks specific licensure requirements, this program is ideal for applicants who already possess licensure in a related field or are pursuing a career that doesn’t require a professional credential (e.g., a clergy member who simply wants to help their parishioners). If you meet either of those descriptions, you’ll want to check out this program for its affordable tuition, generous transfer policy (up to nine credits of a required 33), and short length (one year).
Average Tuition & Fees: $9,775/yr
#6. Regent University – Virginia Beach, VA
Online MA in Marriage, Couple, & Family Counseling
With just two required on-campus residencies, Virginia Beach-based Regent University makes it relatively simple for distance learners to earn an affordable master’s in family counseling online. The program’s counseling-specific classes run concurrently with the yearly residencies, giving you the chance to practice your skills in person with both instructors and classmates. Coursework incorporates Christian principles and ethics while at the same time preparing you for licensure in most states. That being said, be sure to investigate the individual requirements in your home state and meet any additional hours (beyond those included in the program’s practicum and internship) on your own time.
Average Tuition & Fees: $13,226/yr
#5. Messiah College – Mechanicsburg, PA
Online Master of Arts in Counseling: Marriage, Couple, & Family Counseling
Add Messiah College to the list of faith-based institutions on this master’s in family counseling online ranking. This small Pennsylvania college weaves its evangelical Christian influence into the curriculum and touts instructors who can help you advance both your career and your faith. Religious leanings aside, the program also places on quite a few “best-of” lists for its affordability and its strong curriculum. Indeed, this 60-credit, CACREP-accredited program touches on everything from psychopathology and faith-based counseling to ethical issues – plus incorporates a practicum and two internships. When all is said and done, you’ll be prepared for MFT licensure in Pennsylvania and many other states.
Average Tuition & Fees: $11,280/yr
#4. Northcentral University – San Diego, CA
Online Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy
Northcentral University offers a robust suite of affordable online MFT programs, from post-bacc certificates through two Ph.D.-level programs. Although you can complete the COAMFTE-accredited master’s degree 100% online, you’ll still benefit from valuable experiential learning opportunities. The program stresses community engagement, so you’ll work with a clinical coordinator to find practicum, internship, and clinical supervision sites close to home. And by fully embracing technology – including both asynchronous discussion-based classes and live video conferencing – the program ensures an engaging, interactive experience every step of the way. As expected, you’ll graduate ready for licensure in California and a few other states.
Average Tuition & Fees: $17,781/yr
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#2. Texas Woman’s University – Denton, TX
Online Master of Science in Family Therapy
TWU’s institutional motto is a lofty one: “Educate a woman, empower the world.” It’s also applicable to the school’s top online master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, which prepares graduates to improve living standards for families and individuals in their communities. In particular, focused electives such as “Rights, Race, and Social Justice,” “Feminism and Religion,” and “Transgressive Identities: Queer Theories and Critical ‘Race’ Theories” speak to the progressive curriculum. The program prepares you for licensure in Texas, but you can also opt for a thesis-based degree if you plan to pursue doctoral-level study.
Average Tuition & Fees: $10,558/yr
#1. Antioch University – Keene, NH
Online MA in Marriage & Family Therapy
Antioch University approaches its MFT program first and foremost from a theoretical perspective. You’ll begin by developing a broad framework for your practice through the study of “systemic, feminist, and postmodern theories.” Next, you’ll explore a variety of therapy methods and apply what you’ve learned in hands-on practica. Note that while pursuing this affordable master’s in marriage and family therapy online, you will need to visit campus about four times a year for face-to-face residencies (each three-to-five days in length). The program concludes with a year-long internship closer to home, leaving you eligible for AAMFT membership and professional licensure.
Average Tuition & Fees: $16,716/yr
You’ve reached the end of our list of top master’s in marriage and family therapy online.