The Best Online Master’s in Family Counseling

Hero Image - The Best Online Master’s in Family Counseling

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Find a Master's Program
TheBestSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured programs and school search results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other information published on this site.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers in family counseling are projected to more than triple the rate for all other professions.

With a 23% rate of growth anticipated through 2026, marriage and family therapists can expect a thriving, lucrative job market. The BLS attributes this soaring demand to the rising need for mental health services for issues such as alcohol and drug addiction, as well as a growing awareness of the role that mental health plays in one’s overall wellness.

Related occupations should enjoy similarly strong job prospects. For example, the BLS projects that employment for counselors specializing in substance abuse or behavioral disorders will also grow by 23% through 2026, while employment for school and career counselors and psychologists should increase by 13% and 14%, respectively, during that same period.

To take advantage of these new job opportunities, professionals must hold a master’s degree and receive supervised field experience and state-level licensure. This page offers an overview of earning your master’s degree in marriage and family therapy online, including information on how to choose a program that best fits your needs.

Top 10 Online Manster's in Family Counseling Programs 2020

#1 Pepperdine University Malibu, CA
#2 LeTourneau University Longview, TX
#3 Regent University Virginia Beach, VA
#4 California State University - Northridge Northridge, CA
#5 Messiah College Mechanicsburg, PA
#6 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
#7 Abilene Christian University Abilene, TX
#8 Touro University Worldwide Los Alamitos, CA
#9 Indiana Wesleyan University Marion, IN
#10 Concordia University - Wisconsin Mequon, WI

The Best Online Manster's in Family Counseling Programs 2020

Sort By
Rank School Location Apply More Information

California State University - Northridge 

Northridge, CA

About this school

Dedicated to fostering an inclusive learning environment, CSUN’s strengths-based approach to learning encourages personal as well as professional development. Utilizing a hybrid cohort model, groups of students pursuing their MS in counseling and marriage and family therapy work together for the program’s duration, attending a mixture of online and on-campus classes.

Through 12 units of core counseling courses, students explore the role of diversity in counseling, legal and ethical issues in family therapy, and career intervention techniques. Marriage and family specialization coursework addresses the unique challenges of counseling children, couples, families, and those struggling with addiction. In the clinical assessment and research portion of the program, students learn techniques for patient assessment, applied research methods, and the foundations of neurobiology.

Prior to completing their online master’s in marriage and family counseling, learners perform a 50-hour practicum, during which they work under the supervision of trained mental health professionals in a clinical setting. Degree candidates may then opt to complete either a written thesis or final graduate project. While some students complete their culminating experience requirements in one semester, the majority take two to finish. Due to the program’s comprehensive nature, graduates are eligible to pursue both MFT and Professional Clinical Counselor licensure.


Messiah College 

Mechanicsburg, PA

About this school

Since its establishment in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Messiah College has grown to serve a student population of more than 3,300. Extending its evangelical mission to all Christian denominations, Messiah College offers over 170 undergraduate and graduate programs that prepare students for occupations in service and leadership within the church.

Messiah College’s School of Graduate Studies offers an online MA in counseling with a concentration in marriage, couple, and family counseling. Consisting of 60 credits (30 core courses and 30 field-specific), the degree leads to licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) credentials in Pennsylvania and other states. The curriculum is available in three formats: a two-year accelerated, three-year, or four-year format, each of which starts in January or July. Though specific requirements may vary, each option requires completion of multi-module practicums and internships in addition to core-intensive courses.

Messiah College delivers online courses both synchronously and asynchronously. Though the school does offer some fully residential options, the majority of graduate coursework is designed to be completed online. And while online students are afforded the same learning resources and support amenities as their on-campus counterparts, online courses at Messiah College are developed with professional students in mind.


Liberty University 

Lynchburg, VA

About this school

Liberty University, a private, evangelical Christian University established in 1971 by Jerry Falwell, enrolls over 75,000 students in a full array of undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and certificate programs. Liberty owes its massive student population to a healthy roster of online programs; 71% and 94% of its undergraduate and graduate students populations, respectively, enroll entirely online. Founded on evangelical principles, Liberty dedicates its programs to developing students to be champions of Christ.

Liberty University offers an online master of arts in marriage and family degree program for students who seek flexible paths for career advancement in family counseling. This online family counseling degree requires 60 hours for completion; these hours include 39 hours of core courses and 18 hours in the marriage and family specialization. Students engage with courses in key topics such as:

  • Ethical Issues in the Field
  • Theories of Counseling
  • Psychopathology
  • Couple and Marital Counseling
  • Counseling Children

Students must also complete a practicum and internship, which adds hands-on experience to their practical and technical knowledge.

The online family counseling master’s program takes an average of 2.5 years to complete. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree that was earned with a GPA of at least 3.0.


Abilene Christian University 

Abilene, TX

About this school

ACU’s mission is to develop Christian leaders through rigorous, career-focused academic programs rooted in faith as well as scholarship. Known for its innovation, affordability, and the exceptional success of many of its graduates, ACU strives to foster a learning environment in which all students can succeed, regardless of their faith, background, or even location. Through the ACU Online initiative, students can pursue one of 16 web-based master’s programs in a variety of fields, including marriage and family therapy.

Most students earn an online master’s degree in marriage and family counseling in around 32 months. However, learners can choose to take classes part-time and take a few more semesters to finish This 60-credit program offers four distinct tracks in child and adolescent therapy, treatment of trauma, therapy with military families, and a medical family therapy concentration that requires an additional 15 hours of coursework. Core classes build foundational knowledge in family dynamics and systems, methods and models of intervention and assessment, and medical research. Students on all tracks must complete a 500-hour internship and 100 hours of supervised work.

ACU’s online courses are presented in an intensive, seven week schedule, and students take one class at a time. Graduates are eligible to take the Texas counseling licensure exam. Prospective students must submit a written statement of purpose and three letters of recommendation, and complete a form detailing their psychosocial history. In some instances, the program director may request an interview with a candidate.


Touro University Worldwide 

Los Alamitos, CA

About this school

The Touro University Worldwide system has been at the forefront of online education since the establishment of its sister school, Touro University International, in 1998. TUW offers dozens of online undergraduate and graduate degrees across four fields of study: business and management, general studies, psychology, and health and human services, the latter of which features one of the nation’s best online master’s in marriage and family counseling.

TUW’s online master’s of arts in marriage and family therapy can be completed entirely online and with no residency requirements. Applicants enjoy an accelerated admissions process, and, unlike other programs, no GRE is required. The curriculum in the MA in marriage and family therapy at TUW emphasizes a holistic approach to counseling as it focuses on family and mental health issues specific to the 21st century. Students may choose a clinical, non-clinical, or licensed professional clinical counseling (LPCC) track. TUW is currently pursuing COAMFTE accreditation and has updated their program to match COAMFTE standards.

The program’s non-clinical degree track requires 18 courses. Its clinical track requires 18 courses in addition to six practicum courses that require 500 clinical hours and 100 hours of supervision. Finally, the LPCC track requires 22 core courses and six practicum courses that require 500 clinical hours and 100 hours of supervision. TUW offers a single per-credit tuition rate for all distance courses, regardless of the program type or a student’s place of residence.


Indiana Wesleyan University 

Marion, IN

About this school

Founded as an undergraduate institution, Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion now offers undergraduate and graduate degrees at 16 locations throughout Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. IWU-Marion features more than 90 programs that can be completed on campus or online, including its online master’s in marriage and family therapy.

IWU-Marion’s online master’s in marriage and family therapy leads MFT licensure in the state of Indiana. Coursework includes an examination of theories and techniques in counseling, a consideration of legal and ethical issues, and a study of human growth and development. Each of these requirements incorporates a Christian perspective and addresses the practice of therapy through interpersonal means. To complete the degree, MA students must complete a practicum and three internship courses at the Marion campus.

A pioneer in distance learning, IWU-Marion has offered courses online since 1997. While online students earn a degree identical to that of their on-campus counterparts, the university has developed programs and methods specific to the virtual learning environment, including keeping class sizes small and assigning advisors to each student. Applicants may be accepted on contingency until they have satisfied six prerequisite credit hours in Bible, which can be completed at IWU-Marion.


Concordia University - Wisconsin 

Mequon, WI

About this school

With ties to the Lutheran Church and Concordia University System, Concordia University – Wisconsin serves students at two Wisconsin locations and online. The institution offers undergraduate and graduate programs across nine areas of study and dual-credit high school courses. Grounded in a contemporary Christian perspective, CU-Wisconsin’s unique counseling programs combine education and psychology.

CUW’s School of Education offers online master’s of science in education—family life. The degree features several required courses in topics such as marriage and family relations, Christian perspectives of family development, and curriculum and methods in family life education. Students also explore individual and group counseling from a Christian perspective and must complete a seminar-style capstone project in educational and administrative problem-solving.

The 36-credit MS in education—family life offers a set-rate tuition per credit hour, regardless of a student’s state of residence. Online courses typically take between eight and 10 weeks to complete.


Lee University 

Cleveland, TN

About this school

Lee University might be based in Cleveland, Tennessee, but its educational outlook is global. Known for offering accessible, affordable study abroad programs in more than 25 locations worldwide and a wide range of service learning opportunities, the university’s diverse student body includes degree candidates from 48 states and 52 countries. As Church of God affiliate, Lee seeks to promote a Christ-centered worldview while respecting and encouraging diversity of thought.

Lee’s fully-online, 36-credit MS in marriage and family studies is specially designed for those who wish to earn a degree without seeking a counseling license, including licensed professionals who want to specialize in treating families and those pursuing careers in family-oriented non-profit organizations, ministry, or schools. Courses address a variety of subjects, including human development, human sexuality, stress and resilience within families, and systems theory. Students take 12 credits each semester, and most full-time students complete the program in around two years. Part-time scheduling options are also available. Students intending to pursue a doctorate after graduation may fulfill their final requirement through a written thesis, while those who wish to enter the workforce can take a comprehensive final exam.

Applicants should hold a bachelor’s degree in any field from a regionally accredited institution, although those with 18 hours of social science coursework and a GPA of 3.0 or higher will receive preference.


University of West Alabama 

Livingston, AL

About this school

UWA has come a long way since 1835. Originally founded in Livingston as a church-related women’s academy, it has since expanded in size and scope to become a respected coeducational regional institution and a major force in web-based education. Today, the university boasts more than 2,000 distance learners enrolled in one over 50 fully-online degree programs offered through the UWA Online initiative.

UWA’s web-based MS in family counseling program is ideal for those pursuing non-licensed careers in the field, members of the clergy, and licensed counselors seeking a specialization. The 33-credit curriculum is offered in a series of eight-week courses, letting students earn an online master’s in marriage and family counseling in is as little as one year. Coursework explores educational research techniques, educational statistics, and systems theory in psychology. Elective courses introduce advance techniques in family counseling, professional ethics, and systems of psychotherapy, as well as a three-credit internship.

Prospective students may transfer up to nine graduate-level credits for matching courses, and all applicants receive step-by-step assistance from an enrollment counselor. Upon acceptance, students are paired with a personal success coach, who is available for guidance from the first day of freshman year to graduation. All courses are taught by licensed psychologists, counselors, and therapists.


Houston Baptist University 

Houston, TX

About this school

Blending online and on-campus learning, HBU’s MA-LMFT program provides a flexible, comprehensive learning experience that allows students to connect with others. Course materials combine state-of-the-art research and theory with Baptist teachings, instilling degree candidates with the knowledge and professional skills required to compassionately counsel couples and families.

The LMFT MA curriculum is career-focused, emphasizing licensure preparation and making graduates client-ready. In addition to advanced concepts in counseling theory and ethics, required courses review licensure standards and explore methods of integrating Christian principles with counseling and psychology. Students must also fulfill a three-semester practicum requirement at a facility selected by HBU. After completing the practicum and passing a comprehensive exam, graduates are eligible to pursue counseling licensure in the state of Texas.

In addition to submitting official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a current resume, and official GRE results, prospective students must complete an interview with HBU staff. Applicants should have completed at least 100 hours of undergraduate coursework, including classes in statistics, introductory psychology, and abnormal psychology. A bachelor’s degree in any field is required for program admission.


Mid-America Christian University 

Oklahoma City, OK

About this school

Earning an advanced degree can be difficult for working professionals; especially those balancing employment with family and personal obligations. Designed with busy individuals in mind, Mid-America Christian University’s MS in Marital and Family Therapy Counseling program offers a convenient, flexible degree plan that fits into nearly any schedule. Distance learners can earn their master’s entirely online, with the option of attending one evening class per week at MACU’s Oklahoma City campus.

Integrating Christian values with scientific methods, students explore counseling and psychotherapy techniques, principles of diagnostics and treatment, and intervention methods over the course of 60 credit hours. While the program includes a hands-on learning component, distance learners are free to arrange an internship at a location and time that best fits their schedule. To provide maximum flexibility, MACU offers program start dates in January, February, or March. Each accelerated course is five to eight weeks long, and most full-time students can graduate in roughly 30 months.

MACU is proud to offer a results-oriented MA program that emphasizes hands-on training and career preparation. Upon program completion, graduates are eligible to sit for the marriage and family therapist licensing examination. All courses are taught by PhD-holding faculty members who have extensive professional experience outside the classroom, including many who operate private counseling practices.


Amridge University 

Montgomery, AL

About this school

Few universities include a commitment to offering quality distance education as part of their mission statement, but Amridge University is an exception. This Christian institution believes that all students deserve access to world-class, faith-based academic programs, even if they can’t make it to the university’s Montgomery, Alabama campus.

Amridge’s MA and MDiv in marriage and family therapy are both professional-level programs intended to prepare graduates for licensure and practice and share core requirements. However, each online master’s degree in marriage and family counseling offers a different perspective on the discipline. The 60-credit MA curriculum focuses on imparting the therapeutic skills and diagnostic methods required to build a successful counseling practice, and includes both a two-part clinical training component and a practicum, which the student must arrange at a local facility. The MDiv program also requires these experiential learning components, along with 33 additional hours of coursework in theology and religious studies. Intended for prospective Christian counselors or family ministers, the 96-credit program culminates in a comprehensive exam.

Full-time students typically earn their MA in seven semesters, while MDiv completion times may vary. Amridge is part of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (NC-SARA), and both programs meet the standards and requirements defined by NC-SARA as leading to potential licensure. This designation makes it easier for students to pursue their counseling license outside of Alabama.


Prescott College 

Prescott, AZ

About this school

This Arizona school got its start in 1963, when Dr. Charles Franklin Parker recognized the growing need for leaders equipped to handle the unique environmental and social challenges of the late 20th century and beyond. Taking a holistic approach to higher education, Prescott was founded on the principles of diversity, academic innovation, ecological stewardship, and the importance of experiential learning.

Prescott’s 60-credit MS in clinical mental health counseling stresses care of the mind, body, and environment. Core coursework introduces fundamental counseling theories, assessment methodologies, and ethical concepts, along with contemporary issues in social justice and substance abuse. Students may pursue additional concentrations in marriage and family counseling, addictions counseling, social justice, and somatic counseling. The program includes an internship component, which may be completed locally, and all students must pass a comprehensive final exam to graduate.

While all coursework is presented online, distance learners must attend one on-campus orientation at the start of the program and are required to attend a colloquium at Prescott each semester. Graduates are eligible to sit for most state licensing exams. Prospective students should submit their previous transcripts, current resume, complete application, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.


Southern California Seminary 

El Cajon, CA

About this school

Aligned with Shadow Mountain Community Church, Southern California Seminary provides undergraduate and graduate programs in three languages at its main campus in El Cajon, as well as at a satellite Los Angeles location. The seminary offers both on-campus and online degrees and certificates in Bible and theology, biblical studies, psychology, behavioral sciences, and Christian ministry.

SCS is renowned for hosting one of the region’s best online master’s in marriage and family counseling programs. The 78-credit master’s of arts in marriage and family therapy meets state requirements for MFT licensure in California. Students who want to earn credentials as licensed professional clinical counselors (LPCC) may take an additional course in vocational counseling. SCS’s curriculum encompasses modules in marriage and family therapy, biblical foundations, and licensure preparation, culminating in a three-part counseling practicum experience. Online students are required to complete several intensive courses in counseling techniques, group counseling, and alcohol and substance abuse.

As a longstanding provider of distance education for aspiring faith-based practitioners in the state, SCS aims to offer the same content within its counseling programs to both on-campus and online students. While per-credit tuition prices vary according to program, SCS offers the same rates to all students enrolled in the MA in marriage and family therapy, regardless of their state of residence.


Palo Alto University 

Palo Alto, CA

About this school

PAU is a private, nonprofit university that was founded in 1975 as the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology. The school offers a wide variety of behavioral and social science programs, including an online MA in counseling. This program trains professionals who promote mental health, wellness, social justice, education, and vocational well-being. PAU’s MA in counseling program prepares students to pursue careers as licensed professional clinical counselors or marriage and family therapy professionals. Students can choose from specializations in clinical mental health or marriage, family, and child.

The program’s online format allows students to complete all degree requirements remotely, including a practicum and internship that can be completed in a student’s home community. Courses are delivered synchronously in a live, streaming format during which students use web cameras to hold discussions, engage with faculty, and comment on lectures. Students must attend a one-week summer residency at the school’s Palo Alto campus. The residency involves intensive study, competency-based skills training, and culminates in a clinical interviewing assessment that is a prerequisite for clinical fieldwork.

Most students earn their degree in around 27 months of part-time study. Applicants must submit a resume, written statement of purpose, and professional or academic recommendations to be considered. Graduates leave the program prepared to sit for the California MFT exam.


End of list, bravo!

Ranking Methodology
Best Online Programs

Online Manster's in Family Counseling Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

What is a Master’s in Family Counseling Degree?

Regardless of the school or program you choose, most online master’s in marriage and family counseling programs offer similar coursework. Topics include counseling practice and models, communication and interviewing skills, research methods, professional ethics, and social and cultural influences that affect family dynamics. Most programs also require field experience, such as an internship or practicum.

Despite these similarities, however, programs can also differ in their emphasis and graduation requirements. For example, some schools may require a capstone project, while others may require a thesis. You may also tailor a program to your particular area of interest by choosing a concentration. Concentrations vary from school to school, but they may include couples therapy, LGBTQ couples and family therapy, military family therapy, child and adolescent therapy, and trauma and crisis counseling. Ultimately, the best online master’s in marriage and family counseling programs prepare you to become a licensed counselor in your state.

Online Master’s in Family Counseling Programs

Online master’s and family therapy (MFT) programs generally offer more flexibility than on-campus programs, making them ideal for students who need to balance their education with other professional or personal responsibilities. In asynchronous programs, students can watch lectures, complete assignments, and even take exams from any location and at any time that fits their schedule. Synchronous or partially synchronous programs may require you to login to a virtual classroom at a set time each week to interact with your instructor and classmates.

Self-paced programs allow students to advance through their coursework as soon as they demonstrate mastery of the material. For example, if you have previously taken graduate-level classes in statistics, you may test out of a required course on research methodology and program evaluation. Self-paced programs enable students to earn their degree faster, but they require exceptional motivation and time-management skills. Without the support of a cohort or consistent interaction with an instructor, students in self-paced programs may become overwhelmed by their work. Online MFT programs may also require an in-person practicum, internship, or other supervised field experience.

Students working in a mental health field can often meet this requirement at their current place of employment. If you work in another discipline, you should consult with your program coordinator or faculty advisor to identify an appropriate internship.

The Advantages of a Master’s Degree in Family Counseling

All marriage and family therapists must hold a master’s degree and a state-level license in order to practice. Psychologists, mental health counselors, school and career counselors, and other professionals working in a clinical context must similarly earn at least a master’s degree in a relevant field.

In some states, individuals with a bachelor’s degree may qualify for entry-level positions. For example, a student who earns a bachelor’s degree in social work may pursue careers as a caseworker or mental health assistant. Some states also allow substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors to practice with only a bachelor’s degree, though these professionals must pass an exam and meet service requirements.

If you aspire to become a clinical, counseling, or research psychologist, you should plan to earn your doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D. in psychology or a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) degree. A Ph.D. or Psy.D. also qualifies you for teaching positions at colleges and universities.

Choosing an Online Family Counseling Graduate Degree Program

When researching online MFT programs, students should select one that fits their budget and unique professional goals. Generally, programs at public colleges and universities cost significantly less than those at private institutions, especially for students who qualify for in-state tuition.

Distance education gives you the freedom to attend school anywhere in the country, and you may find an online program in another state that better prepares you for your chosen career at a similar cost. You should also consider factors outside of tuition, such as transfer policies, available areas of specialization, graduation requirements, and program length.

  • Program Cost: Along with the cost of tuition, make sure to think about fees and other related educational expenses. While online learners may not need to pay for room and board or transportation, some schools may charge additional fees to distance learners. You will also need to pay for books and other course materials.
  • Transfer Policies: If you have previously taken graduate-level courses, some MFT online programs allow you to apply those credits towards your master’s degree. Programs generally limit the total number of credits you can transfer, and you must maintain a certain GPA in these classes to qualify. Contact your school’s registrar for more information.
  • School Size and Type: Class size affects the nature of your educational experience. In small classes, for example, students often receive more personalized attention from their instructors. Larger classes, by contrast, usually provide the opportunity to hear more diverse perspectives and ideas. You may also consider whether you want to learn at a public or private institution.
  • Program Length: Most full-time students earn their master’s degree in family counseling in two years. Part-time students may need up to four years to complete all their coursework and any required field experiences. In self-paced programs and at schools with generous transfer policies, you may earn your degree in as little as one year.
  • On-Campus Requirements: Students who attend marriage and family therapy master’s programs online may still need to occasionally visit their school’s campus. For example, some programs require a brief residency at the beginning or end of your graduate studies. You may also need to take proctored exams on campus or at a satellite testing center.
  • Thesis, Fellowship, and Work Requirements: If you plan to continue your education at the doctoral level, you may consider a program with a thesis component that gives you the chance to demonstrate valuable research, analytical, and academic writing skills. Conversely, if you plan to seek professional licensure after graduation, you may instead select a program that features some sort of supervised clinical experience, such as a practicum or internship.

Accreditation for Online Family Counseling Master’s Degrees

Students deciding where to earn their master of arts in marriage and family therapy online should ensure they choose an accredited program. The accreditation process certifies that graduate schools meet certain academic standards and adequately prepare their students for careers in counseling. If you attend an unaccredited program, you may not qualify for certain financial aid opportunities, and future employers may not recognize your degree. In addition, most states require that licensure applicants hold an accredited master’s degree.

Several organizations provide programmatic accreditation to master’s in family counseling programs, including:

To determine if your chosen program holds accreditation from one of these bodies, consult the online directory at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Master in Family Counseling Program?

Master’s programs in family counseling usually require about 60 credits to graduate. Full-time students can earn their degree in two years, while part-time students may need up to four years finish.

If you have previously taken graduate-level classes in counseling, or if you enroll in a self-paced program, you may be able to earn your degree in as little as one year.

Counseling programs typically also involve supervised clinical experiences. For example, some schools require aspiring marriage and family therapists to complete 100 hours of a practicum and 600 hours of an internship. Practicums tend to involve observation and shadowing, while internships allow students the opportunity to develop hands-on experience in a mental health setting.

Earning a master’s degree does not automatically qualify you for licensure. Most states also require 2,000–4,000 hours of post-degree supervised experience, usually referred to as a residency. Applicants must then pass an exam to receive their professional license.

Courses in an Online Master’s in Family Counseling Program

Introduction to Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling

This course introduces family dynamics and the practice of family counseling. Students explore the history of the profession, its theoretical underpinnings, and ethical frameworks that guide the delivery of care. Students also review preparation standards and credentials relevant to specialty areas within the broader field.

Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories

In this class, students take a closer look at the therapeutic theories and techniques used in mental health counseling. Students explore the strengths and weaknesses of individual theories in order to determine which to rely upon in specific clinical settings. Through this overview, students develop their own personal theory of counseling.

Techniques in Counseling

Students in this course hone their practical counseling skills. For example, students learn to conduct interviews, make behavioral observations, appropriately interpret patient responses, and share their findings through written reports. The class also teaches students to limit the role their personal beliefs and biases play in drawing conclusions about their clients.

Ethics and Legal Issues in Counseling

Both to earn their license and serve as effective counselors, marriage and family therapists require a deep understanding of the ethical and legal challenges they may face in their practice. Students in this course critically examine and apply ethical standards of their profession, such as the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics.

Crisis, Trauma, and Disaster Response

This course prepares learners to help their patients cope with various traumas, such as sexual assault, terrorism, or natural disasters. Topics covered include trauma therapy competencies, vicarious trauma and counter-transference, crisis assessment tools, and specific diagnoses within this area of counseling, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Family Counseling?

Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and Family Therapists provide individual, couple, and group counseling to help their clients manage problems. For example, a family therapist may assist children as they cope with the divorce of their parents or other major life changes. These positions require at least a master’s degree and state-level licensure.

Entry Level:






Late Career:



Psychologists use their understanding of brain function and behavior to address mental and emotional issues. Clinical psychologists may diagnose and treat specific disorders, while counseling psychologists use therapy and other tools to help their patients overcome more general challenges. Psychologists must hold a doctorate, though an online MFT program prepares you for doctoral-level study.

Entry Level:






Late Career:


Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, or Mental Health Counselor

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, or Mental Health Counselors support individuals struggling with issues like addiction or anorexia. Mental health counselors treat patients with conditions such as anxiety, depression, and suicidal impulses. Though licensure requirements vary by state, most individuals in these roles hold a master’s degree.

Entry Level:






Late Career:


School and Career Counselor

School and Career Counselors help students succeed both academically and professionally. For example, a school counselor may work with students on sharpening their organizational and time-management skills. A career counselor may offer guidance on career paths after high school or college graduation. Both positions require a master’s degree.

Entry Level:






Late Career:


Social and Community Service Manager

Social and Community Service Managers lead nonprofit organizations and other social service agencies. They create budgets, hire and train staff, evaluate progress towards goals, and raise the money necessary for an organization to achieve its mission. Though not necessarily required, the head of a nonprofit that provides family counseling services may benefit from earning an online marriage and family therapy master’s degree.

Entry Level:






Late Career:


Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Family Counseling Professional Associations

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists

AAMFT represents the interests of more than 50,000 marriage and family therapists in both the United States and Canada. The organization hosts information on all state licensing boards, organizes an annual conference and regional training events, and disseminates research through a scholarly journal. The AAMFT minority fellowship program also works to draw more individuals from underrepresented groups into the profession.

American Counseling Association

Founded in 1952, the ACA is the world’s largest professional association for counselors. Members can access a knowledge center to learn more about issues like gun violence trauma and addiction, meet continuing education requirements through webinars and in-person professional development programs, and connect with their colleagues through online forums.

American Family Therapy Academy

AFTA aims to enhance the practice of family therapy through research, advocacy, and collaboration. It publishes an academic journal focused on systemic research and theory, maintains a directory of qualified clinicians and therapists, and gives awards to recognize exemplary service to the field. The academy provides discounted membership to both students and early career professionals.

National Council on Family Relations

NCFR is an interdisciplinary organization that strengthens families through research, practice, and education. It administers the certified family life educator credential program, arranges research conferences and workshops, and hosts curated digital resource collections on topics like ambiguous loss, racial discrimination, and transgender issues.

Delta Kappa

Delta Kappa, or the International Marriage and Family Therapy Honor Society, supports the training of the next generation of marriage and family therapists. In addition to maintaining chapters on campuses across the country, Delta Kappa provides a variety of resources both for students considering a career in counseling and those actively looking for an accredited graduate program.

Image Credit: laflor | Getty Images

Take the next step towards your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.

Woman working at desk