What Is an Online Doctorate in Marriage and Family Counseling?
Marriage and family counseling doctorate programs typically require each applicant to possess a master's degree in counseling or a related area with a 3.0 or higher GPA. Schools may also expect candidates to hold counselor or therapist licensure.
A doctorate in marriage and family counseling requires classes such as research in counseling, intermediate statistics, qualitative research methods, and adolescent intervention research. These degrees often take 4-7 years and about 60 credits to complete. Program length varies based on how long it takes degree-seekers to finish their dissertations.
Students can earn a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) or a doctorate of psychology (Psy.D.) in marriage and family counseling. Learners in Ph.D. programs tend to develop skills in research, teaching, and academic writing. Psy.D. students focus more on clinical practice.
Choosing an Online Doctoral Family Counseling Program
Prospective doctoral students should consider program length, cost, and the availability of concentrations when selecting their schools. Specialty tracks affect the direction of your studies and competitiveness for specific jobs upon graduation. If you prefer to work in couples therapy, mental health administration, or other specialized areas, seek out programs that offer these concentrations.
Tuition and living expenses increase with program length. Doctoral students in family counseling complete field experience and a dissertation, in addition to coursework. Degree-seekers should factor in these requirements when estimating the length and cost of a program.
Accreditation for Online Family Counseling Degree Programs
While most schools possess regional accreditation, you should also research each prospective program's programmatic accreditation status. Marriage and family counseling programs with programmatic accreditation show that they have gone above and beyond to meet rigorous education standards.
For marriage and family counseling programs, look for accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs or Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education.
What Else Can I Expect From a Ph.D. in Family Counseling Program?
Each marriage and family counseling program offers courses that reflect the strengths of its faculty. Depending on the school, you can expect to complete classes in research methods, systemic family therapy, group psychotherapy, and professional ethics.
Enrollees pursuing concentrations in clinical counseling, drama therapy, or school counseling focus on these subject areas after completing core classes. Your practicum and dissertation will also focus on this chosen specialty track.
Common Courses for an Online Doctorate in Family Counseling
- Qualitative Research Methods: This course helps students develop foundational research skills that align with ethical standards in qualitative methods. Instructors focus on common research practices in marriage and family therapy, including ethnographic analysis, clinical research applications, and methodological design. Enrollees may engage with some practical learning and experimentation in ethnographic methods.
- Quantitative Research Methods: Learners develop the necessary skills to analyze measurable data gathered through research. They also learn to use industry software, including SPSS, Jamovi, and OpenStat. This course also typically features a research planning and implementation component.
- Theories of Marriage and Family Therapy: This class explores the major theoretical aspects of family counseling. Coursework covers practical counseling skills, clinical practice issues, and interview and assessment skills. Enrollees typically complete several written assignments on class readings, in-class presentations, and final reflection papers.
- Human Sexuality: Faculty help students explore the biological, cultural, psychological, and social aspects of sexual expression and practices. Students focus on research findings from professionals in marriage and family therapy, including studies of attraction, love, intimacy, and sex education. Learners develop a strong understanding of sexual health for individuals, couples, and families.
- Assessment and Treatment of Addictions: Learners explore how to identify and treat addictions, especially among patient populations with mental health challenges. Faculty cover foundational practical and theoretical aspects of marriage and family therapists' approaches to this type of specialized treatment. Students investigate the long-term effects of substance abuse among couples, families, and society.
How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Doctorate in Family Counseling Program?
The duration of doctoral marriage and family counseling programs varies among programs. In many cases, learners take 4-7 years to finish their doctoral degree. The dissertation component often plays a significant factor in how much time students spend in school.
Additionally, learners in accelerated, self-paced, or asynchronous programs can sometimes finish more quickly than students in synchronous learning formats.
Paying for Your Online Doctorate in Family Counseling Degree
Paying for a graduate degree presents a significant financial challenge for most students. Thankfully, learners can pursue assistance to help offset the cost of their online doctorates in family counseling, including scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and loans.
Each student must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to receive consideration for most forms of financial aid. Doctoral programs may offer students graduate assistantships or fellowships, which often come with tuition and living stipends. In other cases, scholarships, grants, and loans can help you pay for school.
The money you receive through a scholarship or grant does not need repayment. However, you must repay private and federal student loans, plus interest. Federal loans often offer better interest rates than private loans, allowing learners to take on less debt.
Family Counseling Jobs
Online family counseling degrees prepare graduates for careers beyond client-facing therapy positions. Professionals with a doctorate in marriage and family counseling can obtain employment at research institutions, colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, and different types of health clinics.
Degree-holders qualify for many positions in social services. Depending on the career, some learners may need to complete further study in other areas or earn specialized certification. Here is a list of careers you can pursue with a doctorate in marriage and family counseling.
Marriage and Family Therapist
Median Annual Salary (2020): $51,340
Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 16%
These professionals meet face-to-face or online with clients to provide advice and guidance on managing their problems or difficult relationships. They may focus on specific patient populations or issues such as marriage conflicts, school counseling, addiction and substance abuse, or community programming. These workers typically possess excellent listening, interpersonal, and communication skills.
All marriage and family therapists need licensure to practice professionally. To sit for the state-recognized licensure exam, each candidate needs a master's degree and 2,000-4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience.
Median Annual Salary (2020): $78,180
Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 12%
Marriage and family counseling degree-holders who enjoy teaching can pursue careers as psychology professors. These professionals may work in public or private universities and colleges, professional schools, and community colleges.
Most psychology professors conduct research and publish their work. Professionals in full-time lecturer positions, however, usually focus solely on teaching undergraduate or graduate courses.
Most colleges and universities require professors to hold doctorates and relevant teaching or research experience. Successful professors often possess strong organizational, writing, critical thinking, and public speaking skills.
Median Annual Salary (2020): $82,180
Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 8%
These professionals examine human behavior through cognitive, social, and emotional lenses. Psychologists use their data and research findings to contribute to advancing their field. They may specialize in particular areas, including clinical, developmental, forensic, or rehabilitation psychology. Most psychologists in patient-facing roles own their own counseling practices or work in school settings.
Psychologists need a doctoral degree in psychology. Licensing laws vary among states, but most professionals must earn licensure to practice. Professionals with training in marriage and family counseling may wish to pursue specialty certifications in couple and family psychology through the American Board of Professional Psychology.
Substance Abuse Counselor
Median Annual Salary (2020): $47,660
Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 23%
Substance abuse counselors help people with challenges such as drug addiction, eating disorders, behavioral issues, and alcoholism. They may also focus on helping particular demographics, like teenagers or veterans. These professionals primarily work in substance abuse centers or private practices.
Successful substance abuse counselors possess compassion and patience, along with excellent interpersonal, listening, and speaking skills. Licensure requirements vary among states, but a substance abuse counselor typically needs at least a master's degree and 2,000-4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience to work in private practice.
Each counselor must pass a state exam to receive their license. To maintain their licenses, they need to earn continuing education credits every year.
Mental Health Counselor
Median Annual Salary (2020): $47,660
Projected Job Growth (2020-2030): 23%
These counselors work with patients experiencing psychological challenges, including depression. Mental health counselors also provide guidance on family or parenting issues, relationship programs, stress management, anger management, and grief. They often work one-on-one with patients to help identify the unique root causes of their conditions.
In most cases, mental health counselors need master's degrees and supervised clinical experience to find employment. These professionals commonly work in outpatient mental health centers, private practices, individual or family services, or hospitals. Mental health counselors typically possess excellent interpersonal, listening, and speaking skills.