Best Online Doctorate in Family Counseling

by Timon Kaple

Updated October 13, 2022

TheBestSchools.org

thebestschools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Online marriage and family counseling degrees position students for clinical, teaching, and research careers in healthcare facilities, private counseling practices, and colleges and universities.

An online doctorate in family counseling prepares individuals for rewarding careers. Marriage and family counselors may work as therapists and help clients manage their relationships and personal problems in mental health centers, hospitals, and substance abuse treatment centers. An online doctorate in counseling also prepares learners for research positions or teaching careers at colleges and universities.

Many counselors secure lucrative positions with telehealth or remote components, which became especially useful amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The job outlook for marriage and family counselors looks bright, too. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 16% employment growth rate for these professionals from 2020-2030.

This page includes a non-ranked list of marriage and family counseling doctorate programs. They are listed in alphabetical order.

The Best Online Doctorate in Family Counseling Programs

#1 Best Online Doctorate in Family Counseling

The University of South Carolina-Main campus

  • Columbia, SC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The online family counseling program, offered by the University of South Carolina, ranks as a top program in the field. With its flexible format, the public university makes a doctorate more accessible. Doctoral students also benefit from research support, career advising, and library access.

During the online education specialist degree in counselor education: marriage, couples, and family counseling program, participants take a set minimum number of credits of doctoral courses to earn their degree. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates begin working on an original dissertation project. A doctorate in family counseling trains graduates for roles in research, academia, and leadership.

Doctoral students who attend the accredited institution in an online format qualify for several types of financial aid. Contact the program for more information about research support and financial aid.

The University of South Carolina at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 11,313

Online Master's Programs: 27

Online Doctoral Programs: 10

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 15-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $13,737

Average Tuition
In-state
$12,288
Out-of-state
$33,528
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
69%
Students Enrolled
35,364
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
32% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 Best Online Doctorate in Family Counseling

Regent University

  • Virginia Beach, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The family counseling program at Regent University appeals to doctoral students seeking an online route to their degree. Degree-seekers benefit from the flexible enrollment options at the private university. Doctoral candidates benefit from support services like career advising.

The online doctor of philosophy in counseling and psychological studies – marriage and family ministry program incorporates a set minimum number of credits of doctoral coursework. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral learners conduct research for their dissertation. Graduates with a doctorate in family counseling work in academic, research, and industry positions.

The accredited institution meets federal requirements for financial aid support. Contact the program to learn more about the enrollment process and start dates.

Regent University at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 9,507

Online Master's Programs: 37

Online Doctoral Programs: 12

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 29-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $15,552

Average Tuition
In-state
$17,220
Out-of-state
$17,220
Retention Rate
78%
Admission Rate
86%
Students Enrolled
10,365
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#3 Best Online Doctorate in Family Counseling

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology - Chicago Campus

  • Chicago, IL
  • 4 years
  • Campus

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology - Chicago Campus offers a family counseling program with an online learning format. At the private institution, degree-seekers take doctoral classes in a flexible format. Doctoral students participate in career advising and gain research skills.

The online doctor of philosophy in counselor education and supervision program requires a set minimum number of credits of doctoral coursework. After passing comprehensive examinations, doctoral candidates propose a dissertation topic and conduct research in their specialty area. With a family counseling doctorate, graduates work in academia, research positions, and leadership roles.

Doctoral students pay for the program with federal financial aid, fellowships, and scholarships. Contact the program for more information about financial aid and the admission process.

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology - Chicago Campus at a Glance:

Online Student Enrollment: 130

Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 4-to-1

Graduate Tuition Rate: $20,610

Average Tuition
In-state
$10,992
Out-of-state
$10,992
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
1,307
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Best Online Doctorate

Online Doctorate in Family Counseling Programs Ranking Guidelines

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

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%

Affordability - 15%

Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

Featured Online Doctorate in Family Counseling Programs

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.

Psychology Professor

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.

Psychologist

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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Marriage and Family Counseling Degrees

What Does a Family and Marriage Counselor Do?

Marriage and family counselors work directly with clients in short-term therapy settings to help them process marital issues, anxiety, psychological challenges, and parent-child concerns. They can also help treat mental health conditions like schizophrenia, affective mood disorder, and substance abuse.

How Do I Become a Family Counselor?

A family counselor needs a master's degree and a state-issued license to practice professionally. Licensure requires each candidate to pass a state-recognized exam and complete a clinical internship.

How Many Years Do You Have to Go to College to Be a Family Therapist?

Master's degrees in psychology, marriage and family therapy, and other mental health fields usually take two years. A Ph.D. in this field usually takes 4-7 years to complete.

Portrait of Timon Kaple

Timon Kaple

Timon Kaple is a writer and ethnographer specializing in the study of music, language, and American culture. His recent work explores how people understand their daily experiences and how those beliefs influence their actions, engagement with social media, language, work, and art. He conducts ethnographic fieldwork and teaches students of all ages about music and culture. Timon also holds the Ph.D. from Indiana University-Bloomington.

Header Image Credit: PeopleImages | iStock | Getty Images Plus

Learn more, do more.

More topic-relevant resources to expand your knowledge.

Popular with our students.

Highly informative resources to keep your education journey on track.

Take the next step toward your future with online learning.

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

woman in an office