The Best Online Doctorate in Family Counseling

by Timon Kaple
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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

University of Florida true View School Profile Gainesville, FL UF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

UF offers an online Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction that features a concentration in educational technology which emphasizes integrating various tools and applications into elementary, secondary, postsecondary, and corporate learning environments. Most courses are delivered online, though students must attend two summer session on the school's Gainesville campus.

This online doctorate program in educational technology includes courses on topics like research in curriculum and instruction, instructional design, educational statistics, and a practicum in digital media. Students conclude their studies by completing a dissertation. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. Applicants must have a master's degree from an accredited institution and submit a statement of purpose, a writing sample, at least two letters of recommendation, and GRE scores to be considered.

Michigan State University true View School Profile East Lansing, MI MSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

MSU offers a hybrid Ph.D. in educational psychology and educational technology program that provides students with the skills, knowledge, and experience needed to use technology to transform K-12, university, and virtual learning environments. The five-year program features mostly online coursework combined with a two-week, on-campus summer session.

This Ph.D. in educational technology online program includes coursework on research design, data analysis, and the creation of technology-rich learning. Students can work alongside experienced faculty on research projects, which typically focus on professional development and teacher education. Before graduating, all students must create and successfully defend a dissertation, a process that comprises the entirety of the fifth year. Applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and significant academic and professional accomplishments to be considered. They must also submit several strong recommendations and GRE scores.

University of South Carolina-Columbia true View School Profile Columbia, SC USC is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

USC offers a doctor of education in curriculum and instruction with an educational technology track. This 36-month program was designed to prepare students to become the next generation of K-12 and postsecondary school leaders. The majority of coursework can be completed online, but students must visit the school's Columbia campus for a brief orientation at the beginning of the program.

This 60-credit online doctorate program in educational technology covers topics like diversity in curriculum, applications of learning principles, instructional design, educational technology research, and technology resource management. The final 12 credits center on preparing a dissertation. All online students pay the same tuition rate, regardless of residency. Applicants must have a master's degree in a related field earned from a regionally-accredited institution to be considered. They must also submit a letter of intent, GRE or GMAT scores, a resume, and samples of academic writing.

University of Memphis true View School Profile Memphis, TN Memphis is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Memphis offers an online Ed.D. in instructional design and technology program that prepares students for successful careers as professors, corporate trainers, human resource professionals, researchers, and school administrators. This degree emphasizes both research and examining practical applications of various technologies in the learning environment.

This 54-credit online Ed.D. program in educational technology features a cohort learning model, with students taking most classes with the same group of their fellow learners. Each semester includes one 14-week and two seven-week classes, creating a manageable schedule for working professionals. Each student must complete a research project and dissertation, which will be presented to a faculty committee at the end of the program. Applicants must have a master's degree from an accredited institution and submit a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and a resume to be considered.

Oklahoma State University-Main Campus true View School Profile Stillwater, OK Oklahoma State is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Oklahoma State offers a Ph.D. in education with a concentration in educational technology. This 60-credit program features a variety of online courses, with some on-campus classes completed at the university's Stillwater or Tulsa campuses. This Ph.D. in educational technology online program includes coursework on advanced computer applications, digital media production, facilitation of online learning, instructional development, and library networks.

Students must research, create, and present a dissertation at the end of the program. Available student resources include IT assistance, a digital library, and financial aid help. Applicants must have a master's degree earned with a minimum GPA of 3.5 to be considered. They must also provide evidence of their writing abilities, GRE or GMAT scores, three letters of recommendation, a resume, and a statement of purpose. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Indiana University-Bloomington View School Profile Bloomington, IN Indiana is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Indiana offers one of the best online Ed.D. programs in educational technology in the U.S. This 60-credit program takes a hands-on approach to education, preparing students to develop instructional materials applicable to various settings. This program is ideal for those who want to become applied researchers and includes courses on topics such as doctoral readings, intermediate statistics, qualitative inquiry in education, adult learning, and learning and cognition.

The last nine credits of the curriculum includes a dissertation, which each student presents to a committee before graduating. Applicants must have a master's degree earned from an accredited postsecondary institution and submit GRE scores, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement to be considered.

Duquesne University View School Profile Pittsburgh, PA Duquesne is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Duquesne offers a 57-credit online doctoral program in instructional technology and leadership that teaches students to use technology to create positive change in various educational settings. All courses emphasize access to opportunity and equality. This online doctorate program in educational technology includes courses on topics like instructional technology, digital media, electronic literacy, and classroom design.

Classes are delivered online through Blackboard Monday through Thursday evenings each week. This schedule is ideal for working professionals who are typically not available during the day. While most coursework is delivered online, students must attend a two-week residency on Duquesne's campus to begin the program. Applicants must have a master's degree in a technology- or education-related field earned with a minimum GPA of 3.5 to be considered. They must also be proficient in using technology, have high-speed internet access, and submit official GRE scores.

The University of West Florida View School Profile Pensacola, FL University of West Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

UWF offers an online Ed.D. in instructional design and technology that emphasizes project management, critical thinking, communication, and ethics. This program is ideal for those who want to use technology to drive innovation, change, and productivity in education.

This online Ed.D. program in educational technology offers two concentrations: distance learning and performance technology. The distance learning track emphasizes online learning methods in K-12, postsecondary, and business settings. The performance technology concentration focuses on using technology to enhance the performance of individuals and organizations. All students must complete a research project and dissertation, which takes up the final 18 credits of the program.

Applicants must have a master's degree earned from an accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 3.5 to be considered. They must also submit GRE or GMAT scores, a resume, three professional references, and a statement of intent.

Old Dominion University View School Profile Norfolk, VA Old Dominion is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

ODU Online offers a Ph.D. in education with a concentration in instructional design and technology. This flexible 60-credit program allows students to explore a variety of topics, including technology-mediated instruction, human performance technology, research, distance education, and instructional message design.

Although courses in this online doctorate program in educational technology take place at scheduled times, students can also access digital content at their convenience. The curriculum includes core courses on instructional systems design, cognition and instruction, and multimedia design. The final 15 credits consist of each student's dissertation. Applicants must have a master's degree from an accredited institution and must submit a writing sample, a personal essay, a resume, three letters of recommendation, and GRE scores to be considered.

Concordia University-Chicago View School Profile River Forest, IL CUC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

CUC, located in the suburban community of River Forest, Illinois, offers a doctorate degree in leadership with a specialization in educational technology. This program emphasizes learning in the digital age while preparing the next generation of K-12, university, and other educational leaders.

This online Ed.D. program in educational technology includes 61-67 credits of courses on topics such as data management, learning environment design, technology department management, school district improvement, and curriculum development. Students may also choose from electives that emphasize learning in K-12, higher education, or corporate settings. Applicants must have a master's degree in a related discipline from a regionally accredited institution, along with a 3.0 GPA or better. They must also demonstrate familiarity with commonly used word processing spreadsheet, and presentation applications.

Regent University View School Profile Virginia Beach, VA Regent is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Located in Virginia Beach, Regent offers a Ph.D. in education with a concentration in educational technology and online learning. In this program, students conduct their own research, use research and analytical methods to address problems, and seek publication in journals. This Ph.D. in educational technology online program features courses on advanced leadership practice, strategic planning and evaluation, instructional design, research design and analysis, and educational statistics.

The final year of the program focuses largely on a dissertation, which students must present to a committee before graduation. Applicants must have both a bachelor's and master's degree earned from regionally-accredited institutions. They must also provide GRE scores, a current resume, and a peer-reviewed scholarly paper along with the completion of an admissions questionnaire.

Boise State University View School Profile Boise, ID Boise State is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

Boise State offers a doctor of educational technology degree that teaches students how to incorporate emerging technologies into K-12 and university settings. The program covers various topics, including academic technology leadership, software development, mobile applications, and digital games and activities.

Students enroll in courses focused on instructional design, website creation, research, statistics, and contemporary theories of learning and technology. Before graduating, all students must complete a thesis and final portfolio that they present to a faculty committee. Students can seek limited funding opportunities, including full- and part-time assistantships. Applicants must hold a master's degree from an accredited institution and must submit a scholarly paper, three professional references, and official GRE scores to be considered.

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Chicago View School Profile Chicago, IL The Chicago School is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

The Chicago School offers an online Ed.D. in educational psychology and technology degree that immerses students in the cutting-edge technologies and advancements that influence teaching and learning across multiple contexts. This degree covers a wide variety of topics, including interactions between computers and cognition, technology in the learning environment, and philosophical and ethical issues in educational technology.

While most classes are delivered online, students must attend two residency sessions at the school's campus in downtown Chicago. These residencies cover include the study of special topics, exams, and collaborative research projects. Applicants to this online Ed.D. program in educational technology must have a master's degree and submit a personal essay and resume to be considered. Those with a master's degree in non-related subjects should have at least three years of professional experience.

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%

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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.

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: Tassii | Getty Images

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