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Relationships are essential in our lives, yet communication, trauma, or abuse issues can negatively affect them. Marriage and family therapists work with individuals, couples, and families to heal trauma, establish better communication, and overcome other challenges in a safe, supportive environment. Earning a master’s in marriage and family therapy (MMFT) is a key step in pursuing a career in this field.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of marriage and family therapists is expected to grow 15% through 2031. Marriage and family therapists earn a median annual wage of $56,570, with top earners making more than $98,700. reviewed dozens of online, in-person, and hybrid programs to compile this list of the best master’s in marriage and family therapy programs. Students can also learn more about what to expect from an MMFT program, the career outlook for this field, and how to choose the right MMFT program.

What Can I Expect from a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy Program?

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), “Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) are mental health professionals trained in psychotherapy and family systems, and licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage, couples and family systems.”

While marriage and family therapy shares some commonalities with other mental and behavioral health professions, such as social work, psychology, and counseling, it is a distinct field with its own therapeutic approaches, research base, and client population.

To obtain a state-issued license to practice professionally, MFTs should have a master’s degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Therapy Education (COAMFTE). Accreditation ensures that a program’s curriculum and clinical requirements meet professional training standards.

The curriculum in MFT master’s programs consists of foundational and advanced concepts and skills in areas including:

  • Foundations of relational/systemic practice, theories, and models
  • Clinical treatment with individuals, couples, and families
  • Research and evaluation
  • Diverse, multicultural, and underserved communities
  • Professional identity, law, ethics, and social responsibility
  • Biopsychosocial health and development across the lifespan
  • Systemic/relational assessment and mental health diagnosis and treatment
  • Contemporary issues in marriage and family therapy

Students are also expected to complete a supervised experiential learning component, such as a practicum or clinical internship, to ensure they have hands-on experience with clients before entering the field. Students will complete their clinical experience remotely or in person, depending on the program and other factors. Programs may also require a capstone project or research thesis.

Besides a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (MMFT), students may also encounter Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) degrees. Different degree types have different pedagogical and theoretical approaches, but the curriculum should meet licensure standards as long as a program has COAMFTE accreditation.

Although MFT is a specialization within the larger field of therapy, there are some focus areas for graduate students, including addiction and recovery in families, conflict and infidelity and marriage, trauma in relationships, LGBTQIA+ studies, and more.

The Top 50 Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy Degree Programs

Best Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy Programs badge

Liberty University

Abilene Christian University

National University

California State University at Northridge

Palo Alto University

Touro University Worldwide

Bethel University

University of Oregon

Drexel University

Indiana Wesleyan University

University of Louisiana Monroe

University of Colorado Denver

University of West Alabama

Amridge University

Hope International University

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How We Rank Schools

This list features some of the best master’s in marriage and family therapy programs in the U.S. All are offered at nonprofit, accredited institutions, either public or private, with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. Delivery methods for programs include online, in-person, and hybrid instruction.

The list includes several relevant degree options, including Master of Marriage and Family Therapy (MMFT), Master of Science (MS), and Master of Arts (MA) programs. These degrees differ at points in pedagogy, but they all provide the requisite academic training for work as a marriage and family therapist.

All of the programs noted are regionally accredited, and many have therapy-specific accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the Council of Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE).

We evaluated each degree program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, reputation, and student resources. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared our picks to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs

Students seeking a career focused on helping others and providing care for mental, behavioral, and emotional challenges have several educational options. Other programs to consider include:

What Can I Do With a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy?

Career outlook

For most students earning an MMFT, the goal is to become a licensed marriage and family therapist. These professionals can work in various settings, including private practices, hospitals, outpatient mental healthcare facilities, social service agencies, and more. They may provide general couples and family therapy services or specialize in an area such as addiction and recovery, infidelity counseling, or LGBTQIA+ issues.

Demand for qualified MFTs is growing. The BLS reports that there will be roughly 5,900 new jobs annually for MFTs through 2031. An increasing emphasis on integrated care, in which MFTs are part of a team working with an individual or family, is driving this growth.

Other career options for someone with a master’s in marriage and family therapy include:

  • Social and community services manager — MFTs interested in leadership and administration can work in this capacity, coordinating and supervising programs and organizations that support public well-being. 
    • Median annual salary: $74,240
    • Projected employment growth (through 2031): 9%
    • New jobs projected: 16,000 per year
  • Mental health counselor — MFTs often work with and treat clients coping with mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, trauma, and more.  
    • Median annual salary: $49,710
    • Projected employment growth (through 2031): 18%
    • New jobs projected: 42,000 per year
  • Psychologist — Education and experience as an MFT can provide a solid foundation for those interested in researching how people relate to one another and their environments and using those findings to improve processes and behaviors. It may require additional education.
    • Median annual salary: $81,040
    • Projected employment growth (through 2031): 6%
    • New jobs projected: 14,100 per year

How to Choose the Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy Degree Program That’s Right for You

Step 1: Choose your area of study

As you embark on finding a master’s in marriage and family therapy program, it’s essential to gain clarity on your educational and career goals. Review the specifics of professional practice in MFT and similar fields like social work, mental health counseling, and psychology to determine if this is the right educational path for your career aspirations. Also, consider different specializations within MFT, like addiction and recovery in families, divorce/co-parenting, and grief and trauma, and decide if you want a program that focuses on one of these areas.

Students should also settle some logistical questions at this stage, including where a student plans on getting licensed so they can enroll in a program that meets that state’s licensure requirements. Students should also determine if they want an in-person, entirely online, or hybrid program, whether they plan on enrolling full-time or part-time, and how they will accommodate clinical requirements in their schedule.

Step 2: Research schools and programs

Students should begin their search by confirming that any schools they’re considering are accredited by a recognized regional accrediting agency and COAMFTE. A degree from an accredited program is a common requirement for professional licensure.

There are several ways to gather essential school information, including visiting their websites, contacting program representatives and admissions counselors, and following schools and programs on social media. For students considering in-person programs, visit the campus for open houses or information sessions to understand the student body, faculty, and campus culture. Many online programs offer virtual events that allow students to interact with program representatives and students.

Students should be sure to get answers to the following questions:

  • What does the curriculum consist of, including core classes and electives?
  • Is the program taught from a religious perspective or secularly based?
  • Does the program have capstone or thesis requirements?
  • Who are the faculty, and what are their qualifications?
  • What are the clinical requirements, and how are students assigned their placements?
  • What support services are available to students, including academic and career advising, tutoring, counseling, and technical support?
  • What institutional financial aid, including scholarships, grants, and fellowships, is available?
  • For online students, are courses offered synchronously or asynchronously?

Step 3: Prepare for applications and tests

All individual MMFT programs set their own requirements and procedures for admission. Specific information is usually available on the school’s website or by contacting the admissions office.

A standard application for an MMFT includes the following:

  • Application and fees
  • Official transcripts from all undergraduate schools attended
  • Letters of recommendation from faculty, employers, or colleagues
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Resume/CV

Depending on the program, there may be specific eligibility requirements that students have to meet, such as a bachelor’s degree, particular coursework in psychology or a related field, or a minimum undergraduate GPA. Some programs may also require GRE scores as part of an application packet.

If there are specific application deadlines, submit all application materials promptly to ensure your decision, and potentially your enrollment, is on time.

Step 4: Select your program

After gathering information about potential schools and programs, compare them to your priorities. These priorities may include cost, program completion time, specialization options, or available financial aid. Select the program or programs that best meet your needs and submit your applications.

There’s no magic number of schools to apply to, with some students focusing on a single program that meets their specifications or applying to multiple schools to increase their odds of acceptance. If you are admitted to multiple schools, you can again compare them according to your priorities to find the best option.

Step 5: Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

During the research process, students should speak to a financial aid counselor and get information about the program’s total cost and available financial aid resources. Find out what type of institutional gift aid the school offers, like need- or merit-based scholarships or grants that don’t need repayment.

Students will also want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which schools will use to determine eligibility for need-based aid, including student loans. Although private education loans are available, federal student loans have more favorable terms, interest rates, and repayment options.

Students can explore various other options to help pay for their MMFT degree. Many schools offer payment plans that allow students to pay in increments throughout the term. Individuals who are working while earning their degree can inquire about employer tuition assistance benefits. Veterans and active-duty service members may be eligible for military discounts on tuition and GI Bill benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy Programs

Should I get a master's in marriage and family therapy degree in person or online?

This choice ultimately comes down to personal preference, as many quality MMFT programs are available online and in person.

Online programs benefit students who need flexible learning schedules to accommodate other responsibilities like jobs or caregiving. They are often more accessible to students because they don’t require students to be present in a specific location to learn. However, online programs need students to learn more independently, which may only work for some. Online students should also find out if they can complete clinical requirements remotely or are expected to attend a site-specific internship or practicum.

Individuals who learn best through hands-on activities and group discussions or want robust extracurricular activities may prefer a traditional in-person program. Students who choose an in-person program should consider the cost of living and transportation when budgeting for their degree program.

How do I apply for a master's in marriage and family therapy program?

For the most specific information about how to apply to a program, contact an admissions counselor from the school. Every school’s application procedures differ slightly, so getting the most accurate information possible is important to avoid mistakes and delays.

Before starting an application, ensure that you meet the basic eligibility requirements for the program, which may include a minimum undergraduate GPA or a specific undergraduate major.

Most schools accept online applications and supporting application materials through an admissions portal. For a master’s program, students must typically submit an application and fees, official transcripts from all undergraduate schools attended, a resume or CV, letters of recommendation, and a personal essay. Some programs may require an interview or GRE scores.

How much does a master's in marriage and family therapy cost?

The average cost of a master’s degree in the U.S. is $65,134, according to the Education Data Initiative. However, what an individual student pays for their MMFT can vary widely based on several factors. Students should contact their school’s financial aid department for the most accurate information about what a program costs.

A key factor is whether a school is public or private. Public universities tend to be less expensive than private schools, but most charge different rates based on whether a student resides in-state or out-of-state. Many public schools charge the same tuition rates for online students regardless of where a student lives.

Students must also factor in expenses like school fees, books and supplies, and living expenses. In-person students must consider room and board if they live on campus or transportation expenses if they commute. Online students must ensure they have reliable internet and a working computer.

How long does it take to complete a master's in marriage and family therapy?

Completion time depends on the number of credits the specific program requires. Most programs require 45-60 credit hours, which can take two to three years of full-time attendance to complete. Students who enroll on a part-time basis may take longer.

Some schools offer accelerated programs that allow students to take courses at a faster pace to earn their degrees quicker. Another option is a bachelor’s-to-master’s program enabling students to earn both degrees in five years.

Is a master's in marriage and family therapy degree worth it?

Working with couples and families to improve their relationships and break unhealthy cycles and patterns can be incredibly rewarding. However, any therapy job requires compassion, empathy, patience, and interpersonal skills. It can be mentally, emotionally, and physically demanding, so students should carefully consider if they have the right qualities and passion for this field.

Earning a master’s degree makes graduates eligible for professional licensure, which is required for most MFT jobs. Regarding ROI, pay varies for MFTs. As of May 2022, the median annual salary was $56,570. The top earners in the field made upwards of $98,700, while the lowest-paid earned $36,840.

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