Why This Matters

  • MASTER’S REQUIRED TO PRACTICE IN 50 STATES

    To ensure safe, ethical practice, all 50 states require marriage and family therapists have a master’s degree and state-issued license in order to offer their counseling services to clients.

  • COUNSELING JOBS EXPECTED TO INCREASE 23%

    As the healthcare industry increasingly adopts a model of integrated care, the demand for marriage and family therapists to work with other types of counselors and physicians is expected to rise.

  • THERAPY POSITIVELY IMPACTS 70% OF COUPLES

    Although results can never be guaranteed, research shows that couples who seek marriage counseling typically have a positive response, making it an ideal career for those who enjoy helping others.

Our Research

Our list of the best master’s in marriage and family therapy programs includes programs offered on-campus, online, and as hybrids, providing a range of options for all schedules and learning preferences.

We reviewed various degrees, including Master of Marriage and Family Therapy (MMFT), Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS). These degrees differ in pedagogy, but all provide the required training for a marriage and family therapy career.

This list only includes programs that are regionally accredited. Many programs are also accredited through a counseling-specific body such as the Council of Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) or the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Attending schools with these accreditations is critical when obtaining professional licensure.

We evaluated each program’s course strength, cost, faculty, flexibility and reputation, and calculated an Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. The top picks for best master’s in marriage and family therapy are respected, affordable and customizable.(For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 56 hours to write this article
  • 144 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 292 education programs we compared

The Top 26 Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy Programs

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What You Should Know About This Degree

Because of the sensitive nature of counseling, and the vulnerable populations with whom therapists often work, professional therapists are carefully regulated. Each state grants licenses authorizing marriage and family therapists to practice. In general, the prerequisites for licensure include a master’s degree, post-graduate supervised clinical experience, and successful completion of the licensure exam.

As each state sets its own licensure requirements, it’s important to familiarize yourself with your state’s regulations prior to enrolling in a master’s program. For example, in some states, completion of a COAMFTE- or CACREP-accredited program is mandatory. In other cases, you may only be able to get licensed in the state in which you obtain your degree. These considerations are particularly important for individuals looking to enroll in an online program.

Because marriage and family therapy revolves around working with people, experiential learning is a key component of most master’s programs. The exact number of experiential hours and the type of setting in which you complete those hours may vary by program. Some programs will assist you in finding your clinical placement, while in others, it will be your responsibility to find a setting where you can complete your real-world learning experience. Be sure to carefully review the program’s policies for experiential learning when researching schools.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy programs:

  • Does this program offer a dual degree in professional counseling? Some programs allow students to earn a dual degree in general or professional counseling alongside their marriage and family counseling degree. This additional degree is not required to practice as a marriage and family therapist, but may open up more job opportunities in other areas of counseling.
  • Is this program secular or religious-oriented? Programs offered at religious-affiliated institutions typically teach a faith-based approach to marriage and family counseling, which may or may not align with your own personal beliefs. It’s important to select a program that teaches counseling approaches that you will feel comfortable incorporating into your own professional practice.

Reviewing the program’s admissions procedures and deadlines is another important step in the research process. You can usually find information about a program’s application process, eligibility requirements, and important dates on their website, or by contacting the school’s admissions office.

Now is also a good time to think about financing your master’s education. Talk to financial aid representatives about loans, scholarships, and assistantships. If you are currently employed, find out if your employer offers tuition assistance benefits.