Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) provide talk therapy and mental health assistance focusing on family and relationship dynamics. They can help families and couples maneuver emotional experiences like divorce and teach relationship and life skills. A marriage and counseling therapist may work with individual clients, but their perspective remains on family units and marriage partnerships.

You will need a master's degree from an accredited educational program to begin a career as an MFT. While it's common for therapists to secure a bachelor's and master's degree in psychology, some related degree fields are acceptable for future MFTs.

Many MFT degrees are available online. To learn more, see the sections below.

2025 - Best Online MFT Programs's national Best Online MFT Programs rankings offer a crucial guide for prospective students. The methodology includes key factors such as program completion rates, the cost of living, institutional competitiveness, program diversity, and faculty experience. These criteria ensure a comprehensive evaluation of each program's quality and suitability. For a detailed explanation of the ranking factors, visit the rankings methodology page. This guide helps students make well-informed decisions when selecting the best marriage and family therapy programs nationwide to advance their careers.


Regent University

Virginia Beach, VA

Regent University offers several online MFT programs, including the MA in Human Services - Marriage & Family Ministry and the Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies – Marriage & Family Ministry. These programs integrate faith-based principles with clinical training, preparing students for various roles in counseling and ministry.


Northwestern University

Evanston, IL

Northwestern University offers a comprehensive online MFT program designed to prepare students for licensure and careers in marriage and family therapy. The program emphasizes evidence-based practices, ethical standards, and diverse clinical skills, with a flexible online format to accommodate working professionals.


Capella University

Minneapolis, MN

Capella University offers a comprehensive online MFT program designed to prepare students for careers in Marriage and Family Therapy. This program emphasizes practical skills, ethical standards, and theoretical knowledge, supported by flexible online learning formats. Capella's faculty bring real-world experience to the virtual classroom, ensuring a rich educational experience.


Alliant International University-San Diego

San Diego, CA

Alliant International University in San Diego offers a renowned MFT program emphasizing clinical training and diverse practicum opportunities. Accredited by COAMFTE, the program integrates rigorous coursework with hands-on experience, preparing students for licensure in Marriage and Family Therapy with a strong foundation in both theory and practice.


Mid-America Christian University

Oklahoma City, OK

Mid-America Christian University offers an MFT program designed to equip students with the skills and knowledge needed for a career in Marriage and Family Therapy. The program emphasizes Christian principles and values, integrating faith with therapeutic practice to prepare students to make a positive impact in their communities through counseling and support services.

Choosing the Right Online MFT Degree Program

An online master's in MFT is the most common degree for marriage and family therapists. It's crucial to select an accredited program to ensure you have the knowledge needed to pass the licensing exam in your state. Many employers also look for therapists with degrees from accredited programs, so you may limit your job opportunities if your program isn't accredited.

Counseling and therapist educational programs are accredited by one of the following organizations:

Let's briefly examine each degree you may need to become a marriage and family therapist.

Bachelor's Degree

You can't legally secure a job as a marriage and family therapist with just an online bachelor's degree, but you still need this degree to get to the master's level. Most students complete a bachelor’s in counseling or bachelor's in psychology program, but you can select virtually any other major and then specialize in the right field when you complete your master's degree. Check with your preferred master's degree program to see what bachelor's degrees are accepted.

Many bachelor’s degrees include around 120 credit hours and are efficiently completed within four years. Some schools offer the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and the Bachelor of Science in Psychology. The difference is in the type of courses included in the program. Bachelor of Arts programs often allow students to select various elective courses, while Bachelor of Science programs include more science and math courses.

Master's Degree

An online master's degree in MFT is the most applicable degree for those pursuing a career in marriage and family therapy. Still, some students pursue a general master’s in counseling or master's in psychology and focus their internships or field placements in MFT or pursue a graduate certificate in MFT (see below). A master’s degree is needed to pass the state licensing examination and begin work as a marriage and family therapist.

Most online MFT master's programs are completed within three years. Some schools may have accelerated programs completed within a year or two when you attend full-time.

Graduate Certificate

A graduate certificate in MFT is an excellent route for those with a master’s degree in general counseling or psychology who wish to gain specialized training in marriage and family therapy. While this program doesn’t result in an actual degree, graduate certificates can enhance an existing master’s degree in a related field and help to open doors in MFT. They are also much shorter than a traditional degree program, often taking a year or less to complete.


While completing a doctorate degree in MFT is not a requirement to become a marriage and family therapist, some students choose to complete a Ph.D. or PsyD in MFT to elevate their careers even further. Doctorate degrees are particularly advantageous if the student wishes to pursue a career in research or academia. These programs can be quite intensive, taking anywhere from four to six years to complete.

What Marriage and Family Therapy Degree is Right for Me?

Bachelor’s DegreeMaster’s DegreeGraduate CertPh.D. or PsyD
I am interested in gaining entry-level experience in MFTx
I want to get started in my career before I pursue more educationx
I want to become a licensed professional counselor/therapistx
I want to pursue or switch to the MFT specialtyxx
I already have a counseling or psych degree and want to gain specialized MFT knowledgexx
I want to work in academia, administration, or clinical practicex

MFT Degree Program Curriculum

An online MFT program curriculum covers a variety of therapy-related coursework, including theory, laws, ethics, research methods, and psychopathology. Topics like couples therapy, human sexuality, and group therapy are also common. The goal is to produce therapists prepared to serve a diverse population with various family and relationship dilemmas.

The number of credit hours required to complete an MFT program varies by school, but the following averages will give you some idea of what is needed:

  • Bachelor's Degree: 120-126 credit hours
  • Master's Degree: 45-60 credit hours
  • Graduate Certificate: 16-18 credit hours
  • Ph.D. or PsyD: 48-62 credit hours

MFT Degree Program Clinical Requirements

Most states require new marriage and family therapists to complete clinical and/or supervised work hours to gain hands-on experience. For instance, North Carolina requires therapists to complete 1,500 hours of clinical experience. Students can complete up to 500 of those hours as graduate students. The rest is completed after graduation.

Each school has its placement process, which students should consider when selecting online MFT degree programs. Because you will not be on campus, your program will likely work with you to find clinical opportunities in your community.

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