Graduate MFT degree programs explore families and relationships. You’ll learn how relationships affect well-being. And you’ll discover what you can do to help. Graduate MFT programs include core coursework. Plus, practicum experiences and an internship. They help students prepare for Marriage and Family Therapist career paths. And, they may prepare students to pursue state licensure. written by Shannon Fandler
What Could You Do with a Graduate MFT Degree?
Marriage and family therapy programs could prep you to be Marriage and Family Therapist. These pros can work in diverse settings. For instance, they may have career paths at:
Substance abuse treatment centers
Outpatient care centers
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
Others’ private practices
Their own private practice
MFT roles are projected to grow 22% by 2029, a rate much faster than average. (That’s per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.) Demand for therapists may be due to the growth of integrated care. That’s when a group of specialists work together. This lets them address diverse patient needs. So, MFTs could work alongside other kinds of mental health professionals.
You could also pursue various counseling career paths. Like, Substance Abuse Counselor. Counselors are most needed to work with under served populations. Like military veterans. Education requirements may vary widely in the counseling field. So, make sure you meet licensure criteria in your state.
We asked: How did earning an M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy kick start your career? Earning a marriage and family therapist degree taught me to think systemically. No longer do I view things in isolation. I view them as interconnected to three levels of a person’s existence. Intrapersonal, interpersonal and social cultural.
What Kind of Degree Do You Need To Be a Marriage and Family Therapist?
Marriage & Family Therapists need to earn a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy. Or, you could earn a grad degree in psychology or a related field. Some students earn a dual degree in social work and marriage & family therapy. Note that an MSW or Master of Social Work could let you pursue a clinical social worker role. That could involve family counseling. But this degree is not the same as a Master’s in MFT.
What Jobs Can You Get with a MFT Degree?
Earning your degree could help you pursue a career path as a marriage & family therapist. These pros help patients cope with relationship problems. Like issues with family members. That said, they treat individuals as well as couples and families. Along with that, you could pursue other human services career paths. Check out salary and employment for MFT roles, along with related career paths.
Marriage and Family Therapist
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors
Counselors, All Other
Top States for Employment: Marriage & Family Therapists
Annual Mean Wage
Top Salary Metro Areas in the United States: Marriage and Family Therapists
Marriage & Family Therapies may work in several different industries – from religion to health care. The industries that employ the most MFTs include:
Individual and Family Services
Offices of Health Practitioners
Outpatient Care Centers
Residential Mental Healthcare Facilities
Popular MFT Degrees
Marriage and Family Therapy degrees are reported by NCES. Look under the category of health professions and related programs. Let’s look at the most recent update of the data (2013). Across the U.S., 2,920 MFT degrees were awarded to grad students. The majority (97%) were Master’s degrees.
A Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy focuses on therapy strategies. These are used to help couples and families thrive. So this program could help you pursue an MFT career path. You’ll study areas like counseling, assessment, and treatment planning. A Master’s in Clinical Psychology has a different focus. The program covers foundations in the field of psychology. But it may not include the clinical hours needed for counseling career paths. That said, there are exceptions. Some Master’s in Clinical Psychology programs offer a marriage and family track. This may help students prepare to become licensed therapists. What about earning a Master’s in Clinical Mental Counseling? These programs cover counseling in a more general sense. But, many offer concentrations in Marriage & Family Therapy. And, these programs may be structured to help students meet state licensure requirements. Whichever program you choose, note the requirements for your state and career path. Make sure your program is designed for your goals. Whether that’s launching an MFT career or pursuing more education.
Marriage and Family Therapy Guide
M.S. in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy
M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy
Length of Program: 92 quarter credits
Length of Program: 74 credits
This program is designed for those pursuing licensed MFT career paths. It covers counseling knowledge areas for working with families and couples. The program also features practicum experiences, residencies, and internships.
This program offers foundations in professional counseling. It also covers the theory and practice of counseling families and couples. The program is designed for students who wish to pursue state licensure.
Marriage and Family Systems Couple and Marital Therapy Life Planning and Career Development Theories of Psychotherapy Systemic Approaches to Gender and Sexuality
Theories and Models of Counseling Counseling Skills Group Counseling Advanced Family Systems Theory Human Sexuality and Issues of Aging
This program is accredited by COAMFTE and CACREP
No specific program accreditation
What is the Curriculum for a MFT Program?
These programs explore the theory behind how families and relationships work. They also cover how to help patients resolve family challenges. You could study topics like psychotherapy and sex therapy. Plus, counseling people from diverse backgrounds. Master’s in MFT programs are a common path for aspiring Marriage & Family Therapists. Coursework in a Master’s program covers standards and ethics for this profession. It also covers behavioral sciences. And you’ll study stressors that affect families. Like marital dysfunction. Or parenting concerns. And the main thing: you’ll explore ways to address these issues in therapy. Courses you could take in marriage & family therapy Master’s programs include:
The Counseling Process. This course covers counseling techniques and strategies. You’ll learn how to communicate with patients to get to the heart of their lives and relationships.
Family Assessment. This course covers how to evaluate family dynamics and dysfunction. You’ll study characteristics of families, plus diagnostic criteria for mental health disorders that impact relationships.
Couples Therapy and Treatment Planning. This course delves into the specifics of working with partners. You’ll learn models and techniques for counseling couples. And, you’ll learn how to put together an effective treatment plan.
Counseling Children and Adolescents. Counseling children and teens calls for special approaches and considerations. This course covers the theory and practice of working with younger patients.
Human Sexuality Counseling. This course considers aspects of human sexual identity and behavior. You’ll learn how personal attitudes and cultural values can impact sexuality. And, you’ll study sexual disorders.
What Do I Need to Know About the MFT Licensing (LMFT) Exam?
In all states, MFTs must pass a state-recognized exam to earn a license. The Association of Marriage & Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB) creates this exam. It covers domains, tasks, and knowledge areas important for MFTs, including:
Managing crisis situations
Designing and conducting treatment
Ethical, legal, and professional standards
Models of marital, couple, and family therapy
Theories of personality
To take the exam, you must first apply to your state board. The board will determine your eligibility. Then it will send you an approval code. At that point, you can complete an online application. Then, pay your testing fees. And of course, schedule your exam. If you don’t pass the first time, you can try again. That said, you can’t take the exam more than three times in a 12 month period.
How Long Does It Take to Get an MFT License ?
The time it takes to get an MFT license varies by state. For example, in California you need two years of supervised clinical experience. Within those two years, you must complete at least 3,000 hours. And, 1,700 of those hours must be completed after you’ve earned your grad degree. Other states have different requirements. But generally you’ll need to complete 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Some or all of the experience must be post degree. And, don’t forget to factor in the time it takes to study for and pass your license examination.
What Should I Know About COAMFTE Accredited Programs?
Graduating from a COAMFTE accredited program could be required or recommended for earning your therapist license. Certain employers, like the Veterans Administration, may need your program to be accredited. The abbreviation stands for the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. They accredit the following marriage & family therapy graduate programs:
Master’s Degree Programs
Doctoral Degree Programs
Post-Graduate Degree Clinical Training Programs
Choosing an accredited program could help you be confident in the quality of your education. Accredited programs offer potential benefits to students, including:
They uphold the standards of the Marriage & Family Therapist profession
Faculty members actively contribute to the field
The curriculum is designed to prepare you for licensure and national/state examinations
Coursework and requirements may be transferred to other accredited programs
If you move, you may more easily meet qualifications for licensure in other states
How Long Does It Take to Be a Marriage & Family Therapist?
MFT Master’s programs usually call for 60 to 66 credits. The degree may take two to three years for full time students to earn. Besides earning a graduate degree, you’ll need to spend time on other requirements for licensure in your state. That includes post degree supervised clinical experience. Looking for more flexibility? Consider online programs. Earning an online degree could help you fit your studies into your schedule.
# of Credits Required
Starts Per Year
Minimum Months to Complete
California State University-Northridge
3 (Fall, Spring, Summer)
100-106 quarter credits
How Much Does it Cost to Get a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy?
The average cost of earning a graduate degree from a public institution is $11,617 per year. You may find programs that are more affordable than the average. And more costly, too. Below, we’ve put together graduate tuition costs for 4 institutions. (All have Marriage & Family Therapy Grad Programs.) These are reported by the NCES. We then compared those costs to the typically most affordable college options. And the most costly. (These are also reported by NCES.)
Instate/Out Of State Tuition
$9,000 Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota $11,617 Average Public Institution University $14,516 Capella University $14,784 Average Private For Profit Institution Tuition $16,864 Northcentral University $21,213 The Chicago School of Professional Psychology $26,551 Average Private Nonprofit Institution Tuition sponsored
Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy Costs per Credit
Cost per credit varies for each college or university. State universities may also have in-state costs vs. out-of-state costs. Below are a few examples of the cost per credit as reported by schools offering marriage and family therapy Master’s programs.