Top Marriage & Family Therapy (MFT) Graduate Programs
What Is a MFT Degree?
Graduate MFT degree programs explore the dynamics of families and relationships. You'll learn how relationships affect mental health and what you can do to help.
Graduate MFT programs usually include coursework, 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 Can You Do with a Graduate Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy?
Most graduate marriage and family therapy programs prepare students for Marriage and Family Therapist career paths. MFTs can work in diverse settings. They may have careers at:
- Substance abuse treatment centers
- Outpatient care centers
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
- Private practices
MFT roles are projected to grow 23% by 2016, a rate much faster than average. Demand for therapists can be attributed to the growth of integrated care. That’s when a group of specialists collaborate to address diverse patient needs. So, MFTs could work alongside other kinds of mental health professionals.
You may also pursue various counseling career paths, like Substance Abuse Counselor. Counselors are particularly needed to work with underserved populations, like military veterans. Education requirements may vary widely in the counseling field. So, it’s important to make sure you meet licensure criteria in your state.
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 and Family Therapists need to earn a Master’s in MFT. Or, you could earn a graduate degree in psychology or another field related to mental health.
What Jobs Can You Get with a MFT Degree?
Earning an MFT degree could help you pursue a Marriage and Family Therapist career path. These professionals help patients cope with challenges like relationship problems or life changes. MFTs use a family-centered approach to treat mental health concerns. That said, they treat individuals as well as couples and families.
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 and Family Therapists
Annual Mean Wage
|Metro Area||Annual Mean Salary||Employment|
|Napa, CA||$77,820||Not Reported|
Marriage and Family Therapies may work in several different industries – from religion to healthcare. The industries that employ the most MFTs include:
- Individual and Family Services
- Offices of Health Practitioners
- Outpatient Care Centers
- State Government
- Residential Mental Health Facilities
Popular MFT Degrees
Marriage and Family Therapy degrees are reported by the National Center for Education Statistics under the category of health professions and related programs.
In fact, in the most recent update of the data (2013), across the U.S, there were 2,920 MFT degrees awarded to graduate students. The majority (97%) were Master’s degrees.
MFT vs Masters in Clinical Psychology
A Master’s in MFT focuses on theories and strategies for Marriage and Family Therapists. This program could help you pursue licensure and an MFT career path. You’ll study the practice of marriage and family therapy – like counseling, assessment, and treatment planning.
A Master’s in Clinical Psychology may have a different focus. The program covers foundations in the field of psychology but may not include the clinical hours needed for counseling career paths. That said, there are exceptions. Some Master’s in Clinical Psychology programs offer an MFT concentration and may help students prepare for licensure.
What about earning a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling? These programs cover counseling in a more general sense, not necessarily using an MFT lens. But, many offer concentrations in Marriage and Family Therapy. And, these programs may be structured to help students meet state licensure requirements.
Whichever program you choose, pay attention to license requirements for your state and career path. Make sure your program is designed for your goals – whether that’s jump starting an MFT career or pursuing further education.
Marriage and Family Therapy Guide
M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy
M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
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.
This program is accredited by COAMFTE and CACREP
No specific program accreditation
What is the Curriculum for a MFT Degree?
MFT degree programs explore the theory behind how families and relationships work. They also cover how to help patients resolve family challenges and mental health concerns. You could study topics like psychotherapy, sex therapy, and counseling people from diverse backgrounds.
Master’s in MFT programs are a common path for aspiring Marriage and Family Therapists. Coursework in a Master’s program often covers functions, standards, and ethics for this profession. You’ll study stressors that affect families, like marital dysfunction and parenting concerns. And, you’ll explore techniques for addressing these issues in therapy.
Courses you could take in marriage and 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 licensure. The Association of Marriage and 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
- Substance abuse and dependence
- And more
To take the exam, you must first apply to your state board. The board will determine your eligibility and send you an approval code. At that point, you can complete an online application, pay your testing fees, and 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 graduate MFT 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 licensure examination.
What Should I Know About COAMFTE Accredited Programs?
Graduating from a COAMFTE-accredited program could be required or recommended for earning MFT licensure. Certain employers, like the Veterans Administration, may prefer or require your program to be accredited.
COAMFTE stands for the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. They accredit the following marriage and family therapy graduate programs:
- MFT Master's Degree Programs
- MFT Doctoral Degree Programs
- Post-Graduate Degree Clinical Training Programs
Choosing a COAMFTE-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 and 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 COAMFTE-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 and 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 MFT degree, you’ll need to spend time on other requirements for licensure in your state. That includes post-degree supervised clinical experience.
# 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 both more affordable and more expensive than the average.
Below, we’ve put together graduate tuition costs for 4 institutions with Marriage and Family Therapy Graduate Programs as reported by the NCES. We then compared those costs to the typically most affordable and most expensive college options, also reported by NCES.
Instate/Out Of State Tuition
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.
# of Credits Required
Cost Per Credit
Total Tuition Cost
90 quarter units
Best 46 MFT Degree Programs Here:
- Offering two quality, competency-based online learning formats: FlexPath & GuidedPath
- With FlexPath, you can earn your master’s degree in 12 months and under $11,000*
- 97% of alumni agree FlexPath provided the flexibility they needed to pursue their degree (Alumni Outcomes Survey 2017)
*Assumes accelerated pace. Price varies by your pace and transfer credits. Other fees may apply.
Northcentral UniversityDoctor of Philosophy in Marriage & Family Therapy - Education and Supervision Doctorate of Marriage & Family Therapy - General Family Therapy Doctorate of Marriage & Family Therapy - Mental Health Administration Doctorate of Marriage & Family Therapy - Couple Therapy Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage & Family Therapy - Child and Adolescent Therapy Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage & Family Therapy - Culture, Diversity & Social Justice in a Global Context Doctorate of Marriage & Family Therapy - Child and Adolescent Therapy Doctorate of Marriage & Family Therapy - Therapy with Military Families Doctorate of Marriage & Family Therapy - Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage & Family Therapy - Systemic Leadership
William James CollegeCouples and Family Therapy Emphasis, Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA
Walden UniversityMS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Military Families & Culture MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Marriage, Couple & Family Counseling MS in Human & Social Services - Family Studies & Intervention
Saint Mary's University of MinnesotaM.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy
Grand Canyon UniversityM.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with an Emphasis in Family Dynamics M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy
Capella UniversityMS - Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy (CACREP-, COAMFTE-accredited)
Seton Hall UniversityMarriage and Family Counseling
University of Saint JosephMarriage and Family Therapy, M.A.
University of New HampshireMarriage and Family Therapy
University of LouisvilleFamily Therapy Program
University of Nebraska - LincolnMarriage and Family Therapy Program
Duquesne UniversityMarriage and Family Counseling
Montclair State UniversityFamily Studies
University of Nevada, RenoMarriage and Family Counseling