Online Master’s in Family Counseling

An online master's degree in family counseling can lead to exciting career opportunities. Here, we outline the top programs of 2021.

January 5, 2022

Reviewed by ACO Rankings Team
Online Master’s in Family Counseling is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Family counselors help couples, individuals, and families by addressing their clients' relationships and mental health. These professionals address challenges with marriage, substance abuse, stress, and addiction.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the highest 10% of earners in the field earn a median salary of $92,930 annually. Counselors work in various settings, including outpatient care centers, individual services, and state government organizations.

The BLS projects the employment of family and marriage counselors to grow 22% between 2019-2029. This is higher than the 14% projected growth for general counselors and social workers.

This guide outlines important information for students considering a master's in family counseling. It covers degree costs, potential careers, salary information, and certifications for aspiring family counselors.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Family Counseling

true Q. What can I do with a master's degree in family counseling?

Students who earn a master's in family counseling can pursue careers in counseling and social work. They may work in either the private or public sector.

true Q. What is the difference between a counselor and a therapist?

Counselors and therapists have similar jobs. Therapists focus more on how relationships and social contexts affect mental health. Counselors work through specific individual issues.

true Q. How long does it take to become a family counselor?

To become a family counselor or therapist, students must earn a master's degree and obtain licensure. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Why Get a Degree in Family Counseling?

Earning a family counseling master's degree can open students to various career paths. In addition to family and marriage counseling, students can also pursue credentials to perform general therapy or counseling. Many marriage and family counselors work in private practices and earn median salaries between $33,140-$92,930 per year.

The BLS also projects employment opportunities for these workers to grow by 22% from 2019-2029, which translates to 14,800 new jobs.

Students can earn a master's degree in family counseling at public or private institutions, offering flexibility in price. A master's degree at a public institution cost an average of $12,171 for the 2018-19 school year. Private nonprofit institutions cost $27,776, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

How Much Does a Family Counseling Degree Cost?

The price of a master's in family counseling degree varies. Typically, enrolling in a public institution saves students money on tuition. Learners can also pursue financial aid through the FAFSA, scholarships, or fellowships. Some schools offer stipends for students who teach or provide another service. Private institutions may also offer scholarships and fellowships, such as the National Board of Certified Counselors' Minority Fellowship Program.

Often, an online family counseling degree costs less than an on-campus program. For example, an online program at Liberty University costs $565 per credit hour as of May 2021, while a similar in-person program at Pepperdine University costs $1,700 per credit hour. However, some schools offer similar prices for their online and in-person classes.

Online classes can also cost less for students who live in a low cost of living area but choose to attend a school in a location with a high cost of living. Distance learners can also save money on commuting costs.

Additional Online Student Fees for Family Counseling

While online classes might feature a lower price tag, students should still consider other costs. Costs include up-to-date technology, Wi-Fi, and any required special equipment. Additionally, family counseling degrees often require students to complete a clinical experience like shadowing or interning, which students might need to complete in person. Some programs allow online students to complete their clinical experiences locally.

Degree-seekers should also consider licensing costs. Each state requires counselors to obtain licensure and complete clinical experiences. The Association of Marital & Family Therapy Regulatory Boards offers exams in every U.S. state. Costs vary by state but usually start at $100.

How Much Do Family Counseling Majors Make?

Family counseling majors can pursue various career paths with different salaries. For example, a family advocate makes an average of $15.35 per hour, according to May 2021 PayScale data. This often only requires a bachelor's degree. But with a master's degree, marriage and family therapists earn a median annual salary of $51,340.

After earning a master's degree, students can pursue a doctorate in family counseling, leading to a higher earning position as a clinical psychologist. BLS data shows that these professionals earn a median salary of $82,180 per year. About 31% of psychologists are self-employed, allowing for flexibility in salary and work-life balance.

Family and marriage counselors can also pursue additional certifications in areas like substance abuse to qualify for more job opportunities. Substance abuse counselors earn a median annual salary of $47,660.

Courses in Family Counseling

Students typically complete master's in family counseling degrees in 2-2.5 years. Learners develop soft skills like compassion, listening, speaking, and organization. Enrollees also learn analytical skills, such as diagnosing clients, implementing substance abuse prevention tools, and addressing trauma. Courses introduce various therapy practices, like human sexuality, female therapy, and divorce mediation. Students typically complete a master's thesis or project, which allows them to use the analytical skills they develop.

Below, we highlight a few courses students might take in a family counseling master's degree. However, not every program offers the following classes.

How to Become a Family Counselor

Students interested in becoming a family or marriage counselor must earn a master's degree in marriage and family therapy, psychology, or another related mental health field. Any bachelor's degree is acceptable for admission to many of these programs.

Students must gain hands-on experience through post-degree supervised clinical work, where they learn to provide therapy and counseling to clients. These experiences are sometimes called internships or residencies.

Finally, students must earn licensure in their state of residence. The Association of Marital & Family Therapy Regulatory Boards offers licensure exams. Some states also require a more extensive application.

Certifications and Licensure for Family Counseling

Students interested in family and marriage counseling can pursue various certifications and licenses. The following certifications allow counselors and therapists to practice in settings with different kinds of clients. The list below highlights a few options students can pursue.

Recipients of a state counseling license can practice general therapy and counseling in their state. Applicants pursue different titles such as licensed clinical professional counselor and licensed mental health counselor. Licensure requirements vary by state. For example, in Massachusetts, an applicant must hold a master's degree in counseling and two years of post-master's clinical training. The MFT certification provides applicants with the licensure necessary to work as a family and marriage therapist. All states require a master's degree and supervised clinical experience. Specific requirements vary by state, but most require applicants to take a licensing exam. Students who earn this credential have proven their knowledge and skills in treating adolescent substance use disorders. Counselors who hold this voluntary accreditation can position themselves for career advancement or salary increases. Applicants need at least 270 hours of experience working directly in substance use disorders.

Online Master's in Family Counseling 2021

  1. Touro University Worldwide

    Los Alamitos, CA

    People seeking an online master's in family counseling can explore TUW's graduate program in marriage and family therapy (MFT). Students can earn the master of arts degree online. Classes follow eight-week delivery schedules. Students can transfer up to 12 credits from another accredited program or institution.

    The MFT program features three tracks. The clinical track comprises 72 credits and requires 500 practicum client contact hours. The nonclinical track includes 54 credits with no practicum or client contact requirement. The licensed professional clinical counseling (LPCC) track includes 82 credits and 500 practicum client contact hours. All applicants must complete a capstone course.

    The MFT clinical and LPCC tracks meet the educational requirements for marriage and family therapist licensure. These tracks also meet requirements for professional clinical counselor licensure in California.

    Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores. The clinical and LPCC tracks are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education.

  2. Abilene Christian University

    Abilene, TX

    ACU offers an online master of marriage and family therapy comprising 60 credits. Most students earn the degree after 33 months of continuous enrollment.

    Students can pursue a general track or specialization. The specialization areas include child and adolescent therapy, treatment of trauma, and therapy with military families. Medical family therapy is another specialization. The program prepares graduates to take the marriage and family therapy national exam.

    The core curriculum includes classes in family theory, couples therapy, and systematic diagnosis and assessment. All students must complete an internship with at least 500 contact hours. Degree candidates must earn a cumulative 3.0 GPA in the first 12 credits of coursework to continue in the program.

    The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education accredits ACU's marriage and family therapy program.

  3. Palo Alto University

    Palo Alto, CA

    PAU's master of arts in counseling focusing on marriage, family, and child counseling targets people seeking a family counseling degree. The online program comprises 93 quarter credits. PAU accepts up to 15 transfer credits from another accredited college or university. Students must finish transfer courses within five years of transferring.

    Coursework covers lifespan development, counseling theory, and group counseling. Besides coursework, students complete a 700-hour internship over 9-12 months. Students must accumulate at least 280 hours of direct client experience during their internship.

    Although mostly delivered online, the program requires enrollees to attend two training sessions on campus. The marriage, family, and child counseling focus meets the educational requirements for MFT licensure in California.

    PAU's master's in family counseling is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

  4. University of West Alabama

    Livingston, AL

    The online master's in family counseling at UWA comprises 33 credits. Students enroll in 12 credits of core coursework and applied concentration electives. Learners also complete nine credits of base concentration classes. The program does not require on-campus visits.

    The core curriculum covers topics like educational statistics, marriage and family therapy, and educational research techniques. Students can transfer up to nine graduate-level courses from another accredited institution. Courses follow eight-week delivery schedules. Most enrollees graduate within 1-2 years. Degree candidates must complete an internship before graduation.

    The program does not meet the educational requirements for licensure as an independent marriage and family therapist or licensed professional counselor. Instead, the program caters to paraprofessionals or people exempt from licensure requirements (such as clergy). These professionals can enhance their knowledge of relevant family counseling issues.

  5. Amridge University

    Montgomery, AL

    The online master of arts in marriage and family therapy at Amridge comprises 60 credits. Most students earn the degree after seven semesters of continuous enrollment. The program accepts part-time and full-time enrollees.

    The curriculum covers many subjects on the practice of marriage and family counseling. Students enroll in classes in social and multicultural diversity, human development, and marital and family systems. Degree candidates need to complete practicum and clinical experiences before graduation.

    The program meets the educational requirement for licensure as a marriage and family therapist in Alabama. The program also meets the requirement in 38 other states and the District of Columbia. Amridge allows enrollees to pursue a concurrent degree in professional counseling. Students who complete the dual-degree program also qualify to take the licensure exam for a licensed professional counselor.

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