Marriage and family therapy (MFT) licensure requires the advanced professional development and hands-on clinical education gained in master's degree programs; therefore, undergraduate programs in MFT are not available. Undergraduate degree programs precluding a master's degree in marriage and family therapy include psychology, sociology or health and wellness promotion which are available online. Most of these programs are hybrid. Students will also need to complete clinical work.
Distance learning master's degree programs in marriage and family therapy develop professional skills and practical techniques in order for graduates to become licensed practitioners for families, couples and children. Graduate programs focus on family well-being, personal development and the integration of mind, body and spirit. Online learners also explore the unique social context and cultural identities of individuals and family systems.
Information and Requirements
Online master's programs in this field, which take about two to three years to complete, are available through public and private institutions. Those interested in applying to a marriage and family graduate program must have first earned a bachelor's degree. Some schools request students to provide additional information, including relevant volunteer or work experience as well as documentation of social science undergrad coursework.
Like those available on campus, marriage and family therapy courses explore group and individual counseling theories, human development, mental health theories and interventions, clinical practice and ethics. Distance learners also take courses in the following:
- Human sexuality
- Domestic violence
- Psychology and theology integration
- Research methodology
- Family structure
- Family and marriage systems
- Career development
- Assessment tools
Completion of the master's degree program in marriage and family therapy is dependent upon a capstone or integrative project.
Online courses are delivered utilizing online course management systems, which house assignments, class materials and written or video lectures. Students interact with instructors and classmates using tools like discussion boards or video conferencing technology.
In order to meet practice requirements for therapists, distance learning students are required to complete some on-site experiences. These may include campus-based residencies, which are integrated into the curriculum. Even students who are not required to go to campus must still complete supervised clinical experiences in an approved setting in their area. Students may have to videotape or record their clinical work for review by instructors.
Marriage and family therapy master's degree-holders can apply to become a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), licensing requirements for MFTs vary by state but typically require specified supervised clinical hours and the passage of an exam. Licensed practitioners must also complete continuing education credits.
Licensed graduates pursue careers in a wide range of settings, including hospitals, private practice, prisons, corporations, universities, nursing homes and non-profit organizations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected much faster-than-average growth of 15% for marriage and family therapists between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also reported annual mean wages of $53,520 for marriage and family therapists as of May 2015.
Students interested in marriage and family degree programs first need to complete an undergraduate degree program in psychology, sociology or health and wellness promotion which can be completed online. Online master's programs are available in marriage and family for those wanting to continue their education.