In this article, we profile the top 20 online PhD in marriage and family counseling degree programs.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment rates for marriage and family therapists is excellent. Furthermore, rates are projected to grow 23 percent through 2026. This is thanks to an increasing awareness of mental health and a growing use of integrated care. Therefore, the employment rate for therapists should grow faster than many other occupations.
Reviewing the Best Online PhD in Marriage and Family Counseling Programs
We looked at approximately 60 colleges and universities listed by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) College Navigator. While these schools offered at least one online PhD in marriage and family counseling, it also includes closely related programs in counselor education, psychology, or therapy. We narrowed our school selection by applying the following criteria:
- regional or national accreditation
- online or hybrid degree completion pathways
- school rankings with major publications like U.S. News and World Report
We then listed the institutions in order of affordability.
Below is our list of the top 20 online PhD in marriage and family counseling programs.
#20 – Adler University
Online PhD in Organizational Psychology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $44,738
Adler University offers a unique approach to an online PhD in marriage and family counseling. It offers a PhD in industrial and organizational psychology that targets individuals interested in relationship-building and maximizing human potential. The program prepares students to work with organizations and individuals within the organization. Its focus is on:
- mastery of psychology
- research methods in the workplace
- ethically guided methods that shape culture and drive performance
This is one of the few programs on our list that emphasize group instead of individual dynamics. A total of 75 credits are required. It includes 12 credits that count toward the dissertation. U.S. News and World Report recognizes Adler as a top graduate school for psychology.
#19 – The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Online PhD in International Psychology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $28,927
The Chicago School’s PhD programs include several types of advanced degrees. These might appeal to an individual seeking a PhD in marriage and family therapy online. For example, they offer an online PhD in international psychology. It has a concentration in trauma services that emphasizes mental health interventions as well as a psychological assessment of mental health reactions to traumatic stress. The program is full-time and can be completed entirely online in three to four years. Applicants must enter the program with a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or marriage and family therapy. While GRE scores are considered optional, they may be used to enhance the application. U.S. News and World Report recognizes the Chicago School of Professional Psychology as a top institution for an advanced degree in psychology.
#18 – Antioch University
Keene, New Hampshire
Online PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $22,650
One of the most affordable online PhD programs in marriage and family therapy program on our list is offered by Antioch University. The program is fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education and requires both online and face-to-face residencies. The program is considered a low-residency program that takes three years with full-time enrollment. Additionally, the PhD program also offers a social justice focus for those thinking about additional training and expertise in marriage and family therapy. U.S. News and World Report recognizes Antioch’s advanced psychology programs. In fact, several have earned rankings and recognition in recent editions of Best Colleges.
#17 – California Southern University
Online PhD in Psychology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $22,185
California Southern University’s School of Behavioral Sciences offers a PsyD for those interested in an online PhD in marriage and family therapy program. The Doctor of Psychology degree is an applied, clinically focused degree designed to meet the requirements for licensure as a clinical psychologist. The degree requires 66 credits and takes approximately four years to complete. The program focuses on counseling and therapy, and many classes cover family and marital counseling in depth. Specifically, courses include:
- advanced psychology of marriage and family systems
- crisis and trauma counseling
- psychology of violence and domestic abuse reporting
The application process includes official transcripts of undergraduate and graduate coursework, a personal statement, and additional materials as required by the program.
#16 – Alliant International University
San Diego, California
Online PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $21,673
Alliant International University offers a PhD in marriage and family therapy online degree program designed to enable graduates to treat clients holistically. Admission to the program requires an undergraduate degree with a GPA of at least 3.0, official GRE test scores, and a completed essay describing your background and interest in the field. Two recommendations are also required for all applicants. Additionally, courses are offered both in-person and online. They include:
- advanced intergenerational therapy
- biological aspects of behavior
- chemical dependency and the family
- diversity of the family
- parent and child therapy techniques
U.S. News and World Report ranks Alliant among the top national institutions in the country.
#15 – Lesley University
Online PhD in Counseling and Psychology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,700
Lesley University’s online PhD programs in marriage and family therapy include the weekend-cohort counseling and psychology doctoral program. This 48-credit hour degree takes three years to complete. The program is designed for licensed mental health professionals and counselors who want to gather advanced knowledge of the field. Classes are designed to meet the needs of busy professionals. The cohort meets one week per month on campus, though the majority of coursework is completed online. To be considered a good fit for the program, applicants must have a master’s degree in counseling psychology or a related field and have acquired licensure in mental health or school counseling. U.S. News and World Report ranks Lesley #183 in the best national universities.
#14 – Northcentral University
Online PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy
San Diego, California
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,526
The COAMFTE and IACSTE-accredited online PhD in marriage and family therapy program from Northcentral University can be completed online. Eight professionally relevant specializations allow students to tailor their PhD toward areas of interest and applicable research. These specializations include:
- child and adolescent therapy
- couple therapy
- general family therapy
- therapy with military families
Additionally, degree completion requirements include advanced clinical training through a doctoral practicum and internship, comprehensive exam, dissertation, and courses. U.S. News and World Report recognizes Northcentral among the top national institutions, though unranked, in the country.
#13 – Fielding Graduate University
Santa Barbara, California
Online Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,296
For those interested in a doctorate in marriage and family therapy programs online, Fielding Graduate University offers an online Ph.D. in clinical psychology. This fully accredited and online doctoral program also has a specialization in parent-infant mental health, as well as other concentration areas. Courses are delivered online and cover general and advanced psychology topics like:
- developmental bases of behavior
- foundations of doctoral studies
- marriage and family therapy
- projective personality assessment
To apply, students must provide a statement of purpose and three recommendations. In addition, Fielding University is accredited and approved by the American Psychological Association.
#12 – University of Cincinnati
Online Doctorate in Counselor Education
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $14,468
One of the most affordable online PhD in marriage and family therapy programs on our list is the doctorate in counselor education from the University of Cincinnati. The program offers a focus on prevention, community-based school and mental health services, as well as family integrative therapy. There is only one admissions cycle per year. Students must submit letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and writing samples. GRE scores not older than five years are also required for consideration. U.S. News and World Report ranks the University of Cincinnati #147 in best national universities and #130 in best value schools. Also, several online graduate programs have received rankings and recognition, adding to the reputation of the school.
#11 – Oregon State University
Online PhD in Counseling
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $14,061
Oregon State University offers doctorate in marriage and family therapy programs online, such as the hybrid PhD program in counseling. This CACREP-accredited program combines face-to-face and online courses that are accessibly designed for working students. Course topics include:
- advanced theory and practice assessment
- counselor education
- diversity and social justice
- group and family counseling and supervision
Admission to the program requires applicants to hold a master’s degree in counseling or a related field, submit three letters of recommendation with one from a recent or current clinical supervisor, and a minimum GPA of 3.0 in undergraduate and graduate work. U.S. News and World Report ranks OSU #140 in best national universities and #116 in best value schools.
#10 – Argosy University
Online EdD in Counseling Psychology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $13,656
Argosy University’s online PhD programs in marriage and family therapy include the counseling psychology EdD degree. To apply, a master’s in a mental health field with a counseling practicum from a regionally accredited institution is required. Additionally, admission requirements include a GPA of 3.0 in work leading to a master’s degree, three recommendations, and official transcripts. Advanced counseling courses are delivered online and include advanced group counseling, group counseling theory and practice, marriage and family therapy, and professional development in counseling. Major publications like U.S. News and World Report ranks Argosy among the national universities.
#9 – Regent University
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Online PhD in Counselor Education
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $13,326
Regent University’s PhD in counselor education covers the various courses of typically seen in online PhD in marriage and family counseling programs. Degree candidates cover topics like advanced child and adolescent therapy, advanced counseling theories, family dynamics of addictions, multicultural issues in counseling, and preventive counseling. The program is designed for working professionals who have completed one of Regent’s many master’s degree programs, such as clinical mental health counseling or marriage and family counseling. While classes are delivered online, a yearly residency is required. This residency allows students to gather with their classmates. U.S. News and World Report ranks Regent #201 in best national universities.
#8 – Amridge University
Online PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $13,000
One of the top online PhD programs in marriage and family therapy is found at Amridge University. This rigorous research-oriented program is not designed to prepare individuals for professional licensure but does offer courses that apply toward the licensing credential. Courses are taught partly from traditional class settings and partly delivered online. Course requirements include applied adult development, analysis of substance abuse interventions, marriage and family therapy, and strategies to reduce marriage and family dysfunction. U.S. News and World Report ranks Amridge #107-#141 in best regional universities in the South.
#7 – Grand Canyon University
Online PhD in General Psychology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,528
Grand Canyon University’s PhD programs include disciplines related to an online PhD in marriage and family counseling program. GCU’s online PhD in general psychology offers various concentration areas such as performance psychology and cognition and instruction. Classes are delivered entirely online and cover topics related to family counseling and therapy. These classes include behaviorism, ethical issues in psychology, and principles of behavior modification. Graduate admission, including doctoral degree requirements, is based on the unweighted GPA and/or GRE or GMAT scores. U.S. News and World Report ranks GCU #230-#301 in best national universities in the country. Also, several of the school’s graduate programs have earned top rankings in recent editions of Best Colleges.
#6 – Hampton University
Online PhD in Counselor Education
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,350
Hampton University offers a counselor education PhD that is applicable to many doctorate in marriage and family therapy programs online. Rather than honing in on family issues, the program explores counseling techniques for the individual, particularly in an educational setting. For example, courses include advanced group and systems theory, analysis of behavioral data, research and program evaluation, theories and practice of counseling supervision, and theory and practice of counseling education. Admission requires an online application, satisfactory GRE scores received within the last five years, and attained licensures and credentials. Lastly, U.S. News and World Report ranks Hampton #27 in the best regional universities in the South and #3 among the best historically black colleges and universities in the country.
#5 – University of Louisiana
Online PhD in Systemic Studies
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,984
Doctorate in marriage and family therapy programs online at the University of Louisiana include a PhD program uniquely designed to focus on the origin of systemic family therapy. The PhD in systemic studies is open to clinicians, counselors, clergy, scholars, and professionals working in the field of therapy and psychology. To clarify, the program comprises 60 semester hours (two years of full-time coursework) plus a dissertation. Typical courses include:
- advanced family studies and human development
- couple and marital therapy
- family systems
- issues and problems in systemic and MFT research
The admission process includes the submission of official GRE scores, transcripts, and scholarly writing samples. In addition, the U.S. News and World Report ranks the University of Louisiana #230-#301 among the best national universities.
#4 – Liberty University
Online EdD in Community Care Counseling – Marriage and Family Counseling
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,723
One of the most affordable online PhD programs in marriage and family counseling comes from Liberty University. While not a PhD, the EdD focuses less on research and more on application. Successful degree candidates earn an EdD in community care and counseling specializing in marriage and family counseling. This 57-credit hour program takes approximately three years to complete and offers courses 100% online with optional intensives. Admission to the program requires a regionally or nationally accredited master’s degree with a 3.0 GPA. Additionally, sealed college transcripts, a statement of purpose, and a complete application are also required. Liberty is one of the few institutions on our list that do not require the GRE for admission to the doctoral program. U.S. News and World Report ranks Liberty among the top 300 national universities in the country.
#3 – Adams State University
Online PhD in Counselor Education
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,311
Adams State University offers a counselor education doctoral program designed for individuals with an interest in an online PhD in marriage and family counseling. The program is offered mostly online but requires four one-week summer residencies. Online courses include advanced assessment, advanced group counseling, advanced multicultural issues, qualitative research methodology, and supervision and consultation. The program is designed to prepare graduates for leadership positions in the counseling profession. U.S. News and World Report ranks Adams State #96-#127 in best regional universities in the West. Also, the counselor education doctoral program received CACREP accreditation in July 2017, strengthening the program’s reputation.
#2 – University of West Georgia
Online EdD in Professional Counseling
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,048
One of the most affordable PhD in marriage and family counseling online programs on our list is the Doctor of Education (EdD) in Counseling and Supervision at University of West Georgia. The program is designed for working professionals who desire to impact clients and communities of service through effective counseling techniques and advocacy. Required qualifications for application include licensing in counseling or a related field, official GRE scores not older than five years, a master’s in counseling or related field, and a minimum of three years of counseling experience. U.S. News and World Report ranks University of West Georgia #230-#301 in best national universities.
#1 – University of the Cumberlands
Online PhD in Counseling Education
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $5,970
The #1 most affordable of the doctorate in marriage and family therapy programs online on our list is offered by the University of the Cumberlands. While not an online PhD in marriage and family counseling, the EdD in counseling education is offered online with advanced counseling and family therapy specialty areas. Some of the online courses include family therapy in addiction treatment, human sexuality, mindfulness-based CBT counseling, motivation and change, and spirituality and values in counseling. To be admitted to the program, applicants must hold a master’s degree from an accredited college and have a minimum GPA of 3.5 for all graduate work. Satisfactory GRE scores and one letter of recommendation are also required. U.S. News and World Report ranks University of the Cumberlands among the top 300 best national universities in the country.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do with an online PhD in marriage and family counseling?
If you are thinking of applying to an online PhD in marriage and family counseling program, knowing the duties of the job helps. Accordingly, keep in mind that marriage and family therapists help people–individuals, couples, and families–manage problems in their relationships.
Marriage and family counselors use various therapy techniques and tools designed to help their clients. Therefore, depending on the therapist’s specialty, cognitive behavioral therapy, behavior modification, and goal-oriented approaches to care may be applied.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook, marriage and family therapists held approximately 41,500 jobs within the last two years. Twenty-eight percent of all therapists worked within individual and family services while fifteen percent worked in outpatient care centers.
Most therapists work full-time, though part-time schedules are also common. In some cases, therapists structure their work schedules to include evenings and weekends to accommodate the needs of their clients.
Some therapists work in private practice. In order to get clients, therapists must market their practice and skill to prospective clients. Private practice therapists also work directly with insurance companies and their clients to ensure payment for their services.
In some cases, marriage and family counselors team up with other treatment professionals, like psychologists or social workers, to coordinate patient care.
What are the admission requirements for most online PhD in marriage and family counseling programs?
Graduate schools providing doctoral-level education assess the academic and/or professional experience and promise of qualifying applicants. While program eligibility may vary with schools, some requirements remain the same.
Most online PhD in marriage and family therapy programs require applicants to send official transcripts in sealed envelopes from all accredited colleges and universities attended. To be eligible for admission, a bachelor’s degree, and in some cases a master’s degree, are required. While some schools request applicants hold bachelor’s degrees in psychology or a closely related field. If the applicant’s bachelor’s or master’s degree is pending, programs often request a letter from the registrar listing the anticipated date of graduation.
GRE test scores are not always required for online PhD in marriage and family counseling programs, though top tier research institutions require test scores received within the last five years. Some programs may waive the GRE requirement if an undergraduate GPA stipulation is met. To clarify, it means that applicants with a 3.0 or better undergraduate GPA may be waived from taking the GRE. If you do not want to take the GRE, it is important to evaluate programs that do not require test scores for admission.
Other admission requirements vary, but letters of recommendation, valid work experience, and writing samples are likely needed.
What is the career outlook for individuals with an online PhD in marriage and family counseling degree?
The career outlook for those with a PhD in marriage and family therapy online degree, or marriage and family therapists in general, is projected to increase over the next seven years. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a projected 23 percent growth in employment of marriage and family therapists through 2026.
The projected growth is anticipated due to the increasing awareness of mental health and use of integrated care. This means more people will seek mental health care in upcoming years. As a result, job prospects will also increase.
As integrated care–treatment of multiple issues at one time by a group of specialists–increases and the population seeks counseling and therapy resources, there will be a growing need for specialists. Individuals with a PhD in marriage and family counseling should see available jobs and increasing demand for private practice.
As has been noted, the overall career outlook for marriage and family counselors is favorable, and growth is expected in other areas of counseling as well. BLS reports an employment growth rate of 16 percent for all counselors, social workers, and community and social service specialists over the next decade. As individuals retire and vacate to private practice, jobs will need to be filled.
What is my earnings potential with an online PhD in marriage and family counseling?
Generally, the average salary of a marriage and family therapist is $52,061, as listed by PayScale’s most recent information. PayScale is a global compensation research center that compares salaries and benefits from employers across the country.
Accordingly, pay levels increase with experience. In fact, PayScale offers a positive trend. The more experience a marriage and family counselor has, the more money he or she will likely earn. Entry-level marriage and family therapists with zero to five years of experience earn an average total compensation of $50,000 per year. This number includes bonuses, tips, and overtime pay. A mid-career therapist with five to ten years of experience can expect to earn $55,000 per year in total compensation, while experienced marriage and family counselors are those with ten to twenty years of experience. Based on research, PayScale reports experienced therapists will make $64,000 in total compensation. A therapist with late-career experience, or over twenty years of experience, will earn, on average total compensation of $73,000.
While some of the best-paid marriage and family counselors offer experience and education, the more education and experience you have, the more likely a higher salary. Earning an advanced degree is often the first step toward a favorable career.
How long does it take to earn an online PhD in marriage and family counseling?
According to a recent article published by CBS News, the average student takes 8.2 years to push through a PhD program. However, the long slog toward an advanced degree may be cut shorter by enrolling in an online doctoral program.
Individuals seeking online PhD in marriage and family therapy degrees are in luck, as accredited online and hybrid programs are becoming available. The average completion time for a PhD in marriage and family counseling online degree is four years.
If you’re seeking an accelerated program, they do exist. In fact, some of the programs on our list offer a compressed completion time through rigorous courses and a lighter research component. Very few cases do not require a thesis as part of the graduation requirements. In these non-thesis programs, application through internship experiences is often required.
Full-time versus part-time completion options also impact the length of the degree program. As expected, full-time enrollment shortens the time required to earn an online PhD in marriage and family therapy. Part-time enrollment lengthens the completion time of the PhD. The average completion time for a full-time enrolled student in an online PhD in marriage and family counseling is three years, while the average time to complete a part-time program is four years.
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