Online Marriage & Family Counseling (Therapy) Certificate

Being a marriage and family counselor is a rewarding career path. Marriage and family therapists help clients improve their relationships with their significant others and with their families and children. They can help clients through relationship stresses such as infidelity or major transitions such as divorce, death, and retirement. 

Those considering careers as mental health providers are making a wise choice, both in terms of a stable career and also for being able to help those in need. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021) predicts that careers in marriage and family counseling will grow 16 percent over the years from 2020 to 2030. This rate of growth is considered to be “much faster” than the 8 percent average growth of all occupations in the American workforce.

Within the counseling field are variations available in the type of therapy offered. Some primarily counsel clients in a one-on-one setting. Others may prefer to work in group settings, or with couples only. Others may offer their relationship support within specific institutions, such as higher education counseling centers, the military, or people who work in specific fields such as healthcare. This type of counseling can also be offered as a short-term, crisis option, or long-term, ongoing support. 

As the importance of accessible online learning increases, there is an accompanying increase in online marriage and family counseling certificate programs. No matter where you are in the country, you can access an online program to study to become a counselor. Some states have different requirements for licensure for counseling, but online programs recognize this and will work with their online students to help them find resources in their area that meet their state’s requirements. 

A certificate program in marriage and family therapy is designed to help professionals who already hold a master’s degree develop their skills and knowledge specifically related to marriage and family counseling beyond what they learned in their graduate program. Use it for career enhancement, skill development, and on-the-job experience without the time and effort of a doctorate. 

Many who have earned a master’s degree in a clinical field find that they could advance their career if they had additional expertise in specific areas. Or, they may be seeking continuing education in order to meet state-specific educational requirements for licensure as a counselor in general, or a marriage and family counselor specifically. 

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Featured MFT Programs
Lamar University M.Ed. - Counseling & Development - Marriage, Couple & Family CounselingVisit Site
Maryville University BA - Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS)Visit Site
Arizona State University Counseling and Applied Psychological Science (BS)Visit Site
Arizona State University Family & Human Development (BS)Visit Site
Pepperdine University Online MA - Clinical Psychology (LMFT or LPC prep)Visit Site
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Typical Admissions Requirements for Online MFT Certificate Programs

Schools in different states are not always in agreement about admissions requirements for online marriage and family counseling certificate programs. Online programs can vary as well, with some completely online, some a hybrid of in-person and online courses, and some online courses that may require an in-person visit or residency at some point in the program. 

Prerequisites vary, so be sure to check with the college of choice to become familiar with their admissions requirements. Generally, a prospective student applying to an online marriage and family therapy program can expect certain standard requirements. 

  • Since this is a post-master’s certificate, the student should have already acquired a master’s degree from an accredited institution in a clinical field such as counseling, nursing, psychology, or social work.
  • Prior to that, the student should have earned a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from an accredited college or university.
  • Each school’s graduate certificate will specify other general requirements for admission, including minimum grade point average, standardized test scores, and other similar criteria as part of the application. 
  • The student will need to fill out an official application and typically pay an application fee.
  • Just as with the requirements for getting into the master’s degree program, most schools will require a personal statement of interest in the program, typically in the form of an essay.
  • Official transcripts demonstrating any previously completed coursework and GPA.
  • At least one letter of recommendation from someone in the field is usually required.
  • Some programs may want a resume or CV that shows relevant work history.
  • If the student has any sort of related licensure, they may be asked to provide proof of that, or at a minimum, proof that they are eligible to be licensed.
  • Students must meet English proficiency requirements.
  • Often, schools will require an interview with faculty members.

Courses in Online MFT Certificate Programs

A post-graduate education such as a marriage and family therapy certificate allows students to select courses from a range of electives to fit their personal and professional goals. The following is a list of sample coursework that a student may encounter while earning an online certificate in marriage and family counseling:

  • Dynamics of Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Human Sexuality
  • Family Therapy Theories and Techniques
  • Marriage Therapy Theory and Techniques
  • Medical Family Therapy
  • Family Origins and Life Cycles
  • Couples Therapy
  • Professional Ethics
  • Specialization in Professional Counseling
  • Advanced Family Systems Theory
  • Couples and Family Dynamics: Systematic Perspectives
  • Diversity in Family Systems
  • Family Systems and Addictive Disorders
  • Working with Families Across the Lifespan
  • Practicum (minimum hours with clients apply)

Supervised Clinical Hour Requirements & Internships in MFT Programs

To qualify for professional MFT licensure in most states, prospective marriage and family counselors must complete between 1,000 and 3,000 hours of professional practice post certificate completion.

Counseling programs that lead to licensure typically have a supervised practicum or internship component. Once students reach a certain level in their completed coursework, they are eligible to begin internships that involve more hands-on learning, including seeing real clients, as long as they work under the tutelage of a licensed mental health professional. 

The supervised clinical hour requirements and internships phase is often the point at which students can begin to explore specialties or particular environments in which they wish to work. This is the real career preparatory phase for most students, in which they work in hands-on settings to cultivate a deep understanding of their future career. Some supervised programs lead toward competency for sitting for licensing exams and eventual licensure. Other programs are non-licensure tracks.

Licensure track certificate programs will have curriculum and practicum experience that should meet that state’s licensure board requirements. Non-licensure track certificates will typically not include practicums or capstone projects. Non-licensure track programs are designed to teach couple and family dynamics in a clinical setting. These tracks do not meet the curriculum requirements and practicum experience for MFT licensure in most states. 

Online program advisors will typically work diligently to find an opportunity for supervision hours within or close to their home communities if that is part of the program. If the state in which the student resides has a unique requirement, the online academic advisor can help ensure that the supervised environment meets the licensure or graduation requirements. 

Program Accreditation for Online MFT Programs

Program accreditation is an important way for students to vet the universities and programs they are interested in. Accreditation is achieved through a third-party organization examining all coursework, grading procedures, supervisory procedures, prerequisites, degree requirements, and student services to ensure high standards of education, best practices within the field, and relevance to the career. 

Accreditation is a symbol of quality of education, and many licensure requirements hinge on a student graduating from an accredited program or school. Accreditation occurs at national and regional levels, along with individual programs. Similar programs at the same school may be accredited by different organizations. 

At the master’s level, prospective marriage and family counseling students should ensure their prospective program is offered by a university accredited at the regional or national levels. If the school itself is not accredited by a relevant organization, the program should be. Colleges and universities in the U.S. receive accreditation from agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. 

Accreditation for marriage and family counseling programs, including some certificates, is generally done through the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). COAMFTE accredits marriage and family counseling programs at the master’s, doctoral, and post-graduate training program levels. 

Grand Canyon University – College of Humanities and Social Sciences 

Grand Canyon University is a private Christian university in Arizona with tens of thousands of online students attending classes from around the world.

This post-master’s certificate in marriage counseling provides an intensive overview of marriage and family-related issues, including premarital counseling, domestic violence, divorce, family reunification, and working with military families. Students can earn their marriage and family therapy certificate via the school’s collaborative and robust online platform. 

  • Location: Phoenix, Arizona
  • Duration: 15 credits, courses are eight weeks
  • Accreditation: Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. GCU is also authorized in Arizona by the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education.
  • Tuition: $557 per credit

Capella University

Capella University’s systemic couple and family therapy graduate certificate is fully online and features five core courses for 20 total credits. Courses introduce the profession of marriage and family therapy and its underlying systemic theoretical framework, as well as discuss ethics, therapeutic strategies and techniques, family development, and couples theory. 

Capella offers a free trial course for a nongraded, noncredit way to experience the online course room. Students will need to pursue external supervised hours.

  • Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Accreditation: Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission; the marriage and family master’s degree program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education 
  • Tuition: $487 per credit, total tuition $9,740 (estimated)

Northcentral University – School of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Northcentral University’s online marriage and family therapy post-master’s certificates are designed to help professionals develop skill sets and knowledge in a particular area of therapy beyond the master’s degree level. 

Classes start every Monday and there are four professionally relevant specializations: post-master’s certificate in general marriage and family therapy, post-master’s certificate in therapy with military families, post-master’s certificate in couple therapy, and post-master’s certificate in therapy with military families. No GRE or other standardized test scores are required to apply to Northwestern. 

  • Location: San Diego, California
  • Duration: 18 credits, six courses, 13 months
  • Accreditation: Northcentral University is regionally accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission; the MFT program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE); and the International Accreditation Commission for Systemic Therapy Education (IACSTE)
  • Tuition: $2,739 per course; $11,926 total estimated cost of the program

Regent University

The certificate of graduate studies in marriage, couple & family counseling, offered online and on-campus in Virginia Beach, is for students who already hold a master’s or doctorate in any mental health field. It is not intended for initial licensure as a counselor. 

Students will explore the stages of relationship development, sexual dysfunction, addiction, and couples therapy methodologies. Regent’s certificate programs are presented from a Christian worldview. 

  • Location: Virginia Beach, Virginia
  • Duration: 18 credits, one year; program must be completed within five years
  • Accreditation: Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; the master of arts in marriage, couple, and family counseling is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) 
  • Tuition: $710 per credit (Virginia resident and non-resident)

Adler Graduate School
Adler’s Graduate School’s post-master’s certificate in counseling is not designed for initial licensure as a counselor but is offered as an endorsement for licensure to meet state credentialing requirements for students who may have earned a clinical master’s degree but have not completed the current educational requirements for state licensure. 

This specialized program offers two specialty tracks: clinical mental health counseling and marriage, couples, and family counseling. It offers counselors with specializations in other areas (such as addictions, school, or career counseling) to gain specialized experience with families.  

  • Location: Minnetonka, Minnesota
  • Duration: 21 to 27 credits
  • Accreditation: Adler Graduate School is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $625 per credit plus fees

George Fox University (In-person only)

George Fox University is Oregon’s oldest and largest Christian university. Licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs) in Oregon are required to have either a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or a master’s degree in a mental health field with a certificate in marriage and family therapy. 

George Fox University’s marriage, couple, and family counseling certificate program is open to students who already have a mental health degree or for mental health professionals who want to be better equipped to work with families. 

  • Location: Portland, Oregon
  • Duration: 36 semester-hours, one to two years
  • Accreditation: George Fox University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities; the master of arts in marriage, couple, and family counseling is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $756 per credit, plus fees

Maryville University

Aspiring marriage and family therapists must first complete a bachelor’s degree before enrolling in a master’s level program. Maryville University offers an online bachelor of arts in human development and family studies to help students prepare for additional studies and a potential career in counseling. The flexible coursework can be completed on the student’s schedule, allowing space to care for family or work while earning this degree. For ambitious students, there are service learning opportunities that help them gain real-world experience. 

With no SAT or ACT score requirements and a waived application fee, enrolling in this program can be very simple. The only requirements for admission include a high school diploma or GED, a 2.5 minimum GPA, and official transcripts. 

  • Location: St. Louis, MO
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $500 per credit

Walden University 

Walden offers a master of science in clinical mental health counseling, a master of science in school counseling, and a dual degree of the two educational tracks. Walden has been a pioneer in offering online access to higher education; in 1995 Walden offered the nation’s first fully online master’s program in education. 

Within the general clinical mental health counseling program, students choose from six specialties: marriage and family counseling, military families and culture, trauma and crisis counseling, forensic counseling (which works in tandem with the criminal justice system to determine the proper resolution of cases and the most effective treatment for offenders), and addiction counseling.

This fully online school offers monthly payment plan options that allow students to pay tuition in installments with no interest. 

  • Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Duration: The general program is 111 credits; specialties are 121 credits.
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $470 per quarter hour, plus fees

Liberty University 

With 263 master’s programs, many 100 percent online, faith-based Liberty University is a leader in online education. Liberty offers several master’s programs with variations in counseling and specializations. Underneath the umbrella of pastoral counseling are the options of a master of arts in pastoral counseling, addiction and recovery, life coaching, crisis response and trauma, military resilience, and marriage and family studies. All of these comprise eight-week courses that total 36 credits. 

A marriage and family therapy master of arts prepares students for licensure as a marriage and family therapist (MFT). This MA degree is designed to meet the requirements for licensure as an MFT in Virginia, and they have provided a State Requirements page for information about other states’ licensure requirements.

While the counseling master’s degree programs are available online, there are also optional on-campus intensives. The online pastoral counseling program is overseen by the School of Behavioral Sciences but still receives the School of Divinity’s discounted graduate tuition rate (see below).

  • Location: Lynchburg, Virginia
  • Duration: 36 credits and one and a half years for pastoral counseling programs; 60 credits and two to three years for marriage and family therapy
  • Accreditation: Liberty University and the pastoral counseling programs are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC); the marriage and family therapy program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $565 per hour, full-time

Capella University 

Capella University’s online master of science in marriage and family therapy uses a combination of online education and in-person learning experiences. They also offer an online bachelor’s in psychology in pre-counseling for students who are considering a career in counseling. 

The flexible master’s program prepares students for state licensure. This degree requires the completion of two residencies, which allow students to interact with other students and faculty in person. Each residency is embedded within a six-week online course. During weeks one through three, students work exclusively online. A six-day in-person residency follows during week four. Weeks five and six are once again completed online. During the residency experience, students will consult with faculty to receive direction and feedback, and participate in peer review sessions.

In addition to the two six-day residencies, the degree requires a minimum of 500 internship hours. The four internship courses require 500 direct client contact hours, with 200 or more of those hours being relational. The internship is supervised and performed at an approved fieldwork site. The capstone exam is a 200-question, multiple-choice national licensing exam. Capella also offers a free trial course for a nongraded, noncredit way to experience the online course room. 

The bachelor’s degree in psychology in pre-counseling requires 180 credits to complete, but up to 135 credits can be transferred from previous institutions. Students can also complete a prior learning assessment to receive credit for professional experience or certifications. As part of this program, students will complete three master’s level classes that will give them a jump start towards their future degree in counseling.  

  • Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Duration: Bachelor’s 180 credits (four years); master’s 72 credits (two years)
  • Accreditation: Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission; the marriage and family program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education  
  • Tuition: Bachelors $357 per 1000-2000 level credit; $411 per 3000-4000 level; master’s $487 per credit

Alliant International University 

Alliant’s master of arts in marriage and family therapy offers its coursework completely online and is one of only five such programs in the nation to be COAMFTE-accredited. They also have a traditional on-campus program offered at several California campuses, which is one of only eight COAMFTE-accredited programs in the state of California. 

Alliant requires all applicants to have a minimum 3.0 GPA, along with official transcripts, a resume or CV, letters of recommendation, and a personal essay. Marriage and family therapy students have the option to earn a specialization in chemical dependency, which prepares students to help people facing addiction. 

The master’s program is offered as both a semester-long and eight-week term program and is open for enrollment during each of those respective enrollment periods. The program is 60 credits and takes a minimum of two years to complete, either across six semesters or 13 terms. This program includes 500 hours of direct client contact—at least 250 with couples or families. Students receive at least 100 hours of individual and group supervision, at least 50 hours of which are based on direct observation or videotape.

  • Location: San Diego, California (in-person campuses located in Fresno, Irvine, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Francisco
  • Duration: 60 credits, two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE); the chemical dependency program is accredited by California Association for Drug/Alcohol Educators 
  • Tuition: $950 plus fees (online program)

Arizona State University

Arizona State University offers students two options for online undergraduate degrees that will help prepare them for future marriage and family counseling studies. They are a bachelor of science in family and human development or a bachelor of science in counseling and applied psychological science. Both degrees require approximately four years of full-time studies but can be completed in less if students have transfer credits. 

The bachelor of science in family and human development emphasizes the theory and practical skills behind healthy human development and relationships, while the bachelor of science in counseling and applied psychological science focuses on mental well-being, counseling theory, trauma, and ethics. Both degrees require students to complete clinical practices, adequately preparing them for non-licensure jobs in behavioral health or for additional studies to become a licensed counselor. 

  • Location: Phoenix, AZ
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $608 per credit 

Lamar University

Lamar University offers an online master’s of education in counseling and development. This degree has an optional concentration in marriage, couple, and family counseling. In just two years of distance education, students can be prepared to work with clients and help them improve their relationships. Students should be aware that while this program does meet the requirements for licensing in the state of Texas, it may not meet the education requirements for other states. 

Although the bulk of this degree is through online learning, students are required to attend one five-day residency at the beginning of their studies. The faculty who teach in the online program are the same ones who teach on-campus, so students will receive the same quality of education no matter where they study.     

  • Location: Beaumont, TX
  • Duration: As little as 30 months
  • Accreditation: Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $19,469 for the entire program

Professors to Know in Counseling Programs

Rabeena Alli, PhD

Walden University 

Dr. Rabeena Alli earned her PhD at Kent State University. She is now a core faculty member at Walden University. She is licensed in Ohio as a professional clinical counselor with the supervising counselor endorsement (LPCC-S) and licensed in the state of North Carolina as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). She is also certified as a National Certified Counselor (NCC). 

Dr. Alli has taught as an adjunct instructor at several campus-based institutions. In addition, her counseling experience includes working with diverse clients and students in universities, public schools, hospitals, and community mental health settings. Dr. Alli has co-written peer-reviewed journal articles on counseling; presented at state, regional, national, and international conferences; and has served on several local, state, and national counseling association committees.

Bettina Shapira, PhD

Northcentral University


Dr. Bettina Shapira is the chair of the Department of Psychology in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Northcentral University. Prior to being named chair of the Department of Psychology, Dr. Shapira was an assistant professor at Northcentral University, an associate director in Accountability, and the assistant dean in the School of Psychology.

Dr. Shapira has been published in the Journal of Counseling and Development, the Journal of Immigration and Refugee Studies, and in the Journal of Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences. She has given numerous professional presentations nationally and internationally, including at EABCT (European Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies) in Paris, France, the Virginian Counselors Association, the North Carolina Counseling Association, the South Carolina Counseling Association, and the Florida Counseling Association.

Dr. Shapira completed her PhD at Capella University. She earned a master of arts in early childhood education from Northern Arizona University and a master of science in mental health counseling from Capella University.

Jobs for Marriage & Family Counselors

Become a Counselor at Outpatient Care Center

There are a wide variety of outpatient care centers where MFTs are employed. These centers involve office visits with no overnight stays and can be private offices, community mental health centers, veteran’s centers, hospital centers, or other settings where visitors are seen. 

Therapists at these centers can work with children, adolescents, adults, and seniors and they may help with general life management issues or issues as specific as depression, substance abuse, sexual trauma, or sexual identity. Marriage and family therapists may work with specific populations, such as the LGBTQ community, military veterans, or the prison population, helping them deal with issues that affect their relationships and families. 

Become a School Counselor

People with MFT certificates or degrees work at all levels of the school system from K-12 to graduate students, in both public and private educational settings. The families of troubled elementary school students need help from MFTs, as do out-of-control teenagers or graduate students struggling with identity issues or eating disorders, just to give a few examples.

School counseling provides a setting with a lot of variety. During their workday, a school counselor can support the entire student body with social/emotional issues, schoolwide prevention, and intervening in issues among parents, teachers, administrators, and the larger community. They can also help with testing and interpreting results, advocating for students, and helping school leadership identify and resolve issues affecting the entire student body.

Vanessa Salvia

Vanessa Salvia

Writer

Vanessa Salvia is an Oregon-based freelance writer and editor with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. As fun as rigorous studies in math and science were, Vanessa took an independent path and developed a prolific career covering lifestyle and healthcare topics for magazines and newspapers, important industries such as concrete construction and building waterproofing, and even hard science. You can get in touch at Sage Media and Marketing.