What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Marriage And Family Counseling Program?

Also referred to as a master’s in family therapy, the online master’s in marriage and family counseling prepares an individual to help couples and families with interpersonal issues. As a student seeking an online degree, you can expect the same types of classes and course load that you would expect in an on-campus degree program. Obtaining your degree online provides flexibility and makes it easier to balance work, school and personal time, so you can finish your degree in your own time. Because all programs are different, it’s important to look around and find the program that aligns with your personal career goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Marriage And Family Counseling

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION POSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
Mental Health Counseling Prepares students to help individuals achieve emotional wellness. Mental health counselors generally see patients on an ongoing basis or as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. In-home therapist, residential counselor, outpatient clinician, school adjustment counselor, licensed mental health counselor
Addiction/Substance Abuse Counseling An addiction or substance abuse counselor works with those who fear they will become addicts or those currently suffering from addiction to help overcome their habits. Case manager, victim’s advocates, treatment specialist and health educators
Youth Counseling Youth counselors typically help young adults with peer pressure, adjustments in school and navigating through puberty. Sometimes these individuals serve as mentors for those without a positive role model in their lives. Community services director, school counselor, coach, youth group administrator and teacher
Career Counseling Focuses on classes in behavioral and social science or human services. Career counselors learn skills to help match students and individuals with the best career or job for their experience and personality. Social worker, high school teacher, missionary, online teacher
Psychology Centers on the study of human thinking, memory and perception. Some may focus on how learning and socialization affect the brain and behavior. Correctional officer, psychiatric technician, social worker, health educator and administrative service manager

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Marriage And Family Counseling

Choosing the best curriculum for an online master’s degree in marriage and family counseling requires research and preparation. Each college and university offers something different for everyone. Read through the course description and compare it with your career goals and objections. Get a clear understanding of what the program entails. Some programs require you to take labs and other specific classes on-campus with the majority of the coursework online, while others are completely online. Also, you should expect to do some field work or an internship.

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Theoretical Issues in Child Development Examines the theories of change that take place during childhood development.
Social Science Statistics Introduces students to the statistical concepts used in evaluating research in social sciences and applying that research to real-world situations.
Marriage and Family Relationships Helps students understand family theory and the use of theories to understand how families interact with one another.
Leadership and Social Justice Exposes students to current literature on leadership as it relates to leadership and strategic planning in regards to social justice.
Professional Development A capstone course that allows students to explore and specify their career goals and how they plan to obtain those goals as they relate to marriage and family counseling.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Marriage And Family Counseling?

An online master’s degree in marriage and family therapy takes between two to three years to complete, depending on whether an individual takes a full-time or a part-time course load. Part-time students typically take one class at a time in the master’s program, while full-time students take two classes per semester. The time of completion also depends on whether you take self-paced classes or sign up for cohort classes. With cohort classes, a group of students enters the program at the same time, take the same class schedule and matriculate together. Self-paced classes allow you to pick and choose what classes you want to take and when you want to take them, which allows you to finish faster. Students can expect to complete 48 to 60 hours of classwork and a number of fieldwork hours.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Marriage And Family Counseling Prepares For

All marriage and family counselors are held to strict licensure requirements because they are considered mental health specialists who treat and diagnose mental health and psychotherapy disorders. Licensure varies from state to state, but these individuals must complete a master’s degree and log between 2,000 and 4,000 training hours under a licensed therapist. Every state requires counselors to pass an exam and continuing education credits are required to maintain their credentials. The Association of Marriage and Family Therapy regulatory board oversees licensing requirements across the United States.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Marriage And Family Counseling

Both the master’s and the doctorate in marriage and family counseling and therapy programs require accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Earning a degree from a dual-accredited program helps facilitate career and academic progression and ensures students receive a quality education that meets or exceeds industry standards.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Marriage And Family Counseling Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

All licensed professional counseling jobs require at least a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling. There are some entry-level positions for those with a bachelor’s, including social work, human service workers, life-skills instructors and case management assistance. A master’s degree opens a wide variety of doors in professional counseling and the business world. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, growth across all levels of counselors is around 3 percent, but advanced degrees tend to offer higher salaries and create more opportunities for advancement.

Expected Salary

In addition to opened career pathways, an online master’s in marriage and family counseling provides increased salaries in comparison to counseling assistants and human service workers.

Job Title Salary Range
Marriage and Family Therapist $31,390-$81,760
Rehabilitation Counselor $34,860-$62,780
School Counselor $37,690-$91,960
Substance Abuse Counselor $26,210-$65,080

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

For those looking for areas with the highest concentrations of marriage and family counselors, there are a variety of metropolitan areas to choose from. Consider the salaries in these top locations.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Below is a map of mean wages nationwide for marriage and family therapists.

Marriage and Family Therapist Mean Wages by State
Figures in US Dollars per year

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Blank states indicate information was not available.

Career Opportunities

Professional students who complete an online master’s degree in marriage and family counseling are qualified for a wide variety of career positions. Eligibility for the position depends on the state and the industry, which includes substance abuse centers, health care centers, hospitals and schools. Consider some of the following career opportunities.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Mental Health Counselor A mental health counselor helps individuals cope with challenging life events. They offer support and guidance on how to overcome problems in regards to mental health. $46,050 per year 19%
Substance Abuse Counselor Substance abuse counselors advise individuals who suffer from drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues and behavioral problems. They also help find treatment options for those recovering from addictions. $43,300 per year 23%
School and Career Counselor School counselors help students develop academic and social skills that are needed to succeed in the learning environment. They work in both high schools, colleges, career centers and in private practices. $55,410 per year 13%
Rehabilitation Counselor Rehabilitation counselors help people with mental, developmental, physical or emotional disabilities live independently. They also help them overcome any challenges related to employment of independent living. $34,860 per year 13%

Professional Organizations

Professional memberships provide a wealth of benefits, including educational opportunities, networking and subscriptions to national industry journals. Many organizations offer annual conferences to help you keep up with changes in technology and standards. Some of the top organizations for those majoring in marriage and family counseling include:

American Counseling Association (ACA): This is the world’s largest organization representing professional counselors across a variety of concentrations. The organization offers continuing education, career advancement help, networking connections and advocates for the industry.

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT): The AAMFT exists solely to advance the practice and profession of marriage and family therapy. It offers a variety of online classes and host an annual conference at the end of August.

International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors (IAMFC): This organization is a division of the American Counseling Association. It promotes excellence in the practice of family and couples counseling. The organization hands out media and publications provide a forum for exploring diverse family issues and encourages other counselors to advocate for all families.

National Employment Counseling Association (NECA): The NECA is an organization dedicated to helping individuals find employment in the field of counseling. It offers professional development and national, state and local advocacy.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Marriage And Family Counseling

Earning an online master’s degree is typically cheaper than earning that same degree in traditional on-campus study. Expenses associated with travel, for instance, are eliminated when participating in a distance learning program. Despite it costing less overall, many students still need financial aid to help them pay for the cost of their master’s degree.

It can be confusing to navigate all of the different financial aid options available, but a good place to start is with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Filling it out and submitting it provides you with information about grants, scholarships, loans and other forms of financial aid available to you through the federal government.

Many nonprofit organizations, private companies and even individual schools offer their own scholarships and grants. Be sure to investigate the programs you’re interested in to find out whether you qualify to apply for any scholarships.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

AAMFT Minority Fellowship Program

Award: $5,600 to $36,000

Deadline: January 31

Eligibility: Applicants must be enrolled in a full-time or part-time accredited MFT degree, be a U.S. citizen and show a commitment to ethnic minority populations.

Behavioral Health Academic Scholarships

Award: $2,500 to $5,000

Deadline: May 31

Eligibility: Accepted majors include counseling, marriage and family therapy, social work, psychology and nursing. Entrants must submit a 500-word essay about the challenges of getting addicts the treatment they need.

Future Counselors of America Scholarship

Award: $1,000

Deadline: June 30

Eligibility: Applicants must be enrolled in a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree with a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or better. They must also submit an essay between 500 and 900 words about psychological issues unique to online dating.

Jewell L. Taylor Graduate Fellowship

Award: $5,000

Deadline: January 9

Eligibility: Recipients must be a U.S. citizen, attend an accredited graduate school, have a GPA of 3.0 or better and display a true leadership capacity.