Affordable Online Marriage and Family Therapy Programs

Jessica White

Written by Jessica White

Community Mental Health Worker & Case Manager

Updated & Fact Checked: 1/12/2023

If you’re thinking of becoming licensed in marriage and family therapy, cost might be a big deciding factor. Luckily, there are many lower cost online MFT degrees available throughout the United States. Picking an affordable online program can allow you to further your education without the stress of how you are going to pay for classes while still living your day-to-day life. There are many benefits to furthering your education and obtaining a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, and with low cost MFT programs available, you can start sooner than you may have previously believed.

Why Are MFT’s Important?

Obtaining an affordable master’s degree in marriage and family therapy is an excellent way to further your knowledge in an important field and open up options for diverse and interesting career paths while helping others along the way. Marriage and family therapists are highly sought after, as they are highly trained professionals whose education and experience contributes greatly to help improve other’s mental health, relationships, and lives in general. MFT’s have been shown to be effective at diagnosing and treating a variety of mental and emotional disorders, as well as issues such as addiction, marital and familial conflicts, and more. Marriage and family therapists can work in a variety of locations, such as:

  • Social service agencies
  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Inpatient care facilities
  • Nursing and rehabilitation care facilities
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Legal and correctional systems
  • Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)
  • Correctional Facilities
  • Mental health centers
  • Addiction treatment centers
  • Private practice

What You Will Learn In an Online MFT Program

Following your undergraduate program, you can generally expect the total length of a low-cost marriage and family therapy program to be the equivalent of two full-time years of coursework. Some programs, however, have alternative options that allow students to complete the program in three years or more. To obtain an affordable master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, you must undergo an intensive program that covers a wide variety of subject matter which ensures that you will be fully ready to navigate a number of complex situations. The benefit of completing a cost-effective MFT program online is that you can receive the education from anywhere, without needing to be present in a classroom. That being said, the education you will receive will still cover the same variety of topics that are required to help you obtain your license once you have completed your degree.

What to Expect After Obtaining Your MFT Degree

Once you have obtained your low-cost master’s degree, you will need to complete the steps to become licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist. This part of the process is likely unable to be done online, as some of it involves a significant amount of face-to-face interaction with clients and fellow MFTs. The LMFT licensure process can look different by state, but generally follows a similar process in regards to the overall steps. There are resources to help you find out your individual state MFT licensure requirements, but in general, you can expect to do the following:

  • Obtain a qualifying, affordable Master’s degree
  • Register as an AMFT
  • Undergo a criminal background check
  • Accrue hours of supervised experience
  • Pass the LMFT clinical exam
  • Earn your official license.

Generally, to obtain supervised experience hours, you will gain employment or an internship as an AMFT (Associate Marriage and Family Therapist) at a local organization or agency where you will be supervised by someone who is already licensed. Within this process, you will meet with clients and use the skills learned in your degree program, while having the help of your supervisor, with whom you can reflect your experience and any struggles you are having in your daily work. This will be critical to helping you become a knowledgeable LMFT.

What Are Accredited MFT Master’s Programs?

When seeking information on becoming an LMFT, it’s important to find accredited master’s in marriage and family therapy programs. Accreditation means that the program has met certain quality standards set by many organizations within the US. Accredited schools undergo quality review by a professional team that come from academia or the industry they are reviewing. Going to an accredited school means that you are receiving great education that will prepare you for your future career, you will be able to receive any state and federal financial aid that you qualify for, and you will be able to pursue licensure once you have graduated. The benefit of attending an accredited, affordable MFT program is that any financial aid that you may qualify for may cover more of the cost, thus saving you more money.

Types of MFT Accreditations

While keeping in mind accreditation when looking for schools at which to pursue your MFT, remember that many states require schools to be accredited regionally, as regional accreditation is considered to be more rigorous than national accreditation. There are some benefits to attending a nationally accredited university, however, so it’s important to look at both options. Regionally accredited schools are regarded as the highest form of accreditation a school can receive, and is the most widely recognized. If a student with regionally accredited credits should transfer schools, they will likely find themselves accepted by regionally and nationally accredited schools. However, when it comes to affordability, nationally accredited schools are the less expensive option. They also tend to have lower admissions standards than regionally accredited schools

A MFT program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy (COAMFTE) fulfills the preferences and/or requirements of most state licensing boards to ensure someone is eligible for licensure. Someone taking part in school accredited in this way may experience a shorter supervised practice post-graduation.

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs (CACREP) is held at the same level of quality as the COAMFTE in some states. The CACREP is the preferred organization for other counseling disciplines, and is a respected organization. However, some agencies will not allow you to practice as an LMFT if you have not completed a program under COAMFTE.

Accredited Low-Cost MFT Programs Online

Now that you know the importance of accreditation when it comes to your education, you might be wondering where to start. There are many excellent accredited, cheap online MFT programs throughout the United States. For more information on some of the LMFT degree programs available, take a look at the list below.

Alliant International University is a COAMFTE-accredited university that offers a two-year Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy program that will provide the education and skills needed to confidently join the profession. This program is available online, but is also available in several cities throughout California.

Adler University is a CACREP-accredited university that offers both an in-person and online program. The online program can be completed in 3-4 years, and does include some face-to-face teaching over the course of two five-day residency weeks on the Chicago, Illinois campus. The goal of Adler university is to ensure that students are entering the workforce as culturally sensitive clinicians who can provide their expertise in a wide range of clinical settings.

Fairfield University, accredited by the COAMFTE and located in Connecticut, is dedicated to providing education that values diversity and teaches nondiscrimination. The program and staff recognize the importance of addressing social justice and privilege to the students in the coursework so that graduates can leave informed and ready to help a wide variety of populations experiencing a number of different problems. Full-time students can complete the course in three to three and a half years.

What Will You Learn in an Affordable MFT Program?

Once you have begun your MFT courses online, you can expect that the program will take you generally 24-42 months (or 2-3.5 years). This includes the coursework, supervised hours of practice, and preparation for the exam.

Standard Curriculum

Although each low-cost marriage and family therapy program varies depending on which concentration you might choose, an overall theme emerges due to accreditation standards as well as general knowledge needed to perform the job of a MFT well. No matter which program you take, you will likely learn a variation of the following:

  • Therapy theory and techniques, including how to conduct evidence based therapy and counseling to a variety of groups that may be experiencing mild to severe mental health issues.
  • The understanding of learned theoretical concepts to be able to critically analyze and apply said theories to real-world scenarios.
  • Knowledge of social justice issues and the application of said knowledge in practice settings.
  • The ability to apply a significant understanding of legal and ethical standards to decision-making across a range of service contexts and practice settings.

In order to learn the above, a combination of the following courses may be expected. These courses are the most common in an online MFT program, but the programs are not necessarily limited to just these.

  • Developmental psychology
  • Psychopathology
  • Family therapy
  • Cultural competency
  • Human sexuality
  • Sociology
  • Child development
  • Professional ethics and law
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Case management
  • Intersectionality
  • Trauma-informed care
  • And more subtopics within the above curriculum.

Specialization and Concentrations

In addition to the above subjects that are usually taught as core course requirements, many cost-effective MFT programs also give students the option to focus on a specific specialization or concentration. These studies, if not offered through a specific concentration or specialization track, can still be focused on through electives. Below are some of the most common MFT concentrations and/or electives you might find yourself interested in taking.

  • Trauma therapy. This educational track might include coursework on the causes and effects of trauma on individuals, families, and generations, as well as grief, PTSD, and other psychological conditions, diagnoses, and relationship issues that rise as a result of trauma.
  • School counseling. This educational track prepares future LMFTs or counselors for the complex job of identifying students in school who are having behavioral problems and finding the cause behind them, which usually stems from home issues, and working with the student and their parents to resolve these issues.
  • Addiction recovery/substance abuse. This educational track provides students with information on how to treat substance use disorders that are affecting individuals and families as well as the causes behind addiction and evidence-based treatment models.
  • LGBTQ. This population may experience different kinds of struggles than other kinds of families, such as facing discrimination within the family, struggling with gender identity, and many other unique challenges.
  • Conflict in marriage. This educational track will teach students the tools needed to assist married couples through what can be a very frustrating and difficult time in their lives. This can be a challenge for even experienced LMFTs, and may be an important focus to learn.
  • Community programming. This is a unique focus for those in an LMFT program who want to focus on the overall mental health of a group, and will generally work for nonprofits or the government to educate wide populations on specific topics while offering a therapist’s perspective, which may be different than the perspective of other public health professionals.

Entrance Requirements to Enroll in a Masters in MFT Program

In order to apply for the low-cost master’s in marriage and family therapy programs, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree. This degree does not always have to be related to the curriculum you will be taking in the MFT program, but it does help you succeed for it to be somewhat related. This also sometimes depends on the school you are looking to attend. Often, once you have completed your bachelor’s degree, you will have to complete some prerequisite or foundational work before applying for the budget-friendly masters program of your choice. Some of the affordable MFT programs listed in this article do not require a GRE to attend (see Accredited Low-Cost MFT Programs Online). Once you have earned a bachelor’s degree and qualify to apply for the master’s in marriage and family therapy program of choice, there is an application process you must undergo. While the process may vary depending on which university you are applying for, the general process is outlined below.

  1. You will have obtained a good standing at the university in which you obtained your bachelor’s degree. This generally means that you will have maintained a good GPA that can range from 2.0 or above or have completed 60 semester units. Note: You may have to submit a Graduate Record Examination (GRE), however, this is not required by all schools. See your individual university application requirements.
  2. Complete the university’s program application, which may require the following:
    a. A personal statement or essay
    b. Two to four letters of recommendation from professional references.
    c. Potentially submit a professional resume.
    d. Participate in the program’s interview process.
  3. Complete any required prerequisite courses that are needed to be admitted into the master’s program with the required GPA as outlined by the university of your choice.

As mentioned above, the GRE is not necessarily needed to be admitted into a master’s program. More and more programs today are taking a holistic approach to entrance requirements and are looking at many factors to a student potentially entering their programs. If a program does not require applicants to take the GRE, they may look at their overall undergraduate GPA, for example.

How To Find Affordable MFT Programs

With cost being an important factor when looking into marriage and family online degrees, you might consider attending a school within your state. Generally, the cost of tuition for a student who has residence in the same state as the university will be less than those attending a university that is out of state. That being said, there are still many programs that are very affordable, regardless of where you live. Below is a summary of some of the most affordable online MFT master’s programs.

Are There Scholarships or Grants Available to Make an MFT Program More Affordable?

Another way to pay for a MFT degree is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application is a great way to find out if you qualify for certain grants and loans, all in one process.
Besides the FAFSA, here are some other resources where one can apply for scholarships to be able to afford their MFT program:

  1. FastWeb
  2. Unigo
  3. Big Future
  4. Scholly
  5. Professional Associations
  6. Sallie Mae’s Graduate School Scholarship Search
  7. Scholarship America
  8. GoGrad

Affordable MFT Programs Online

While many MFT programs are available, the following list includes all affordable MFT programs available online. This list of marriage and family therapy programs can be sorted by accreditation, degree level, and state.
NameCityStateDegree LevelAccreditationGRE Required?Full Program NameURL
Northcentral UniversityScottsdaleAZMastersCOAMFTENoMASTER OF ARTS DEGREE IN MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPYLearn More
Alliant International University - IrvineIrvineCADoctoralCOAMFTENoPsyD in Marital and Family TherapyLearn More
Bethel Seminary (MA)San DiegoCAMastersCOAMFTENoMA in Marriage and Family TherapyLearn More
California Southern UniversityCosta MesaCAMastersHLCNoMaster of Arts (MA) in Psychology, with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family TherapyLearn More
Fresno Pacific UniversityFresnoCAMastersAssociation of Theological SchoolsYesMA in Marriage and Family TherapyLearn More
Loma Linda UniversityLoma LindaCAMastersCOAMFTENoMS in Marital and Family TherapyLearn More
Northcentral UniversitySan DiegoCAMastersCOAMFTENoMA in Marriage and Family TherapyLearn More
Northcentral UniversitySan DiegoCADoctoralCOAMFTENoDoctor of philosophy in Marriage and Family TherapyLearn More
Pacific Oaks CollegeSan JoseCAMastersCOAMFTEN/AM.A. Marriage and Family Therapy: Trauma Studies SpecializationLearn More
Palo Alto UniversityPalo AltoCAM.A.CACREPNoM.A. in Marriage, Couple and Family CounselingLearn More
Pepperdine UniversityMalibuCAMastersWSCUCYesM.A. in Clinical Psychology with Emphasis in Marriage & Family TherapyLearn More
Touro University WorldwideLos AlamitosCAMastersCOAMFTENoMA in Marriage and Family TherapyLearn More
University of the WestRosemeadCAMastersCOAMFTEYesMarriage & Family Therapy, MALearn More
Adams State UniversityAlamosaCOM.ACACREPNoMaster of Arts in Clinical Mental Health CounselingLearn More
Colorado Christian UniversityColoradoCOMastersCACREPNoOnline Master's in Counseling with a Focus on Marriage & Family TherapyLearn More
Toccoa Falls CollegeToccoa FallsGAMastersCOAMFTEYesM.A. in Marriage and Family TherapyLearn More
Chaminade University of HonoluluHonoluluHIDoctoralWASCN/ADoctor of Marriage and Family Therapy ProgramLearn More
Northwestern University, The Family Institute (MS) OnlineEvanstonILMastersCOAMFTENoM.S. in Marriage & Family TherapyLearn More
Indiana Wesleyan University - Online (MA)IndianapolisINMastersCOAMFTENoM.A. in Marriage & Family TherapyLearn More
University of Holy CrossNew OrleansLAM.A.CACREPNoM.A. in Marriage, Couple and Family CounselingLearn More
Cambridge College Boston,MAMastersCOAMFTEN/AMarriage and Family TherapyLearn More
Western Michigan UniversityKalamazooMIM.A.CACREPNoM.A. in Marriage, couple and family counseling Learn More
Walden UniversityMinneapolisMNM.S.CACREPNoMS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling specializationLearn More
Manhatan CollegeRiverdaleNYMastersCOAMFTEN/AMARRIAGE & FAMILY THERAPY - M.S.Learn More
Syracuse University (MA)SyracuseNYMastersCOAMFTEYesM.A. in Marriage & Family TherapyLearn More
Mid-America Christian UniversityOklahoma CityOKMastersNCANoMaster’s in Family Therapy to Strengthen Couples and FamiliesLearn More
Oklahoma Baptist UniversityShawneeOKMastersNCAYesMasters in Marriage and Family TherapyLearn More
Geneva CollegeBeaver FallsPAMastersCACREPN/AMaster's in counseling programLearn More
Geneva CollegeBeaver FallsPAM.A.CACREPNoM.A. in Marriage, Couple and Family CounselingLearn More
Messiah University (previously Messiah College)MechanicsburgPAM.A.CACREPNoM.A. in Marriage, Couple and Family CounselingLearn More
Trevecca Nazarene UniversityNashvilleTNM.M.F.C./T.CACREPYesM.M.F.C./T. in Marriage, Couple and Family CounselingLearn More
Houston Baptist UniversityHouston, TXMastersCOAMFTEN/AThe Master of Arts in Marriage and Family TherapyLearn More
Sam Houston State UniversityHuntsvilleTXM.A.CACREPNoM.A. in Marriage, Couple and Family CounselingLearn More
Abilene Christian University Online (MMFT)DallasTXMastersCOAMFTENoMaster of Family TherapyLearn More
Regent UniversityVirginia BeachVAMastersCACREPN/AM.A. in Marriage, Couple & Family CounselingLearn More
Regent UniversityVirginia BeachVAM.A.CACREPNoM.A. in Marriage, Couple and Family CounselingLearn More
lu online liberty university addressLynchburgVAMastersSACSCOCYesMA in Family and Marriage Therapy – Online MFT DegreeLearn More
University of Wisconsin Superior Superior, WIMastersCOAMFTEN/AMSE in Counseling Marriage and Family TherapyLearn More

What are the benefits to an Affordable MFT program?

There are numerous benefits to earning a master’s in marriage and family therapy, especially if it’s through an online, affordable, MFT program. An affordable MFT program means more return on investment, as LMFT’s can make anywhere from $41,707-$103,274 annually depending on the state. Additionally, an online program means that you may have more flexibility in your day-to-day life. Other benefits of obtaining a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy include:

  • Personal fulfillment. This career path is challenging, but rewarding, and allows for a lot of personal growth as you learn along with your clients.
  • Improving the lives of others. You will be helping individuals, families, and children improve their lives by helping them navigate challenges.
  • Enjoy job security. The demand for this job is constantly growing, and likely will be for a long time, so you can appreciate the security of knowing that you can find a job almost anywhere.

Additional Resources for MFT Program Candidates

US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Board of Behavioral Sciences: Guide to LMFT Out-of-State Applicant Requirements