What Is an MFT Degree?
Graduate MFT degree programs explore families and relationships. You’ll learn how relationships affect well-being. And you'll discover what you can do to help.
Find MFT Programs
Graduate MFT programs include core coursework. Plus, practicum experiences and an internship. They help students prepare for Marriage and Family Therapist career paths. And, they may prepare students to pursue state licensure.
written by Shannon Fandler
What Could You Do with a Graduate MFT Degree?
Marriage and family therapy programs could prep you to be Marriage and Family Therapist. These pros can work in diverse settings. For instance, they may have career paths at:
- Substance abuse treatment centers
- Outpatient care centers
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
- Others' private practices
- Their own private practice
MFT roles are projected to grow22% by 2029, a rate much faster than average. (That's per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.) Demand for therapists may be due to the growth of integrated care. That’s when a group of specialists work together. This lets them address diverse patient needs. So, MFTs could work alongside other kinds of mental health professionals.
You could also pursue various counseling career paths. Like, Substance Abuse Counselor. Counselors are most needed to work with under served populations. Like military veterans. Education requirements may vary widely in the counseling field. So, make sure you meet licensure criteria in your state.Dr. Paul HokemeyerLicensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Expert Insight We asked: How did earning an M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy kick start your career? Earning a marriage and family therapist degree taught me to think systemically. No longer do I view things in isolation. I view them as interconnected to three levels of a person’s existence. Intrapersonal, interpersonal and social cultural.
What Kind of Degree Do You Need To Be a Marriage and Family Therapist?
Marriage & Family Therapists need to earn a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy. Or, you could earn a grad degree in psychology or a related field. Some students earn a dual degree in social work and marriage & family therapy. Note that an MSW or Master of Social Work could let you pursue a clinical social worker role. That could involve family counseling. But this degree is not the same as a Master's in MFT.
What Jobs Can You Get with a MFT Degree?
Earning your degree could help you pursue a career path as a marriage & family therapist. These pros help patients cope with relationship problems. Like issues with family members. That said, they treat individuals as well as couples and families. Along with that, you could pursue other human services career paths. Check out salary and employment for MFT roles, along with related career paths.
Marriage & Family Therapies may work in several different industries – from religion to health care. The industries that employ the most MFTs include:
- Individual and Family Services
- Offices of Health Practitioners
- Outpatient Care Centers
- State Government
- Residential Mental Healthcare Facilities
Popular MFT Degrees
Marriage and Family Therapy degrees are reported by NCES. Look under the category of health professions and related programs. Let's look at the most recent update of the data (2013). Across the U.S., 2,920 MFT degrees were awarded to grad students. The majority (97%) were Master’s degrees.
MFT vs Masters in Clinical Psychology
A Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy focuses on therapy strategies. These are used to help couples and families thrive. So this program could help you pursue an MFT career path. You’ll study areas like counseling, assessment, and treatment planning.
A Master’s in Clinical Psychology has a different focus. The program covers foundations in the field of psychology. But it may not include the clinical hours needed for counseling career paths. That said, there are exceptions. Some Master’s in Clinical Psychology programs offer a marriage and family track. This may help students prepare to become licensed therapists.
What about earning a Master’s in Clinical Mental Counseling? These programs cover counseling in a more general sense. But, many offer concentrations in Marriage & Family Therapy. And, these programs may be structured to help students meet state licensure requirements.
Whichever program you choose, note the requirements for your state and career path. Make sure your program is designed for your goals. Whether that’s launching an MFT career or pursuing more education.
|Marriage and Family Therapy Guide|
|M.S. in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy||M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy|
|Length of Program: 92 quarter credits||Length of Program: 74 credits|
|This program is designed for those pursuing licensed MFT career paths. It covers counseling knowledge areas for working with families and couples. The program also features practicum experiences, residencies, and internships.||This program offers foundations in professional counseling. It also covers the theory and practice of counseling families and couples. The program is designed for students who wish to pursue state licensure.|
|Marriage and Family Systems Couple and Marital Therapy Life Planning and Career Development Theories of Psychotherapy Systemic Approaches to Gender and Sexuality||Theories and Models of Counseling Counseling Skills Group Counseling Advanced Family Systems Theory Human Sexuality and Issues of Aging|
|This program is accredited by COAMFTE and CACREP||No specific program accreditation|
What is the Curriculum for a MFT Program?
These programs explore the theory behind how families and relationships work. They also cover how to help patients resolve family challenges. You could study topics like psychotherapy and sex therapy. Plus, counseling people from diverse backgrounds.
Master’s in MFT programs are a common path for aspiring Marriage & Family Therapists. Coursework in a Master’s program covers standards and ethics for this profession. It also covers behavioral sciences. And you’ll study stressors that affect families. Like marital dysfunction. Or parenting concerns. And the main thing: you’ll explore ways to address these issues in therapy.
Courses you could take in marriage & family therapy Master’s programs include:
- The Counseling Process. This course covers counseling techniques and strategies. You’ll learn how to communicate with patients to get to the heart of their lives and relationships.
- Family Assessment. This course covers how to evaluate family dynamics and dysfunction. You’ll study characteristics of families, plus diagnostic criteria for mental health disorders that impact relationships.
- Couples Therapy and Treatment Planning. This course delves into the specifics of working with partners. You’ll learn models and techniques for counseling couples. And, you’ll learn how to put together an effective treatment plan.
- Counseling Children and Adolescents. Counseling children and teens calls for special approaches and considerations. This course covers the theory and practice of working with younger patients.
- Human Sexuality Counseling. This course considers aspects of human sexual identity and behavior. You’ll learn how personal attitudes and cultural values can impact sexuality. And, you’ll study sexual disorders.
What Do I Need to Know About the MFT Licensing (LMFT) Exam?
In all states, MFTs must pass a state-recognized exam to earn a license. The Association of Marriage & Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB) creates this exam. It covers domains, tasks, and knowledge areas important for MFTs, including:
- Managing crisis situations
- Designing and conducting treatment
- Ethical, legal, and professional standards
- Models of marital, couple, and family therapy
- Theories of personality
- Substance addiction
- And more
To take the exam, you must first apply to your state board. The board will determine your eligibility. Then it will send you an approval code. At that point, you can complete an online application. Then, pay your testing fees. And of course, schedule your exam. If you don’t pass the first time, you can try again. That said, you can’t take the exam more than three times in a 12 month period.
How Long Does It Take to Get an MFT License ?
The time it takes to get an MFT license varies by state. For example, in California you need two years of supervised clinical experience. Within those two years, you must complete at least 3,000 hours. And, 1,700 of those hours must be completed after you’ve earned your grad degree.
Other states have different requirements. But generally you’ll need to complete 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Some or all of the experience must be post degree. And, don’t forget to factor in the time it takes to study for and pass your license examination.
What Should I Know About COAMFTE Accredited Programs?
Graduating from a COAMFTE accredited program could be required or recommended for earning your therapist license. Certain employers, like the Veterans Administration, may need your program to be accredited.
The abbreviation stands for the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education. They accredit the following marriage & family therapy graduate programs:
- Master’s Degree Programs
- DoctoralDegree Programs
- Post-Graduate Degree Clinical Training Programs
Choosing an accredited program could help you be confident in the quality of your education. Accredited programs offer potential benefits to students, including:
- They uphold the standards of the Marriage & Family Therapist profession
- Faculty members actively contribute to the field
- The curriculum is designed to prepare you for licensure and national/state examinations
- Coursework and requirements may be transferred to other accredited programs
- If you move, you may more easily meet qualifications for licensure in other states
How Long Does It Take to Be a Marriage & Family Therapist?
MFT Master’s programs usually call for 60 to 66 credits. The degree may take two to three years for fulltime students to earn. Besides earning a graduate degree, you’ll need to spend time on other requirements for licensure in your state. That includes post degree supervised clinical experience. Looking for more flexibility? Consider online programs. Earning an online degree could help you fit your studies into your schedule.
|University||# of Credits Required||Starts Per Year||Minimum Months to Complete|
|California State University-Northridge||55||1 (Fall)||20|
|Messiah College||60||3 (Fall, Spring, Summer)||36|
|Walden University||100-106 quarter credits||Multiple||54|
|Pepperdine University||62||1 (Fall)||24|
How Much Does it Cost to Get a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy?
The average cost of earning a graduate degree from a public institution is $11,617 per year. You may find programs that are more affordable than the average. And more costly, too.
Below, we’ve put together graduate tuition costs for 4 institutions. (All have Marriage & Family Therapy Grad Programs.) These are reported by the NCES. We then compared those costs to the typically most affordable college options. And the most costly. (These are also reported by NCES.)
|Instate/Out Of State Tuition||School|
$9,000 Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota $11,617 Average Public Institution University $14,516 Capella University $14,784 Average Private For Profit Institution Tuition $16,864 Northcentral University $21,213 The Chicago School of Professional Psychology $26,551 Average Private Nonprofit Institution Tuition sponsored
Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy Costs per Credit
Cost per credit varies for each college or university. State universities may also have in-state costs vs. out-of-state costs. Below are a few examples of the cost per credit as reported by schools offering marriage and family therapy Master’s programs.
|University||# of Credits Required||Cost Per Credit||Total Tuition Cost|
|Houston Baptist University||60||$575||$34,500|
|Loma Linda University||90 quarter units||$830||$18,675|
|Grand Canyon University||74||$515||$38,110|
|State||Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
Schools with Top Marriage & Family Therapy (MFT) Graduate Programs
|Marriage and Family Therapy (M.A.)||Kean University||N/A|
|Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology||Wheaton College||PsyD|
|Marriage and Family Counseling||Western Illinois University||N/A|
|M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy||Grand Canyon University||MS|
|M.A. Marriage and Family Therapy - Trauma Studies||Pacific Oaks College||N/A|
GradSchools.com offers 134 Top Marriage & Family Therapy (MFT) Graduate Programs
What is the best degree for a marriage and family therapist? ›
A graduate degree in psychology or a Master of Social Work (MSW) can prepare you to obtain the state licensure required to work as Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). The best degree for aspiring marital family therapists, however, is the Master of Family Therapy (MFT).Is an MFT degree worth it? ›
MFT Degree Summary
Obtaining your marriage and family master's degree can be beneficial and worthwhile if you want a career with high job satisfaction, a substantial salary, and an excellent work-life balance.
Best-Paying States for Marriage and Family Therapists
The states and districts that pay Marriage and Family Therapists the highest mean salary are Utah ($86,490), New Jersey ($81,330), Colorado ($73,040), Minnesota ($68,660), and Nevada ($66,600).
Becoming a MFT therapist is still a tough process, even though it's shorter and less expensive. You have to earn a bachelor's degree, which will take around four years. Then you will move up to a master's degree. That's usually an additional two to three years of study.What is the average salary for an Lmft CA? ›
How much does a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist make in California? The average Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist salary in California is $68,519 as of January 26, 2023, but the range typically falls between $57,969 and $87,260.What are the cons of being a marriage and family therapist? ›
- Emotional effects. ...
- Challenging work. ...
- Educational requirements. ...
- Nontraditional work hours or settings.
As you'll see, they generally hover around 70%. For the NCMHCE, NCE, National MFT Exam, ASWB Clinical Level Exam, passing scores are typically set at the state level, though the exam developers set a recommended passing score to provide state boards a reference point.Is there a demand for MFT? ›
Career and salary outlook
With more and more people seeking mental health treatment, there will likely be a continued need for qualified providers in the future. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for MFTs is growing much faster than average.
Those interested in helping clients with their relationships may wish to pursue their master's in MFT. Those looking to help people with mental health disorders may be more interested in an MSW. If compensation is the deciding factor, a master's in MFT may help you earn slightly more than an MSW.What type of therapist makes the most money? ›
Psychiatrist positions are by far the highest-paying jobs for psychology majors. The average salary is $217,798, according to PayScale. A psychiatrist should be licensed as a board-certified psychiatrist.
What type of counseling makes the most money? ›
- School Counselor. ...
- Career Counselor. ...
- Mental Health, Marriage, and Family Counselor. ...
- Rehabilitation Counselor. ...
- Gerontological Counselor.
According to U.S. News & World Report, most MFT degree programs take full-time students two to three years to complete open_in_new due to the number of clinical hours and different settings needed to prove competency as a therapist.What happens if you fail the MFT? ›
If your application is in order, you'll become an LMFT in California. However, if you fail the LMFT Clinical Exam, you must take it again within a year from the date of failure. If you wait too long, your eligibility period is over and you must start the application process over again.What is a passing score on the MFT? ›
California LMFT Clinical Exam
The passing score cutoff has typically been around 100 out of 150 scored items (67%). It would be unusual to have a passing score cutoff below 97 or above 103. You can improve your chances of passing by using our online California LMFT Clinical Exam prep program.
Start preparing early
Make sure you are keeping up with advances in law and professional ethics. Test-specific preparation (specific study time, workshops, practice exams, and/or other methods you find useful) should start at least a few months before your test date.
It's pretty easy. Then you start the test and have four hours to finish 170 questions. That's less than 90 seconds per question. There are three or four counters at the top of your screen, counting questions, up and down, and time.What is the hourly rate for an MFT in California? ›
How much does a MFT make in California? As of Feb 1, 2023, the average annual pay for a MFT in California is $105,666 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $50.80 an hour. This is the equivalent of $2,032/week or $8,805/month.How much do therapists make in California with Masters? ›
How much does a Masters Level Therapist make in California? The average Masters Level Therapist salary in California is $58,398 as of January 26, 2023, but the range typically falls between $53,495 and $63,618.What a marriage counselor should not say? ›
- "Don't tell my husband/wife this, but ..." Sorry, as marriage counselors we're not supposed to take sides and we can't keep important secrets from your partner. ...
- 2. " No, I think you're wrong" ...
- 3. " That's it; I want a divorce"
- Compassion. Marriage and family therapists often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations, so they must be compassionate and empathize with their clients.
- Interpersonal skills. ...
- Listening skills. ...
- Organizational skills. ...
- Speaking skills.
Why choose marriage and family therapy? ›
Research indicates that marriage and family therapy is as effective, and in some cases more effective than standard and/or individual treatments for many mental health problems such as: adult schizophrenia, affective (mood) disorders, adult alcoholism and drug abuse, children's conduct disorders, adolescent drug abuse, ...How many times can you take the MFT clinical exam? ›
How often can I take the examination? This may vary by state. However, a candidate may take the examination no more than three times in any 12-month period.What is a good MBA MFT score? ›
The MFT exam contains 180 multiple-choice questions and has a time limit of 4 hours. The exam is split into six domains of practice.How much do MFT interns make in California? ›
How much does a MFT Intern make in California? As of Jan 31, 2023, the average annual pay for a MFT Intern in California is $44,415 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $21.35 an hour. This is the equivalent of $854/week or $3,701/month.What is the difference between MFT and LCSW? ›
Clientele: LMFTs are trained to focus their services on families, couples, parent-child relationships, while LCSWs are more focused on individuals and community work. Licensure: Licensure requirements vary between marriage and family therapists and clinical social workers.Can MFT trainees do telehealth? ›
Can I provide services via telehealth? Yes! All trainees and associate marriage and family therapists are permitted to perform services via telehealth with clients who are located in California under the supervision of their supervisor.What is the highest paying job with a MSW? ›
- #1 Director of Corporate Social Responsibility. ...
- #2 Professor of Social Work. ...
- #3 Employee Assistance Program Counselor. ...
- #4 Veteran's Affairs Social Worker. ...
- #6 Social Science Researcher. ...
- #7 Director of Development of a NPO. ...
- #8 Housing & Community Development Director.
Therapists may place a heavier emphasis on psychological approaches, whereas social workers often focus on a client's overall social and socioeconomic circumstances. Professionals in both fields work toward developing positive solutions for their clients.What state pays the most for MSW? ›
Can therapists make 6 figures? ›
But it turns out that it's more than possible to generate six figures as a private practice therapist. In this article, I'm going to take it a step further and share how I generate six figures a year while working part-time as a private practice therapist.What is higher than a therapist? ›
Licensed therapists must have, at minimum, a master's degree in a field related to psychotherapy. Psychologists must have a doctorate-level degree such as a PhD or PsyD.Can you make a living as a therapist? ›
Typical therapist salaries range widely – from $30,000 to $100,000. For a therapist (who is not a psychiatrist or a psychologist), salaries depend in part on education and training, as well as clinical specialization. Individual therapists may make anywhere from $30,000 per year to over $100,000.What state pays therapists the most? ›
|Rank||State||Average Counselor Salary|
- Art Therapist. ...
- Career or Vocational Counselor. ...
- Special Education Teacher. ...
- Aviation Psychologist. ...
- Substance Abuse Nurse. ...
- Psychiatric Technician. ...
- Mental Health Social Worker.
|Total Licensed Professional Counselor Jobs:||383|
|Highest 10 Percent Earn:||$133,000|
Essentially, as long as a relevant counselling access course or 'pre-entry psychology qualification' is completed, any degree is acceptable, although it can be easier to follow the course and career path if your degree is in a related subject, such as education, theology or social studies.
a registerable professional qualification. an AFT accredited Intermediate Level qualification in Systemic / Family Practice (see Grad Cert in Family Therapy) or equivalent. clinical experience. currently working in a clinical setting involving regular patient/client contact.What is the difference between a psychologist and a LMFT? ›
Clinical psychologists are more likely to work with individuals who have severe mental illness, but some marriage and family therapists do so as well. When a person has a serious illness, it's often more effective to involve the whole family, and this is an area where LMFTs have specialized training.What's the difference between LCSW and LMFT? ›
LCSWs require a degree in Social Work, while an LMFT will likely require a master's in Marriage and Family Therapy to properly equip them with behavioral therapy techniques to effectively provide solutions to clients.
What are the requirements for MFT in Texas? ›
To be eligible to become an LMFT Associate in Texas, you must have graduate degree in Marriage and Family Therapy or a related field from an accredited program and pass the national licensing exam administered by the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AAMFTRB).What is the difference between a psychologist and a Lmft? ›
Clinical psychologists are more likely to work with individuals who have severe mental illness, but some marriage and family therapists do so as well. When a person has a serious illness, it's often more effective to involve the whole family, and this is an area where LMFTs have specialized training.What is the difference between marriage and family therapy and counseling? ›
Marriage counseling focuses on the needs of the couple. Family counseling can include any number of people in the family – parents, children, grandparents, co-parents, etc. Family counseling may only involve one parent and one child, or it may include an entire household.How many hours do you need to become an Lmft in California? ›
Marriage and Family Therapist License Requirements
A minimum of 3,000 hours of supervised experience, during a period of at least 104 weeks. A minimum of 1,700 hours must be earned post-degree, and a maximum of 1,300 hours obtained during graduate training may count towards this requirement.
Licensed professional clinical counselors (LPCC) offer treatment and counseling to those with mental health and substance abuse issues. Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) professionals also provide counseling, but they focus on families and individuals whose problems are social and relationship based.What is the salary of an LCSW in California? ›
How much does a Clinical Social Worker - LCSW make in California? The average Clinical Social Worker - LCSW salary in California is $85,700 as of December 27, 2022, but the range typically falls between $79,100 and $95,200.How long should you study for MFT exam? ›
If you are able to commit to 8 hours a week of reviewing, at TDC, we believe the optimal amount of time to study is 4-6 weeks for the National LMSW/LCSW; 8 weeks is for the California Standard Written Exam MFT or LCSW exam and 3-5 weeks for the MFT or LCSW Clinical Vignette Exam.What happens if you don't pass the MFT exam? ›
If your application is in order, you'll become an LMFT in California. However, if you fail the LMFT Clinical Exam, you must take it again within a year from the date of failure. If you wait too long, your eligibility period is over and you must start the application process over again.How long does it take to study for MFT exam? ›
While there is no magic number guaranteed to improve exam performance, it is not unusual to hear MFTs say they spent six months or more specifically preparing for the exams. Licensing exams are anxiety-provoking enough; do not make the anxiety worse by procrastinating on your preparation to the last minute.