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Can You Do an MFT Program Online?

Marriages and families are rewarding yet complicated. They always have been. But between pandemic lockdowns, economic uncertainty, and shifts in the technological landscape, many parents, children, and partners have been grappling with new pain points.

It’s certainly possible that the need for capable and dedicated marital and family therapists (MFTs) has never been more profound.

If you’re considering becoming a marriage and family therapist (MFT), you might be looking forward to the satisfaction that comes with helping families, couples, and individuals find understanding and growth. But you might also have questions about what it takes to embark on this rewarding career. 

The good news is that there is plenty of flexibility when it comes to pursuing an MFT program online. Read on for more information about MFTs, online programs, and the benefits of earning your degree. 

What Are Marital and Family Therapists (MFTs) and Marital and Family Therapy?

To gain clarity on what kinds of MFT programs you might be interested in applying for and attending, it’s beneficial to hold a thorough understanding of the role and the method. 

So, what is MFT therapist or marriage and family therapy, and how does it differ from other kinds of mental health counseling program or therapy?

A marital and family therapist sees a family’s or relationship’s group dynamic as a central influence on the individuals within them. To help the individuals find healing, growth, and self-improvement, MFTs address the patterns and structures at play within the whole group. To put it simply, marital and family therapists seek to heal the people in the relationship by healing the relationship. 

By focusing on the relationships that envelop individuals, MFTs address not only marital and familial discord but also a wide range of clinical problems. Marital and family therapy could be a promising tool for managing many mental health issues, including1:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Addiction
  • Eating disorders
  • Affective (mood) disorders

What differentiates this kind of therapy from other methods? Typically, marital and family therapy program stands out as:

  • Solutions-oriented
  • Short-term
  • A mix of one-on-one and group sessions 

How Do You Become an MFT?

The effectiveness of marital and family therapy makes it a compelling field for mental health professionals looking to make a difference. 

Also attractive? The opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected 16% growth in the number of jobs for MFTs between 2020 and 2030—bounding past projected growth rates for other occupations.2 

So, how to become an MFT and what are the educational requirements for becoming a marriage family therapist? If you’re ready to pursue this meaningful—and thriving—line of work and start looking at programs, here’s what you’ll most likely need to get started:

  • A bachelor’s degree – To apply for master’s degree programs in MFT, you’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. 
  • A sufficient GPA – Some graduate programs may have a cut-off for the undergraduate grade point average that they’ll consider for their applicants, say 2.5 or 3.0. 
  • A sufficient score on the GRE – Many graduate programs require prospective students to complete the Graduate Record Examinations and submit their scores as part of their application.
  • Completed course requirements – Some master’s programs may ask their applicants to complete prerequisite courses, likely within the field of psychology or social work. 

Some of the Pathways to Practice

With the preliminary requisites above met, you’ll likely be ready to begin exploring the different pathways that can lead to a career in marital and family counseling. 

Here are a few of your options:

  • A master’s program – Marital and family therapists must be licensed by the state they practice in, and all 50 states require licensed MFTs to have a master’s degree in marital and family therapy (or the equivalent). 3 Master’s programs typically span 2 to 3 years.  
  • A doctoral program – Most doctorate programs require a 3- to 5-year commitment. These programs might be worth considering if you’re a student with ambitions of teaching at a university or working in institutional research. 
  • A post-graduate clinical training program – While some MFT candidates launch directly into the profession by attending master’s or doctorate programs after undergrad, others arrive at the practice after they’ve already been licensed as professional counselors and have completed master’s degrees in related fields, including:
    • Counseling
    • Social work
    • Nursing
    • Psychology
  • These individuals can sign up for postgraduate clinical training programs that are designed to build on their experience and knowledge while providing specialized insight.4

How to Find a Program That’s Right for You

With these three options in mind, consider the next steps. Look into the licensing requirements for MFTs in the state where you anticipate that you’ll be practicing—perhaps related to practicum hours or internships—and then consider seeking out master’s programs that meet these requirements. 

As you form your list of potential schools, you’ll likely be confronted with a decision: in-person or online?

If you go the online route, take special care to see that the programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education, like the online master’s program at Alliant International University. This accreditation offers:

  • Increased licensing portability between states
  • Employment opportunities through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs 
  • Loan reimbursement through the National Health Services Corps 

Potential Benefits of Earning Your MFT Degree Online

Whether you’re a busy post-graduate looking to pivot or striving to balance the demands of your household with the demands of your professional goals, it’s possible that online MFT programs might be the right fit for you.

Online programs can be just as rigorous and comprehensive as their counterparts—an MFT master’s student of online programs tend to follow the same curricula and meet the same credit requirements as those on campus. 

But there are certain benefits unique to online programs, including:

  • Flexibility – Thanks to online classes and watch-anytime lectures designed to accommodate a range of timezones and professional schedules, you can take the reins of your weekly schedule, attending your classes at the times and places that work best for you.
  • Focus – You might find it easier to focus on your studies on your own turf, without the many distractions that come with lecture halls and campus life. 

    Recorded lectures of the MFT faculty, especially, can be a fantastic asset if you learn well from repetition or if you’re struggling to master a specific concept. If you’re normally too shy to ask your professor to repeat themselves or slow down, you might enjoy the freedom to pause, rewind, and review on-demand. 

  • Family and work – In-person programs that require you to relocate can be attractive, especially if you’re eager to explore a new area or strike out on your own. 

    But for many MFT hopefuls with ties to their communities, jobs, and family obligations, the prospect of uprooting their lives for graduate school can feel daunting, if not altogether impossible. Even local in-person programs can take precious time away from family and work, between long commutes and lengthy lectures from the MFT faculty. 

    An online MFT program makes professional advancement possible—and opportune—for the many candidates who long to follow their dreams, but not at the cost of their family’s stability or their current income. 

Expand Your Options by Earning an MFT Degree Online at Alliant

If you’re interested in taking part in the meaningful work of marital and family therapy but not quite certain that you’re ready to go back to school, chances are, you aren’t alone. 

Prioritizing professional and educational goals can be a challenge, especially when you’re balancing work, childcare, and household responsibilities. But making a change in your life—and in your community—is possible, thanks to the flexibility and freedom of the online MFT program at Alliant.

With a MA in Marital and Family Therapy from Alliant, the pathways are intended to work around your schedule and lifestyle. Through lessons, coursework, and internships, you’ll learn about the relationship patterns and dynamics that shape families and individuals and gain crucial experience in the field—working with diverse families, couples, and individuals as they grapple with conflict, growth, and healing. 

Alliant’s MA in Marital and Family Therapy is designed with busy professionals in mind. With classes that occur at all times of the day and coursework that’s offered completely online, you can take control of your education. 

If you’re ready to build a brighter future for yourself online or in person, learn more about the online MFT programs today at Alliant.


  1. Cherry, Kendra. “What Is a Marriage and Family Therapist?” Verywell Mind. Verywell Mind, August 17, 2021.…. Accessed: December 30, 2021.
  2. “Marriage and Family Therapists : Occupational Outlook Handbook.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 8, 2021.….   Accessed: December 30, 2021.
  3. “How to Become a Marriage and Family Therapist.”, August 26, 2021.  Accessed: December 30, 2021.

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