Top Online Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) Programs in California

Marriage and family therapy can be a rewarding career, and there's a consistent need for it as couples and families navigate their relationships. Becoming a registered practitioner in this industry requires a master's degree in marriage and family therapy (MFT).

The many MFT programs in California include settings such as religious institutions, educational facilities, and private practices. Many universities in California offer graduate MFT degree programs and are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE).

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To become a licensed marriage and family therapist in the state of California, applicants must become an associate MFT (AMFT) and perform over 3,000 hours of supervised work. Several paths are available to earn the necessary academic credentials, specifically through online MFT programs in California. Take a look at some of the following programs: 

Benefits of an Online MFT Program in California

Choosing an online Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program in California offers a unique blend of flexibility, quality education, and access to diverse clinical experiences. Here are some key benefits:

  • Flexibility and Accessibility: Online programs provide the convenience of learning from anywhere, ideal for students balancing other commitments. This flexibility allows for a more personalized and manageable approach to education.
  • Quality Education with Diverse Perspectives: California's diverse population offers a rich learning environment. Online programs often bring together students and faculty from various backgrounds, fostering a broader understanding of different family dynamics and cultural contexts in therapy.
  • State-Specific Training: Programs based in California are tailored to meet the state's specific licensure requirements. This is crucial for students intending to practice in California, as they receive education and training that align directly with state regulations and professional standards.
  • Networking Opportunities: California is home to a large community of mental health professionals. Online programs often include virtual networking opportunities, guest lectures, and webinars with practicing MFTs, providing valuable connections and insights into the local professional landscape.
  • Access to Diverse Clinical Placements: Though the coursework is online, practical training is a critical component. California's diverse communities offer a wide range of clinical placement opportunities, allowing students to gain hands-on experience in various settings.
  • Potential for Career Growth: California has a high demand for qualified MFTs, partly due to its large and diverse population. Graduates of online MFT programs in California may find ample opportunities for career growth and specialization in areas such as tech-related stress, multicultural family dynamics, and more.

An online MFT program in California not only equips students with the necessary skills and knowledge to become competent therapists but also provides unique advantages due to the state's diverse and dynamic environment.

Consider a Featured Online MFT Program

Accredited Online MFT Programs in California

There are several universities with accredited online MFT programs in California. Alliant International University is one example, offering a Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy.

Alliant International University's MA in Marital and Family Therapy Degree

Alliant International University's Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy is a 60-credit hour curriculum available in a virtual format, one of only a handful of COAMFTE-accredited programs to offer this. Example courses include Diversity and the Family, Introduction to Psychopathology, and Trauma and Crisis Intervention.

There's a special accredited concentration, Chemical Dependency, for students who want to work with patients struggling with alcohol and drug addiction.

Students will have 500 hours of hands-on training, which should prepare them to enter the workforce after graduation. This program normally takes at least two years to complete, and students can choose between the semester or term format.

Other COAMFTE-Accredited California MFT Programs

Additional California MFT programs that are available online include the following:

Northcentral University's MA in Marriage and Family Therapy

Northcentral University offers a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy, which can prepare students to help families as licensed therapists. The program also helps ensure that a graduate's therapy practice follows ethical standards and is culturally sensitive so that all patients feel comfortable in their sessions.

There are many specializations to customize the degree, including LGBTQ Couple and Family Therapy, Systemic Treatment of Addictions, Child and Adolescent Family Therapy, and Systemic Sex Therapy. At least 45 credit hours are needed to complete the program; this can be accomplished in approximately 33 months. New classes begin every Monday, providing easy flexibility for students to begin the program.

San Diego State University's MS in Marriage and Family Therapy

San Diego State University's Department of Counseling and School Psychology offers an MFT program specifically for full-time students. The program normally takes 2.5 years to complete, with three summers that start in June of the first school year and finish at the end of August.

Students can gain clinical experience through practicum sessions and therapy training, working with diverse cultural groups and exploring theories in marriage and family therapy. Graduates have commonly worked at nonprofit organizations, healthcare organizations, and private practices after completing this program. Example courses include Interventions with Children & Adolescents, Multicultural Counseling, and Psychopharmacology.

In line with state regulations, all approved MFT programs must include in-person practicum experience as outlined below:

Programs must have at least:

  • Six semesters or nine quarters of direct client contact practicum in a supervised clinical environment.
  • No less than 150 hours of face-to-face client experience with individuals, families, couples, or other groups.

In addition to 150 hours of face-to-face practical experience, there must also be 75 hours of either:

  • Client-focused advocacy, or
  • Additional face-to-face counseling experience with the individuals, groups, families, or couples from the initial 150 hours requirement.

Many of California's MFT licensing programs require students to find practicum placements for these requirements on their own within their home community. In addition, other programs have in-person meeting requirements. Some programs may only have a few in-person meetings, whereas others have regular in-person meeting requirements. Students should choose programs based on their own personal availability and ability to travel so these in-person meeting requirements don't pose a hardship on the student or their family.

What Is an MFT License?

An MFT license allows mental health and other therapeutic providers to offer services to individuals, families, groups, and couples. All licenses are monitored by California’s Board of Behavioral Sciences. Practitioners with an MFT licensure help people work through various facets of human behavior, interpersonally, relationally, and socially. A practitioner with an MFT license might work in a nonprofit, educational, healthcare, or private practice setting.

How to Become an MFT in California

When considering how to become an MFT in California, licensure is a critical first step. To obtain an MFT license, applicants should hold a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and become an AMFT. This normally requires paying a fee and completing an application, as well as providing fingerprints, recent photographs, and verification of education.

Applicants must pass a criminal background check and the California Law and Ethics Exam. This must be taken to renew the AMFT registration on an annual basis. After applicants complete 3,000 total supervised work hours in a postgraduate setting, they can take the clinical exam to become a licensed MFT (LMFT). There are slightly different guidelines for those looking to become certified for out-of-state practice, such as different fingerprinting procedures and verification forms.

With the MFT licensure, the practitioner proves:

  • They’ve met the minimum competency requirements for the field.
  • They can present themselves as licensed in marriage and family therapy.
  • They can provide the services as outlined in the law within the scope of marriage and family therapeutic practices.

The steps to obtaining an MFT in California are as follows:

Become an MFT trainee

MFT trainees are students who have completed at least 12 semesters in an MFT program and who are prepared to begin clinical experience.

Become an MFT associate

After graduating from the MFT program, the student registers with the Board of Behavioral Sciences and continues working towards licensure.

Complete hourly requirements

Graduates must complete at least 3,000 hours of face-to-face clinical experience working with patients. These hours must be completed within six years of graduation to qualify for the licensure exam.

Complete law and ethics exams annually

These exams must be taken every year until the graduate passes the licensure exam and becomes licensed as an MFT.

Take the licensure exam

The graduate becomes a licensed MFT after taking this exam and passing.

California Board of Behavioral Sciences

1625 North Market Blvd., Suite S-200

Sacramento, CA 95834


  • Marriage and Family Therapist and Marriage
  • Family Therapist Intern

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LMFT Careers and Salaries in California

The average annual salary for marriage and family therapists in the U.S. exceeds $56,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). MFT job growth is expected to grow 15% between 2022 and 2023, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

The average annual wage for marriage and family therapists in California exceeds $65,000, according to the BLS. California is the leading employer of MFTs and has the highest concentration of MFT employment, according to the BLS.

Typical LMFT Jobs and Work Environments in California

LMFT positions focus on how humans interact interpersonally, relationally, and socially. These practitioners may work in a nonprofit, educational, healthcare, or private practice settings.

Find the Right Online MFT Program in California

Looking for further options for popular online counseling programs, including MFT programs in California? Explore some of the available resources that outline programs accepting applications, detailed course information, and licensure tips. Find out more about getting an MFT education, and start your career in marriage and family therapy today.


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Popular Online MFT Programs

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Campus-Based COAMFTE Accredited California MFT Degrees

The COAMFTE (Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education) is the top accrediting board for MFT programs. Below is a list of COAMFTE accredited MFT programs in California. You can view online COAMFTE accredited MFT counseling programs or all California counseling degrees.

Alliant International University - Irvine
  • MA in Marital and Family Therapy
  • PsyD in MFT
Alliant International University - Los Angeles
  • MA in Marital and Family Therapy
  • PsyD in MFT
Alliant International University - Sacramento
  • MA in Marital and Family Therapy
  • PsyD in MFT
Alliant International University - San Diego
  • MA in Marital and Family Therapy
  • PsyD in MFT
Alliant International University
  • Online MA in Marital and Family Therapy
Bethel Seminary
  • MA in Marriage and Family Therapy
California State University - Northridge
  • MS in Marriage and Family Therapy
Chapman University
  • MA in Marriage and Family Therapy
Hope International University
  • MA in Marriage and Family Therapy
Loma Linda University
  • MS - MFT Program
  • Online DMFT
  • Online DMFT
  • PhD in MFT
San Diego State University
  • M.S. in Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy
University of San Diego
  • MA in Marital and Family Therapy
+ Go to the list of all California counseling programs.
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