Online COAMFTE Accredited Programs To Consider

Reviewed by: Megan Kelly, MA, LMHC

Editor’s note: This article provides a brief but helpful overview of The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), what it takes to become an LMFT, and a variety of different schools and programs students can consider as they begin their journey. Read on for more information about pursuing an online COAMFTE accredited program in marriage and family therapy.

Becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) can be a fulfilling career path for college graduates interested in counseling. Students just beginning this process may be curious about their different learning options and what to look for during their search. The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) is an accreditation agency that specifically reviews marriage and family therapy degree programs.

COAMFTE-accredited programs are found in both traditional and online environments. Online MFT programs are flexible alternatives for aspiring marriage and family therapists who have busy schedules or require distance education, but who still want to become LMFTs. Throughout this guide, you can learn more about actual accredited online MFT programs and what it might take for you to become licensed as an LMFT in this field.

According to Megan Kelly, MA, LMHC in Indiana, “there are many branches of therapy and counseling careers to choose from, and marriage and family therapy is a much-needed and often fulfilling role for many prospective therapists. Choosing the right online MFT program can make all the difference in your future career, and a COAMFTE accredited program is a great place to start.”

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COAMFTE is the leading agency for accredited MFT programs. The goal of this organization is to provide a review and accreditation process for current MFT degree programs to ensure the quality and applicability of MFT programs offered across the U.S.

COAMFTE provides accreditation options for both traditional and online degree programs in marriage and family therapy. There are three types of programs that students can earn accreditation through at this organization: master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, and postgraduate degree clinical training programs.

Since 1974, COAMFTE has worked to create a reliable set of standards for accredited MFT programs in this field and has moved on to accredit only the most reliable degree options and programs for incoming learners. This guide will outline different options for in-person or online degree programs at multiple levels.

Students searching for accredited online MFT programs or traditional accredited MFT programs should familiarize themselves with COAMFTE and its review process. Each degree program that has received accreditation holds only the highest level of quality within its curriculum and instructional process.

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☰ For detailed degree information, view the guides to:
Online CACREP Accredited programs | Online MPCAC Accredited programs

Why Consider an Online COAMFTE Accredited Counseling Program?

Many adults and non-traditional students need to pursue higher education while also working full-time careers or taking care of other obligations. Online degree programs often provide more flexible and sustainable options for individuals who are working or who have busy schedules. There are also several reasons that students should consider an online COAMFTE accredited program.

COAMFTE Ensures the Quality of the MFT Program

When deciding to pursue an online degree program, students should also consider the quality of the degree program they are reviewing. One way to ensure that a degree program can provide students with opportunities for licensure is to review the program’s accreditation status. COAMFTE accredited degree programs ensure that the curriculum meets the quality and content standards necessary to prepare students for their future careers in marriage and family therapy.

COAMFTE Ensures Course Material and Practicum Align with LMFT Licensure

COAMFTE reviews and approves degree programs in marriage and family therapy. If the program being reviewed holds this type of accreditation, learners can rest assured that their program contains the correct course materials and practicum experiences required for future licensing.

Choosing a COAMFTE accredited online program often means a high-quality education with the flexibility needed by busy adult professionals looking to advance their careers. COAMFTE accreditation standards are based on a program’s ability to prepare students to fulfill their roles in the community and professional climate. Current standards are based on a more inclusive definition of marriage and family to reflect changing societal values. COAMFTE also ensures that students are prepared to follow the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) Code of Ethics that MFT professionals must adhere to. COAMFTE is a Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognized accreditor.


The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is a CHEA recognized accreditor for U.S. counseling programs.

CACREP was established in 1981 and set the standard for the content and quality that an online or a traditional counseling degree program would have to meet to be accredited. CACREP currently covers 880 specialty areas and programs at 406 colleges and universities.

When considering COAMFTE vs. CACREP, there are several factors to think about. While CACREP is an accreditor for all types of counseling degrees, it is not as specific as COAMFTE, which is focused solely on MFT degree programs. Those looking specifically to be MFTs should be able to decide between COAMFTE vs. CACREP without much difficulty. COAMFTE accredited online programs can offer an education more specific to marriage and family therapy. However, students who are not certain what specialization to pursue may also find CACREP accredited programs useful, as they can provide more generalized education in counseling.

Online COAMFTE MFT Master’s Degrees

There are numerous online COAMFTE accredited programs to explore for students looking to pursue a career in marriage and family therapy. This article details featured programs available from Alliant International University, Capella University, Northcentral University, and ​​Syracuse University.

Alliant International University’s Online MA MFT Program

Program: Online Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy

Alliant International University offers an online Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy for incoming students to pursue. In addition to the standard MFT track, students may choose to pursue a specialization in Chemical Dependency as part of the degree program.

Courses in this program include the following: 

  • Diversity and the Family 
  • Couples Therapy 
  • Preparing for Community Practice

Alliant International University offers additional degree programs in Clinical Counseling and School Counseling for interested learners. The Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) option of the MFT degree program is currently only available on select campuses through this university.

Capella University’s Online MS MFT

Program: Online Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy

Capella University offers a completely online Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy. This 16-course accredited online MFT program can be an excellent option for learners interested in helping clients in a therapeutic setting. 

Courses in this program include the following: 

  • Diversity and Social Justice in Systemic Family Therapy
  • Psychopathology
  • The Impact of Addiction and Addictive Behavior on Family Systems

Capella University also offers master’s degrees in alternative counseling fields, such as Clinical Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling, and Addiction Studies. Each of these degree options can put learners in touch with populations in need of therapeutic guidance.

Northcentral University’s Online MA MFT

Program: Online Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

The online Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy offered through Northcentral University can provide learners with the flexibility needed to advance their careers. This online program currently holds accreditation from COAMFTE and includes 45 credit hours of coursework. 

This program offers multiple specializations including a California licensure track, Couple Therapy, LGBTQ Couple and Family Therapy, Military Family Therapy, Systemic Treatment of Addictions, Child and Adolescent Family Therapy, Medical Family Therapy, Trauma Informed Systemic Therapy, and Systemic Sex Therapy.

Courses in this program include the following:

  • Treatment Planning and Traditional Family Therapy
  • Recovery-Oriented Care and Postmodern Family Therapy
  • Family Therapy with Children

Northcentral University also offers other diverse degree options at the master’s level, including some in General Psychology and Gender Diversity Psychology. The Master of Social Work could be another option for professionals interested in counseling careers in the future.

Syracuse University’s Online MA MFT

Program: Online Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy

Syracuse University currently provides an online Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy to incoming counseling prospects. This accredited MFT program consists of 60 required credit hours, with all coursework provided in the online setting. Since this program can lead to licensing, it includes an in-person practicum requirement that provides guidance and learning opportunities for future professionals in the field. 

Courses in this program include the following: 

  • Family Therapy Across the Life Cycle
  • Introduction to Family Systems
  • Couples Therapy, Theory, and Techniques

Syracuse University offers dynamic online master’s programs in both MFT and social work for students interested in providing therapeutic services to individuals in need. Certificate programs in Child Therapy and Trauma-Informed Practice may also be available after completing these master’s programs.

Online COAMFTE MFT Doctoral Degrees

There are also several COAMFTE accredited programs available for students looking to pursue a doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy. Like other online degrees, online doctoral degree programs can offer students the flexibility to maintain other careers or prior commitments.  

Loma Linda University’s Online DMFT

Program: Online DMFT in Marital and Family Therapy

The Doctor of Marital and Family Therapy (DMFT) offered by Loma Linda University is currently the only online DMFT COAMFTE accredited program in the U.S. This doctoral program can provide students with a high-quality curriculum developed for leaders in the MFT field.This is a 3-year, 77 quarter unit program that is offered fully online with synchronous and asynchronous courses.

Courses in this program may include the following: 

  • Advanced Theory in Marital and Family Therapy
  • Program Development for Families and Communities
  • Wholeness and Health

Alternative online doctoral programs offered through Loma Linda University include the PhD in Systems, Families, and Couples. This research-oriented degree program can allow learners to develop meaningful solutions and treatments to common relationship struggles within the family network.

Northcentral University’s Online PhD MFT

Program: Online Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy

Northcentral University offers the Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy to learners in the online environment. This COAMFTE accredited program requires that students complete 63 credit hours, which can be completed in around 56 months total.

Specialization options for the PhD-MFT program include Child and Adolescent Therapy; General Family Therapy; Therapy with Military Families; Culture, Diversity, and Social Justice in a Global Context; Couple Therapy; Medical Family Therapy; Education and Supervision; and Systemic Leadership.

Courses in this program include the following: 

  • Advanced Theories in Marriage and Family Therapy 
  • Dynamics of Family Interaction
  • Scholarly Literature Review in Marriage and Family Therapy

Northcentral University also provides learners with the option of pursuing a doctorate in marriage and family therapy, allowing learners to view the field from a clinical perspective. PhD in Psychology programs can also be an option for students considering this university.

LMFT Licensure

Individuals interested in becoming LMFTs will be subject to licensing guidelines within their state. Each state has its own unique requirements for prospective licensees, with most pulling from a generalized set of educational and practical expectations.

View the full write-up on LMFT licensure.

The minimum degree requirement for LMFTs in most states is a master’s degree. A student’s master’s program should focus on marriage and family therapy and hold the right type of accreditation for this program, such as accreditation from COAMFTE.

Why a Master’s in MFT for Licensure?         

Earning a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy provides students with a broad base of knowledge and skills, with which they can appropriately support their clients throughout their careers. Compared to bachelor’s programs, master’s programs are more specialized and provide students with more intensive learning experiences, usually with an in-person fieldwork component that bachelor programs don’t always require. Fieldwork options can provide learners with the on-site experience that are typically required to graduate, and which they’re required to have earned  before engaging in later supervised experience requirements following graduation.

Expect Many Hours of Supervised Clinical Experience           

Most states require MFT graduates to work for 1-3 years, or for a certain number of hours, under the direct supervision of a qualified clinical supervisor. This is often in addition to the supervised experience requirements that students must fulfill during their MFT masters degree programs. Supervisors are generally required to have at least two years of experience in the MFT field or a 36-hour training in supervision, however requirements to be a clinical supervisor will vary by state.

 Supervised experience during your degree program, as well as after graduation, allows time for evaluation, feedback about performance, and suggestions for improvement in skills and treatment methods. It also helps protect against harm to clients.

Sitting for the AMFTRB MFT Exam       

After completing all supervision requirements, candidates for licensure typically must sit for the MFT National Examination by the Association of Marital & Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB). This exam tests applicants on their knowledge of the field, as well as common practice guidelines learned during field training.

Completion of supervised experience and passing the board examination can lead to licensing within each state. Applicants are encouraged to review their state’s licensing requirements prior to submitting a final application.

What Career Options Are There for an MFT?

There are several career options for students graduating from an online COAMFTE accredited program. Here are some of the common career paths for LMFTs. 

Family Behavioral Therapists               

Some licensed MFTs pursue careers as family behavioral therapists. This career option can include identifying difficult, problematic, or troublesome behaviors within families or certain family members, and providing treatment plans  for alternative behaviors within the home environment.

School Counselors           

School counselors may also be required to have MFT degrees since many of the duties of this position are completed with students and their families. Some counseling positions outside education may also be occupied by MFT graduates.

MFT in Human Services              

Human services facilities and institutions can also employ MFTs for positions of leadership and counseling. Employees may be responsible for coordinating care for specific community groups or supervising case manager specialists in the field.

Other MFT Areas              

Specific counseling career options like substance abuse counselors and child and family counselors may also be available to graduates of this field. Having specific types of licensure in certain states could also potentially lead to careers in independent practice.

Find COAMFTE Accredited Online Programs

Becoming an MFT can be a fulfilling experience and offer a variety of career paths to choose from. COAMFTE accredited online programs can be a great stepping stone to begin your career and choose what type of MFT you would like to become. Explore some of the resources below to learn more about the specifics of becoming an MFT and what types of areas you can work in.

Association of Marital & Family Regulatory Boards
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education, About COAMFTE
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education, COAMFTE Accreditation
Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education, COAMFTE Accreditation Standards Version 12
Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs
Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, Counseling Specialties
Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, Why Should I Choose an Accredited Program?

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