Even the strongest family units encounter conflicts and challenges that are difficult to overcome without professional help. If you’re interested in becoming a family therapist or enhancing your current practice, a Ph.D. in Family Counseling will give you the tools to reach your goal.
With a Ph.D. in Family Counseling, you can work in research, supervision, or teaching. You’ll mentor, train, and educate future mental health professionals to make a positive impact on society. These programs will equip you with current theory and best practices, research methods, teaching skills, and the ability to provide compassionate service to diverse populations.
The best part is that these degree programs are fully online. That means you can continue working while advancing your education. Completing coursework any time, anywhere, allows you to take the next step in your career without having to make major sacrifices. Ready to get started? Read on to discover the best online Ph.D.s in Family Counseling!
What kind of Ph.D. in Family Counseling should you get?
You should choose a Ph.D. in Family Counseling that aligns with your career goals. Some degrees may emphasize advanced counseling skills, while others may focus on teaching, research, and supervision. In addition, you may want to seek out a program with faculty members who specialize in your area(s) of interest.
Doctoral programs in this field are available online and on campus. Of course, pursuing your degree online gives you the flexibility to continue working while advancing your education. If you’re interested in an online degree but unsure if Family Counseling is the path for you, browse our list of the Best Online Colleges and Universities.
How much money do people make with a Ph.D. in Family Counseling?
A Ph.D. is not required to be a family counselor, but it can help you earn a higher salary than a master’s. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, marriage and family therapists earn a median salary of $50,090. However, the highest 10 percent earned $82,240. A Ph.D. would put you closer to this figure.
In addition, earning your Ph.D. opens more doors, including the possibility of becoming a professor. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that postsecondary teachers earn a median salary of $78,740. The highest 10 percent earn over $175,000. This number may be even higher for professors at research universities, a position that you’d be qualified for with a Ph.D.
Both of these careers are growing much faster than average. Demand for therapists is expected to increase by 23 percent over the next decade, with demand for professors increasing by 15 percent.
What can you do with a Ph.D. in Family Counseling?
A Ph.D. in Family Counseling prepares you for careers in research, teaching, supervision, and counseling. You can mentor, supervise, and train future mental health professionals, or you can expand your own skills and marketability as a therapist.
You can work in private practice, social service agency, mental health or substance abuse center, hospital, government agency, school, or research university. Some pastors and other religious leaders also provide marriage and family counseling, so you may choose to work in a religious setting.
What are the requirements for a Ph.D. in Family Counseling?
Some of these programs will require you to have a master’s degree, while other programs allow you to earn your master’s degree as you complete Ph.D. requirements. You’ll need to submit transcripts and, in some cases, test scores, a resume, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement or writing sample.
Once enrolled, you’ll complete coursework related to counseling theory and practices, assessment and diagnosis, issues common to families and couples, research methods, and supervision and/or teaching. You will write and defend a dissertation and may be required to pass a comprehensive exam. In most cases, you’ll also complete a variety of supervised field experiences in counseling, supervision, and/or teaching.
What are the best online Ph.D.s in Family Counseling?
To help you reach your academic and career goals, we’ve compiled a list of the eight best online Ph.D.s in Family Counseling. We measure “best” using criteria like school reputation, tuition costs, accreditation, and overall return on investment.
Our information and data come from trusted sources such as:
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- U.S. News and World Report
- Princeton Review
- Official university websites and course catalog
Whether you want to advance your counseling skills or prepare for a career in research, teaching, or supervision, you’ll find that these convenient, quality programs meet your needs.
College Choice Score: 100.00
Average Net Price: $26,954
Based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University is one of the largest Christian universities in the world. The private university enrolls more than 100,000 students across 17 colleges and schools, as well as online. In total, Liberty offers more than 600 unique academic programs, with over 400 available online. One of Liberty’s 300 online graduate programs is an Ed.D in Community Care and Counseling: Marriage and Family.
Liberty University offers a 57-credit Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling: Marriage and Family. The degree prepares students to provide professional counseling that addresses the challenges faced by children, couples, and families. The Ed.D degree can be completed in as little as three years and consists of an integrated dissertation and courses like:
- Trauma and Current Issues in Marital Counseling
- Premarital and Remarriage Counseling
- Marriage Counseling
- Assessment in Marital and Family Counseling
- Family Development
Applicants are not required to have current state licensure for clinical counseling. The degree prepares students to work in a licensed clinical counseling role or an alternative counseling ministry. Online students have access to an Online Writing Center, online library, Online Student Life, helpful academic advisors, and a partnership with Tutor.com.
University of Louisiana Monroe
College Choice Score: 99.31
Average Net Price: $10,787
Founded in 1931, the University of Louisiana Monroe is a public university that is part of the University of Louisiana System. The university serves more than 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students. ULM is committed to research, creative activity, service, and instruction. Degrees are offered across five colleges and schools, with many programs also available online. ULM’s College of Health Sciences offers an online Ph.D. in Systemic Studies.
The Doctor of Philosophy in System Studies at ULM consists of 60-semester units and a dissertation. It’s a scholarly, theory-based study of applied system theory and is nonclinical in emphasis. The program combines creativity and rigor, focusing on the origin and practices of systemic family therapy and transformational processes. Courses are interdisciplinary and include:
- Family Systems I and II
- The Art of Creative Transformation
- Family Therapy I and II
- Advanced Family Study/Human Development
- Couple and Marital Therapy
Students typically complete coursework in two years, with an additional one to three years spent on the dissertation. Courses are seminar-style, and students are expected to participate in discussions about course content and its real-world application. It’s designed for educators, scholars, coaches, healers, counselors, clinicians, and other professionals interested in the contexts that advance change and transformation.
College Choice Score: 98.90
Average Net Price: $6,849
A private university in Montgomery, Alabama, Amridge University was founded in 1967 and is affiliated with the Churches of Christ. The university provides quality education and teaching excellence across five schools. Since 1993, Amridge has also provided distance learning opportunities. Distance learning is now the primary delivery system for all of Amridge’s programs, and the university supports students through a variety of online tools and resources. Amridge offers an online Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy.
The Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy consists of 60 semester hours and is a rigorous, research-oriented program. Students explore theories of marriage and family therapy, research, cultural diversity, human development, and issues such as abuse and addiction. Students are required to complete a dissertation, pass a comprehensive exam, and complete courses like:
- Integrative Models of Marriage and Family Therapy
- Applied Adult Development
- Relational Sexual Therapy
- Strategies to Reduce Marriage and Family Dysfunction
- Systemic Interventions in Abusive Relationships
This degree is not designed to prepare students for professional licensure. Applicants who have not already completed coursework for licensure may need to take additional courses. The program may be completed on a full-time or part-time basis. Students who pursue the degree full-time may complete it in four years.
College Choice Score: 86.94
Average Net Price: Not reported
Northcentral University is an online university based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Established in 1996, NCU aims to make higher education more accessible worldwide, especially for busy working professionals. With its unique learning model, NCU courses are taught one-to-one by professors who hold doctorate degrees. Degree programs are designed to be professionally relevant, innovative, and highly personalized. One of NCU’s unique programs is a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy.
NCU’s Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy consists of 63-99 credit hours. Students develop critical thinking and research skills while gaining the knowledge needed to become effective, ethical, and culturally sensitive marriage and family therapists. The program is COAMFTE and IACSTE accredited. Students choose from eight professionally relevant specializations, including:
- Child and Adolescent Therapy
- Couple Therapy
- General Family Therapy
- Therapy with Military Families
- Medical Family Therapy
The Director of Clinical Field Placements works with students to find a local site to complete a practicum and nine-month internship. During the practicum and internship, students meet online with a Northcentral faculty member and two to five other students to discuss the experience, as well as clinical skills and knowledge.
Texas Woman’s University
College Choice Score: 84.76
Average Net Price: $9,129
Texas Woman’s University is proud to be recognized as the largest university primarily for women in the country. The school serves around 15,000 students. The university is a member of the Women’s College Coalition and was founded as a school for women, but it currently enrolls both women and men. Its main campus is in Denton, Texas, but the network also has additional campuses in Dallas and Houston. TWU is known for its innovative online degree programs, including a Ph.D. in Family Therapy accredited by COAMFTE.
TWU’s Doctor of Philosophy in Family Therapy trains systemic family therapists to become advanced clinicians, supervisors, educators, and researchers. The program is 60 credits, including a dissertation. Students develop the skills and knowledge to contribute to family therapy scholarship and theory. They work with diverse populations and gain a multicultural, multi-systemic perspective. Courses include:
- Clinical Diagnosis and Treatment Planning for Counselors
- Foundations of Family Therapy Theory
- Advanced Applications of Family Therapy to Contemporary Issues
- Theory Building in Family Sciences
- Effective College Teaching Methods
Students benefit from opportunities to present at state and national conferences. TWU’s Ph.D. in Family Therapy prepares students to take the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists licensure exam. Applicants who reside in other states should contact the department to determine whether the program fulfills their state’s licensing requirements.
University of Akron
College Choice Score: 82.33
Average Net Price: $16,863
A public research university based in Akron, Ohio, the University of Akron offers courses throughout the region and online. It was founded in 1870 and is known for its innovative approach to higher education and for providing wide-ranging, real-world opportunities to students. The collection of 20,000 students at Akron can choose from a variety of in-demand programs, including many that are nationally recognized for excellence. UA offers an online Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy.
Students in UA’s Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy program prepare for careers as supervisors, researchers, teachers, and advanced practitioners in the field. The program is accredited by COAMFTE and requirements include a supervised practicum and internship, a dissertation, and a comprehensive exam. Program faculty have varied areas of focus, including:
- Substance Abuse
- Partner Violence/Domestic Abuse
- Medical Family Therapy
For students who still need to earn a master’s, the program consists of 120 semester hours. The required internship is nine months and includes training in individual, couples, and family therapy, in addition to completing coursework in systemic supervision. Students must maintain clinical activity throughout the program to ensure appropriate preparation for a career in counseling and therapy.
Trevecca Nazarene University
College Choice Score: 77.44
Average Net Price: $19,480
Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee is a private Christian liberal arts college that was founded in 1901. The university emphasizes a holistic education and helps students grow intellectually, spiritually, socially, and emotionally. Trevecca is the only Nazarene university ranked among the nation’s best by U.S. News and World Report. TNU offers classes at five locations in the Southeast and online classes worldwide, including a Ph.D. in Clinical Counseling.
As a part of TNU’s Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Counseling program, students may choose the Marriage and Family cognate. They enhance their compassionate counseling skills, develop their research abilities, and build the leadership skills needed to supervise, mentor, and train future mental health professionals. The program was established in 2007 and can be completed in three years. Courses include:
- Specialized Systemic Family Therapy
- Diagnosis and Treatment of Sexual Disorders
- Preventative Approaches: Premarital Therapy and Enrichment Activities
- Technology and Teaching Strategies in Counselor Education
- Supervision Models
This degree requires 66 credit hours. Students complete internships in counseling, supervision, and teaching. They also write and defend a dissertation, accounting for a total of 27 credit hours. Other requirements include a 21-hour core, a six-hour marriage and family cognate, and a six-hour supervision/teaching course sequence.
Antioch University New England
College Choice Score: 74.32
Average Net Price: Not reported
Based in Keene, New Hampshire, Antioch University New England is a private graduate school that is the oldest university in the Antioch University system. The university is committed to furthering social justice and activism, and every program includes an experiential component. AU New England offers graduate programs in management, education, environmental studies, clinical psychology, and counseling and therapy. This includes an online Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy.
AU New England’s Doctor of Philosophy in Marriage and Family Therapy emphasizes social justice applications to marriage and family therapy. Students receive the training needed for careers in research, leadership, supervision, and academia. The 86 to 89 credit program can be completed in three years of full-time study. The degree combines practical experiences with coursework such as:
- Advanced Clinical Skills in Marriage and Family Therapy
- Advanced Relational/Systemic Clinical Theory
- Marriage and Family Therapy Supervision
- Teaching/Leadership/Consultation in Marriage and Family Therapy
- Advanced Research Methods and Applications
This program has been accredited by COAMFTE since 2010. Although it’s online, students are expected to attend four face-to-face residencies annually. Each residency is three to five days long and blends seminars, advising sessions, guest lectures, student presentations, peer discussions, and workshops. Students also complete a dissertation and a clinical training component.