MFT Degrees, Schools, and Careers in California
California is the most populous state in the United States; as such, it will not come as a surprise that California has a wealth of options for individuals that are hoping to pursue a graduate degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT). More specifically, there are eight programs that have received accreditation status from the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), several of which have multiple locations across the state.
Alliant International University represents the largest COAMFTE-accredited program in California, with five separate locations (Irvine, San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Francisco) and two separate degree programs—an M.A. program and a PsyD program in Martial and Family Therapy. The M.A. program is comprised of 60 credit hours and 500 hours of practicum therapy. Additionally, Alliant offers students the opportunity to pursue certificates in specialty areas that make them more competitive for the job market, including Chemical Dependency (available in San Diego), Gerontology (San Diego) , Infant-Preschooler Mental Health (Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and online), Latin American Family Therapy, and LBBT Humans Services and Mental Health (online). Students can choose to complete the M.A. in two years, or extend it over multiple years and pursue it part-time if that is more feasible with their current schedule. The PsyD program—available in the Irvine, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Sacramento— allows students that have completed the M.A. program to apply those credits toward their doctorate degree. According to Alliant’s website, completion of the Psy.D. entails completing 119 credits of coursework. Across both programs, students have access to excellent service centers in which to complete their practicum, including the Bay Area Psychological Service Center, San Diego MFT Consortium, and the Center for Innovation and Change (CIC).
Bethel University provides students with Masters-level training in MFT with a Christian theology focus. The program is 65 total credits and is held in the evenings, which makes it a great option for individuals hoping to pursue an MFT degree with a spiritual focus and hoping to maintain employment while pursuing their graduate degree.
Located in Orange, California, Chapman University offers a 60-credit, M.A. program in MFT. The program boasts the unique opportunity for students to complete some of their required clinical requirements onsite through the Frances Smith Center for Individual and Family Therapy, opened in 2011. The majority of students take between 2.5-3 years to complete the degree; of the courses required for the degree, the majority are offered during the evenings, which is a benefit for those who wish to continue working during their graduate education.
Hope International University in Fullerton, California offers an MFT program with a Christian focus, similar to the Bethel University program. The program requires students to complete 60-credits of on-campus coursework and clinical training hours, both within the program’s on-campus clinic (Hope Counseling Center), as well as in local practicum sites.
Loma Linda University, located in Loma Linda, California, boasts 3 COAMFTE-accredited programs, all of which provide clinical and theoretical training with a Christian emphasis. The M.S. program in Marital and Family Therapy requires students to complete 90 credits, either part-time (three years) or full-time (two years), including 500 clinical internship hours. Loma Linda University also offers a doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy (DMFT), comprised of 78-121 units (which includes 1,000 clinical contact hours) that students complete over the course of 3-4 years. Courses and requirements provide students with focus on clinical practice, program development, implementation, and evaluation.
Finally, the university offers a PhD program in Systems, Families, and Couples. Students pursuing this degree can choose to specialize in either Family Studies or Marriage and Family Therapy. In contrast with traditional master’s level- other other doctoral-level MFT programs, graduates from the PhD program at Loma Linda often pursue work within academia, becoming professors and supervisors at universities across the nation. In line with this objective, students complete an array of research, practicum, and professional development training experiences.
San Diego State University offers a two-year, 60-credit face-to-face masters-level training program in Marriage and Family Therapy with a multi-cultural emphasis. Students in the program conduct therapy during 500 face-to-face hours at the on-site Center for Community Counseling and Engagement (CCCE), as well as local practicum sites.
Finally, the University of San Diego offers a 60-credit Master of Arts in Marital and Family Therapy. Student complete their coursework and comprehensive examination under the larger framework of the biopsychosocial perspective. The practicum offered to students within the program is a 3 semester sequence wherein students complete at least 500 face-to-face hours with clients and 200 hours of supervision with qualified staff. The settings in which students can complete these practicum are varied, including the Veterans Centers of San Diego, the University of California, San Diego Eating Disorders Center, the UCSD Division of Family Medicine, and Rady Children’s Outpatient Psychiatry, among others.
In addition to the programs that are accredited by COAMFTE, there are around 70 other MFT graduate programs unaccredited, and plenty of programs within counseling or other related fields that offer some training in marriage and family therapy skills. For instance, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) has accredited three programs within California that offer specialized marriage- and family-based counseling programs: California State University—Fresno, California State University—Northridge, and San Francisco State University. The programs at Fresno State and San Francisco State will allow graduates to meet the standards for and apply for licensure. The program at CSU-Northridge explicitly states that more training and education will be needed for students hoping to meet licensure eligibility requirements. However, it is recommended that anyone that wishes to practice as an MFT in California check out the licensure requirements for the state and ensure that any program that they are considering meets these requirements!
Online MFT Degrees in California
California is one of the only states in the nation that offers online-only graduate training in marriage and family therapy. Northcentral University offers both masters’ (M.A.) and doctoral (PhD) programs in MFT. Northcentral University was the first online distance-based program to receive accreditation from COAMFTE, and offers great flexibility for individuals that are not able to travel to a campus for classes. Capella University does not have a location in California but it offers a national online Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy that is accredited by the COAMFTE as well.
Learn more about an online MFT degree.
MFT Accreditation in California
When a program is considered “accredited,” that means that its structure and content has been given a stamp of approval by a given organization. For Marriage and Family Therapy, the preeminent national organization is the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), which is an outgrowth of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).
Many states now look to COAMFTE when determining their licensure requirements. However, just because a given program hasn’t been accredited by COAMFTE doesn’t mean that a degree from that program is useless—it could be the case that the program is accredited by another organization (if it is a more general counseling program, for instance) or meets the California educational requirements for licensure.
Career Opportunities for MFTs in California
Overall, marriage and family therapy is considered to be one of the fastest growing disciplines in the field of mental health. Additionally, the U.S. News’ List of “Best Jobs” listed MFT as one of the top 20 careers in the area of social services. California currently employs almost half of all MFTs in the USA—with 28,910 individuals currently employed, earning a mean salary of $65,320.
Certain areas of California, including San Jose, Yuba City, and Vallejo have higher mean salaries, ranging from $79,250 to $89,080. The exact area and salary that an MFT based in California will earn will depend on a number of factors, including their licensure status, the amount of time that they have been working, and the place that they are working—MFTs can work in private practice, in hospital settings, within the national (e.g., the US Veteran’s Association), state, or local governments, within residential treatment facilities, or within school settings. Read up on the CA MFT licensure requirements.
2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics job market trends and salary figures for marriage and family therapists are based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed August 2023.
Marriage and Family Therapists Salary in California
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division||$28,000||$34,560||$45,320||$56,830||$67,280|
|Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Division||$40,200||$49,030||$58,150||$79,110||$96,320|
|Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA||$38,490||$43,450||$51,310||$60,620||$73,120|
|Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||$30,680||$37,950||$52,840||$59,960||$68,350|
|San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA||$32,160||$41,240||$46,990||$56,490||$68,350|
|San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA Metropolitan Division||$39,740||$44,480||$55,150||$79,130||$91,320|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||$40,940||$45,250||$52,650||$60,820||$82,370|
|Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, CA Metropolitan Division||$34,130||$40,280||$53,270||$67,500||$75,800|
|Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, CA||$31,800||$43,350||$62,150||$72,230||$78,280|
|Santa Rosa-Petaluma, CA||$36,470||$51,110||$71,220||$85,570||$94,610|
Table data taken from 2020 BLS (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211013.htm)