25 Best Online MFT Programs [Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy]

Online MFT programs can provide the specialized training that you need for pursuing a career as a professional therapist who makes a difference in people’s lives. In this career, you may counsel individuals and groups about their family relationships and personal struggles.

Online MFT Programs

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Working as a therapist is a serious responsibility, so master’s-level training is required. Your online graduate program should cover counseling strategies, family dynamics and mental health in preparation for becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Online Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy Programs

Marriage Therapist having a consultation with a couple in her office

Family dynamics are at the heart of some of life’s most important relationships. Unfortunately, it’s common for these relationships to get knocked off course. A masters in marriage and family therapy can prepare you to help people improve their interactions with loved ones.

To get ready for this career, you’ll need to study counseling theories and practical tips for working with individuals and families. The classes may address professional ethics, multicultural communication and human development.

Some of your courses may cover specific challenges that therapists often face. For example, you may take a class on helping clients through the grieving process. Other courses may cover addiction, mental illness, behavior disorders and sexuality.

You should also learn to work with different groups of people. The strategies you use with teenage clients may not be the same as those for married couples.

During your time in school, you may visit local therapy facilities. Many programs include practicum components in which students observe therapists at work. Others feature semester-long internships in which students carry out entry-level therapy tasks.

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After graduation, you’ll probably need to spend additional time in the field before getting licensed. To meet your state’s licensure requirements, you might need to gain up to 4,000 hours of professional experience under the supervision of a qualified therapist. After that, you may be ready to apply for licensure.

As a marriage and family therapist, you’ll probably provide counseling services related to family dynamics. This often includes couples’ therapy and parent-child counseling. You’ll also need to be prepared to help people with their individual issues since those often affect personal relationships.

You may provide counseling for just one person at a time, or you may see two or more family members during the same session. Some clients may want to participate in facilitated group therapy in which people with similar backgrounds share and offer support for one another.

Marriage and family therapists often work in private practice offices. Others find jobs in inpatient or outpatient facilities. Work may be available in hospitals, rehabilitation centers and long-term care facilities. You may also get a job providing therapy services in a business setting.

Marriage and Family Therapy Careers & Salaries

Marriage and Family Therapy Careers & Salaries

Marriage and family therapists are in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the need for MFT professionals will increase by 22% for the next ten years. That’s nearly 15,000 jobs that will be added to this field.

The driving force behind this job growth is an increased emphasis on integrated care. As an MFT, you may join a team of other mental and physical health professionals who work together to help people improve their wellbeing and their daily lives.

Plus, the counseling field as a whole is growing. Many people are turning to trained therapists for help with their problems. Some clients have diagnosed behavioral or mental disorders. Others simply need help handling the daily stresses and challenges of life.

Many MFT graduates go into private practice, whether on their own or with a group of therapists. In such a position, you might specialize in a particular type of therapy, such as marriage, addiction or adolescent counseling.

There are many other settings that depend on trained counselors. You could work in a school, an addiction treatment facility, a group home, a hospital, a mental health center or a medical practice. Counselors are needed in the criminal justice system as well.

Community organizations rely on professional therapists too. You might hold a supervisory position in one of these agencies. The job might entail overseeing the staff members who run programs.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a marriage and family therapist is $51,340.

Careers Annual Median Salary
Industrial-organizational Psychologist $96,270
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologist $79,820
Social and Community Service Manager $69,600
School and Career Counselor $58,120
Probation Officer and Correctional Treatment Specialist $55,690
Social Worker $51,760
Marriage and Family Therapist $51,340
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $47,660
Rehabilitation Counselor $37,530
Social and Human Service Assistant $35,960

Some of these careers will require separate training or licensure from your MFT. For example, you’ll have to earn a doctorate before working as a psychologist, but your master’s in marriage and family therapy may help you get a spot in a doctoral program.

In addition, pursuing a specific specialization for your counseling degree can help you prepare for the correlating careers. For instance, a master’s in mental health counseling is worth it if you are aiming to become a Mental Health Counselor.

Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy Curriculum & Courses

married couple having a consultation with a therapist

Most MFT programs require around 60 credit hours of study. Some classes in these programs provide a broad overview of the field of marriage and family therapy. Others delve into specific aspects of working with various clients. A few example classes that you may take in this program are:

  • Addiction Counseling: To help individuals and families who are affected by addiction, this class covers studies in substance abuse, sex addictions, eating disorders and gambling.
  • Behavioral and Mental Disorders: This class is designed to prepare students to assess clients and provide treatment plans for their diagnosed disorders.
  • Family Diversity: This course provides strategies for working with people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and offering counseling services for various types of families.
  • Foundations of Marriage and Family Therapy: This introductory course covers counseling theories and highlights some of the professional paths available to marriage and family therapists.
  • Ethics for Counseling Professionals: You should leave this class with a clear understanding of how to conduct yourself with integrity, protect clients’ privacy and maintain appropriate boundaries.
  • Human Development: This course discusses how people change and grow over the lifespan and how development affects family dynamics and counseling strategies.
  • Human Sexuality: Students in this class study the biology and sociology of sexual relationships and learn to provide counseling related to this topic.
  • Research in Therapy: It’s important to stay on top of the latest developments in your field, so this class can equip students with the tools needed to understand others’ research or conduct studies of their own.
  • Therapy for Children and Adolescents: This class explores effective counseling strategies for youths at each stage of their development.
  • Therapy for Couples: This class addresses strategies for helping couples improve their communication and work through their struggles.

In addition to taking online classes, you may partner with a local therapy organization for hands-on experiences. Your school may require practicums, internships or both.

Admissions Requirements

Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy student studying in a cafe

Each university sets its own policies about what it takes to get into a marriage and family therapy program. For example, one might stipulate a minimum undergraduate GPA, but another might emphasize professional history.

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Despite these differences, you’re likely to see common application requirements like:

  • Form and fee: You’ll need to fill out an application with basic information and pay an application fee.
  • References: Schools may want to talk to people who have worked with you in professional or academic settings.
  • Personal statement: There may be an essay or a cover letter in which you can outline your professional goals.
  • Transcripts: A record of previous coursework will give schools an understanding of the knowledge that you’ll bring to the table.

Some schools rely on GRE scores when admitting students to graduate programs, but that requirement is becoming less common. Many universities have moved away from standardized tests entirely. Others grant waivers to qualified applicants.

Accreditation

Online MFT Programs [Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy] Accreditation

Reputable college degrees come from regionally accredited schools. Regional accreditation is earned through a review process by an independent organization. There are seven U.S. organizations that grant regional accreditation to American colleges.

If a school is regionally accredited, that means it has proven its ability to provide a solid education. In any of the college’s programs, you can count on an academic experience that meets accreditors’ standards.

Regional accreditation is invaluable if you want to transfer graduate credits elsewhere or apply to a doctoral program. An accredited degree is also looked at more favorably by employers.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

financial aid for Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy students

Graduate school isn’t cheap, but applying for financial assistance can help bring down the cost of a college education. Government financial aid can make a big difference in your overall tuition responsibilities. Some students qualify for state or federal grants, which are like free money for college.

Many students are able to get government loans. This borrowed money does have to be repaid with interest, but the interest rates are usually reasonable. Taking out state or federal student loans can allow you to spread your school costs out over time.

To learn about your eligibility for government aid programs, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

You can supplement your student aid with college assistance from private sources. Scholarships and fellowships may help with the cost of tuition, books or enrichment activities. You may be able to apply for funds from professional organizations or local charities.

What Can You Do With an Online Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy Degree?

Marriage Therapist talking to a couple in her office

Most people with this master’s degree pursue jobs as marriage and family therapists. If you want to counsel individuals, couples or families about their personal and relationship issues, then this might be the right degree for you.

As an MFT, you might see clients in a private practice. You might also work for a hospital, a residential facility, a school or a correctional center. Churches, corporations and the military hire therapists too.

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Some MFT graduates get jobs with government or nonprofit social service agencies. Your master’s degree may qualify you for administrative or supervisory roles in these organizations.

How Much Does an Online Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy Program Cost?

Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy student studying online

Online MFT programs often cost between $500 and $1,000 per credit hour. Of course, there are some schools that far exceed that range as well.

Most MFT programs require around 60 credit hours. To calculate a school’s tuition cost, multiply the number of credit hours by the cost per hour. Add in any technology fees or other expenses, such as books or travel.

Remember that financial aid and scholarships can affect your tuition responsibilities, so your initial calculation may not match the final price that you pay.

How Long Does it Take to Get an Online MFT Degree?

MFT Degree student studying online

On average, it takes about two years to earn a master’s degree online in counseling. You may be able to accelerate this timeline a little if you enroll in a school with fast-track classes. With that approach, you’d take courses year-round until earning all of your credits.

Keep in mind that many MFT programs have practicum and internship requirements. Because you’ll need to earn a set number of in-the-field hours, it will be hard to speed up those experiences. Requirements vary, but internships usually take at least a full semester.

Are There Any Affordable Online MFT Programs?

MFT Degree student studying in a cafe

Yes, you should be able to find an MFT program that’s affordable! Some colleges have MFT programs that cost between $500 and $600 per credit hour, which is the lower end of typical MFT tuition.

There are additional steps that you can take to make a graduate degree affordable. Choosing an in-state public school may qualify you for resident rates. Some schools offer discounted tuition for military personnel.

You can also assemble a financial assistance package. State governments and the federal government offer grants and loans to qualified students. Scholarships have the potential to reduce your tuition costs as well.

What’s the Difference Between a LMFT vs. LCSW Program?

Family Therapist asking questions to mother and daughter during therapy

Both licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT) and licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) can offer counseling services to clients. When it comes to LCSW vs. LMFT, though, these two career tracks usually have somewhat different emphases.

Social workers may focus on connecting their clients to outside programs and support services. LCSW may also perform non-counseling jobs related to human and social services.

LMFTs serve primarily as therapists who offer counseling services. They strive to improve the ways that families function, and they may work with individuals, couples or parent-child units.

What’s the Difference Between a LCSW vs. MFT Program?

Marriage Therapist interviewing a couple during therapy

An LCSW program is designed to help students become licensed clinical social workers. In this role, you might offer community programs, therapy services or public policy advocacy.

An MFT program is a track for becoming a marriage and family therapist. As a therapist, you might work in a private practice, a medical setting or a residential facility to counsel individuals, couples and families.

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Although these are distinct academic tracks, there may be some overlap in the topics that you study for LCSW vs. LMFT. Getting one of these degrees could serve as a good foundation for pursuing the other someday.

What is an LMFT Degree?

licensed marriage and family therapist interviewing a couple

LMFT stands for licensed marriage and family therapist. This is a counseling professional who has earned a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and become licensed to practice in a particular state.

Licensure requirements vary from state to state, but you can expect to need a master’s degree and supervised practice hours. In some states, you have to earn about 2,000 clinical hours after graduation, but other states require around 4,000.

Earning an LMFT can help qualify you to offer counseling services that help individuals and families improve their relationships.

What is a LCSW?

licensed clinical social worker interviewing a father with his child

A licensed clinical social worker is a professional who has received graduate-level training in social work and then earned licensure in this field. Qualifying for this title requires earning a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree and completing supervised clinical hours.

As an LCSW, you could offer counseling services in private practice. You could also fulfill other social work responsibilities, such as overseeing programs or managing clients’ cases. Your master’s degree might qualify you for supervisory roles.

Can You Get a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy Online?

Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy student studying online at home

Yes, there are online graduate programs for marriage and family therapy. Many of the courses can be completed through distance learning. You can expect to receive the same sort of instruction as you would in a traditional classroom.

Some online programs do require students to attend a few in-person sessions. In these types of programs, you can expect to spend several days engaging in group discussions and hands-on training sessions.

In addition, most schools ask students to observe therapy professionals or work as an intern in a counseling setting. Practicums and internships can’t be done online but can often be completed with an organization in your local area.

Is a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy Program Worth it?

Marriage and Family Therapists sharing their experiences during a seminar

Yes, a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy is worth it for many students. In community and social service field, jobs are projected to grow at a rate of 12% in the next 10 years (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Common marriage and family careers in this field include couples’ therapist, school counselor, social and community services manager, child and adolescent therapist, and substance abuse counselor.

Plus, you may find this job deeply satisfying. Although you will probably face many challenges in your career as a therapist, you should also have numerous opportunities to watch people transform their lives.

Universities Offering Online Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Abilene Christian University

Abilene Christian University campus

Abilene Christian University’s Master of Marriage and Family Therapy program provides students with practical, hands-on experience in substance abuse, addiction, assessment and diagnosis, family, couples and child therapy and mental illness.

After graduation, students should be prepared to work in various settings like hospitals, churches, and adoption or non-profit agencies.

  • Master of Marriage and Family Therapy

Abilene Christian University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Alliant International University

Alliant International University campus

The online Master of Marriage and Family Therapy program at Alliant International University is COAMFTE accredited and provides students with 500 hours of hands-on experience through direct client contact. Courses focus on training students in cultural competency, psychopharmacology and parent-child therapy.

Students can also choose a specialization track in chemical dependency.

  • MA in Marital and Family Therapy

Alliant International University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Antioch University

Antioch University campus

At Antioch University, students interested in becoming couples or marriage counselors will enroll in the school’s Master of Arts in Dance/Movement Therapy program, selecting the couples and family therapy concentration. It’s a two year program, with a 700 hour, anywhere-in-the-U.S. internship that’ll be required in the third year.

  • MA in Dance/Movement Therapy – Couple and Family Therapy

Antioch University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Brandman University

Brandman University campus

Students at Brandman University can enroll in the Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy program either on-campus or online. The program meets licensure requirements for 41 states in the United States, and students can undertake their internships, observations, and practicum experiences at multiple locations that best suit their needs.

  • Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy

Brandman University is accredited by the WSCUC Senior College and University Commission.

Capella University

Capella University campus

The Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy program at Capella University offers students a flexible curriculum that fits with current family and marriage therapist education standards and prepares students for passing their exams. The faculty consists of professionals in the industry who hold top credentials in their fields.

  • MS in Marriage and Family Therapy

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Concordia University – Wisconsin

Concordia University Wisconsin campus

Concordia University offers a Master of Science in Family Life program offered through its Department of Graduate Education. It’s a 36 credit hour program that prepares students for careers as family therapists, family social workers, and life scientists. The program offers many partnerships with professional institutions, and scholarships may be available.

  • MS in Family Life

Concordia University Wisconsin is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University campus

At Grand Canyon University, students can enroll in the Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy. Courses are designed to teach students to take a Christian approach during each step of the counseling process including assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

  • MS in Marriage and Family Therapy

Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Houston Baptist University

Houston Baptist University campus

Houston Baptist University is a SACSCOC accredited, Christian university in Texas. It offers a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy to students hoping for careers in couples, marriage, or family counseling. The program is designed to help students develop a strong counseling foundation with a heavy emphasis on research.

  • MA in Marriage and Family Therapy

Houston Baptist University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Indiana Wesleyan University

Indiana Wesleyan University campus

The Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Counseling and Therapy at Indiana Wesleyan University is a 60 credit hour program focused on a holistic approach to family counseling. Students can study both contemporary and postmodern approaches to therapy and have ample opportunities for live observation, immersive internships, and hands-on experience.

  • MA in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy

Indiana Wesleyan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

John Brown University

John Brown University campus

John Brown University’s Master of Science in Counseling is designed to prepare students for licensure as Licensed Professional Counselors.

Students can also choose to add a marriage and family therapy concentration to their degrees, preparing them to become Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists as well. Other concentrations include play therapy and adventure therapy.

  • MS in Counseling – Marriage and Family Therapy

John Brown University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and School.

Lee University

Lee University campus

Students enrolled in Lee University’s Master of Science in Marriage and Family Studies program receive a Christ-centered, Christian-infused counseling education.

Some of the most popular courses in the program include systems theory, family studies, human growth and development, family stress and resilience, and cultural context in family counseling.

  • MS in Marriage and Family Studies

Lee University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Students in the Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy program at Liberty University have the opportunity to transfer up to 50% of the program’s required credits. The program is SACSCOC accredited and mostly online, although there are two, three-hour intensives that are required and must be completed on campus.

  • MA in Marriage and Family Therapy

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Messiah University

Messiah University campus

The 60 credit hour Master of Arts in Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling at Messiah University can potentially be completed in as few as two years. The program is CACREP accredited, and courses begin every 8 weeks. There’s no application fee for applying, and the school features “no-fee tuition” as well.

  • MA in Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling

Messiah University is an accredited institution by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Mid-America Christian University

Mid America Christian University campus

Mid-America Christian University offers an online Master of Science in Counseling with a concentration in marital, couples, and family counseling therapy. Because the program is rooted in Christian values and ideals, it is designed to prepare students to be ethical, compassionate therapists in a variety of settings that include both secular and church-based facilities.

  • MS in Counseling – Marital, Couples and Family Counseling/Therapy

MACU is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Northcentral University

Northcentral University campus

Northcentral University offers several options for students interested in family and marriage counseling. Students can choose the Master of Social Work with a marriage and family concentration or Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy. There are even marriage and family doctoral programs for students to pursue.

  • Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy

Northcentral University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Palo Alto University

Palo Alto University campus

Students at Palo Alto University working towards their Master of Arts in Counseling can choose from two concentrations: marriage, family and child or clinical mental health. Both programs are CACREP accredited and work to prepare students to become knowledgeable, empathetic counselors in their communities.

The program requires 93 total credit hours for completion.

  • MA in Counseling – Marriage, Family and Child

PAU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Pepperdine University

Pepperdine University campus

The Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology program at Pepperdine University offers a concentration in marriage and family therapy. Students are expected to learn through a combination of clinical training in their own communities and interactive, online coursework.

The program takes approximately 27 months, and graduates should be prepared to become licensed therapists.

  • MA in Clinical Psychology – Marriage and Family Therapy

Pepperdine is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges—Senior College and University Commission.

Prescott College

Prescott College campus

Prescott College’s 60 credit hour Master of Counseling program allows students to choose from several relevant concentrations including somatic counseling, social justice in counseling, addictions counseling and marriage, couples and family counseling.

The programs are CACREP accredited and seek to provide student-centered learning with a focus on integrated global and local social issues.

  • MS in Counseling – Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling

Prescott College is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Regent University

Regent University campus

Students in Regent University’s Master of Arts in Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling program can expect rigorous coursework, hands-on clinical experience, an intimate learning environment and one-on-one relationships with faculty and advisors. Notable courses include models of family therapy, as well as marital and couples therapy.

  • MA in Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling

Regent University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Regis University

Regis University campus

Regis University offers a wide variety of scholarships, grants and other financial aid options to students in its Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy program. It usually takes a little over three years to complete and features streamlined areas of focus including private practice therapist and school-based therapist.

  • MA in Marriage and Family Therapy

Regis University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Syracuse University

Syracuse University campus

Syracuse University has offered its Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy program for almost 50 years and now offers it online. The program is COAMFTE accredited, requires 51 core credits and 9 elective credits for completion and includes a short residency. There’s also a 500 hour clinical practicum component.

  • MA in Marriage and Family Therapy

Syracuse University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Touro University Worldwide

Touro University Worldwide campus

Students in Touro University’s marriage and family therapy master’s program can transfer up to 12 credits from another university. The program is 100% online and takes place in 8 week sessions. It holds accreditation from BBS, WSCUC and COAMFTE and doesn’t currently require a GRE score, application fee or residency component.

  • Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy

Touro University Worldwide is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

University of Akron

university of akron campus

Students looking for a marriage and family counseling therapy master’s program in Ohio often turn to the University of Akron because it’s currently the only program of its kind in Ohio that’s accredited by COAMFTE. Some course topics include marital therapy, group counseling, and multicultural counseling.

  • Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling/Therapy

The University of Akron is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

University of Central Florida

University of Central Florida campus

The Master of Arts in Marriage, Couple and Family Therapy program at University of Central Florida is CACREP accredited and is designed to prepare participants to earn their licenses in marriage and family therapy and practice.

In addition to online coursework and lectures, students must also complete field-based experiences and campus-based clinical experiences.

  • MA in Marriage, Couple and Family Therapy

The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of West Alabama

University of West Alabama campus

The University of West Alabama offers a Master of Science in Family Counseling designed for working professionals who want to learn to work more effectively with the families they serve. The faculty consists of licensed counselors, psychologists and marriage and family therapists. Tuition is affordable, and financial aid is available.

  • MS in Family Counseling

The University of West Alabama is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Getting Your MFT Degree Online

MFT Degree student studying online

Many students may wonder how to become a counselor or therapist. To become a licensed marriage and family therapist, you will need to attend grad school. A marriage and family therapy master’s program is the right course of study for this career path.

Once you graduate and become licensed, you’ll be qualified to pursue a career helping clients work through their personal and family issues. Your guidance can help people improve their communication and strengthen their relationships.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, MFT jobs are expected to increase over the next decade. Enroll in an online MFT program now so you’ll be ready to fill one of the many positions in this growing field.

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Joy Cromwelle
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Joy Cromwelle
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration. Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.