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Program Description

The PhD in Systems, Families and Couples (SFC) is a 3-4 year doctoral program which is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) and is approved by the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) as meeting the criteria for the Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) credential. The SFC program provides students the opportunity to develop specialized expertise in research, teaching, leadership and practice within the field of family science. The SFC program follows a scientist-practitioner model where students are provided considerable hands on experience and mentorship. There are two specialties offered by the SFC program: (1) Couple and Family Therapy and (2) Family Studies.

Couple and Family Therapy Specialty- is designed to provide students the training and experiences for careers in academia as teachers and researchers; community mental health as clinical supervisors, practitioners and administrators; and Integrated Behavioral Health and Medical Family Therapy (MedFT) in inpatient, intensive outpatient, hospital, and outpatient healthcare settings.

Family Studies Specialty- is designed to provide students the training and experiences for careers in academia as teachers and researchers; community and public health as family life educators and social policy advocates; and supplement the education of individuals in ministry, education, and leadership.

Program Website

Program Length

Minimum of 3-4 years full-time study (part-time plans available)

Possible Careers

Graduates of the PhD program in Systems, Families, and Couples are multiculturally informed and well prepared to serve as ethically competent leaders who advance the field of family science in the areas of couple and family therapy and family life education. Our alumni most often work as faculty members in academic and clinical programs, social and behavioral science researchers, clinic directors, advanced clinicians and clinical supervisors, both nationally and internationally. Additional career paths that our alumni have taken have included organizational consultation and ministry.
Qualified graduates of the School of Behavioral Health are given priority interviewing for behavioral health positions with Loma Linda University Health.

Application Deadlines

QuarterApplication OpenPriority DeadlineFinal Deadline
Autumn of 2020Sep 1, 2019Dec 1, 2019Jul 31, 2020

Admissions Requirements

Acceptance into the PhD in Systems, Families and Couples program is based on an integrated evaluation of the following criteria:

  1. Master’s degree. 
  2. A grade-point average (GPA) of at least 3.3 in their master’s degree program
  3. Three letters of reference (2 academic and 1 professional)
  4. GRE scores (taken within the last five years)
  5. Official transcripts for all college and graduate study
  6. Oral interview with department faculty
  7. Prior to matriculation students must pass a background check

*International students: TOEFL, 550 (pencil test) or 213 (computer scored or 80 (internet based test) (English as a second language only).


Although there are no specific course prerequisites, individual applicants whose master’s degree does not reflect this perspective may be asked to enroll in additional courses.

State Accrediting Agency

The Family Studies specialty of our PhD program meets the requirements for certification as a Certified Family Life Educator through the National Council on Family Relations.

The Couple and Family Therapy specialty of our PhD program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), the accrediting body associated with the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

Integrating faith and health
Loma Linda University educates and encourages a balanced life by living our values of humility, compassion, justice, integrity, excellence, freedom and self- control. You will be surrounded by faculty who are committed to healthcare innovation and research while engaging your spirituality.

Expected Cost of Attendance

Academic Year 2019-2020

Year of Program:Year 1Year 2Year 3
Books & Supplies$1,200$1,600$1,600
Misc (e.g., Boards, Licensing exam, Uniforms)


Expected costs for the 2019-2020 academic year are based on full time attendance. From year to year, increases are anticipated consistent with inflation in the professional education sector.

Estimated Living Expenses

Academic Year 2019-2020, off campus, with a roommate

Year of Program:Year 1Year 2Year 3
Months enrolled91212
Room & Board$11,655$15,540$15,540
Personal Expenses$2,070$2,760$2,760


  • Amounts are what a student can apply to borrow for the number of months shown in each academic year based on living off campus with a roommate and not with a relative.
  • International students need to calculate 12 months of living expenses based on the numbers listed here.
  • In general, to qualify for financial aid a student must be enrolled at least half time taking degree requirements. Half time is 6 units in a quarter for undergraduate programs and 4 units in a quarter for graduate programs.