Rehabilitation Counselors

Summary

rehabilitation counselors image
Rehabilitation counselors help people with emotional and physical disabilities live independently.
Quick Facts: Rehabilitation Counselors
2012 Median Pay $33,880 per year
$16.29 per hour
Entry-Level Education Master’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 117,500
Job Outlook, 2012-22 20% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 23,400

What Rehabilitation Counselors Do

Rehabilitation counselors help people with emotional and physical disabilities live independently. They work with clients to overcome or manage the personal, social, and professional effects of disabilities on employment or independent living.

Work Environment

Rehabilitation counselors work in a variety of settings, such as schools, prisons, independent-living facilities, rehabilitation agencies, and private practice. Most work full time.

How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor

Rehabilitation counselors typically must have a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. Some positions require certification or a license.

Pay

The median annual wage for rehabilitation counselors was $33,880 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of rehabilitation counselors is projected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for rehabilitation counselors is expected to grow with the increase in the elderly population and with the continued rehabilitation needs of other groups, such as veterans and people with disabilities.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of rehabilitation counselors with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about rehabilitation counselors by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Rehabilitation Counselors Do About this section

Rehabilitation counselors
Some rehabilitation counselors help elderly people with health problems adjust to their new limitations.

Rehabilitation counselors help people with emotional and physical disabilities live independently. They work with clients to overcome or manage the personal, social, and professional effects of disabilities on employment or independent living.

Duties

Rehabilitation counselors typically do the following:

  • Provide individual and group counseling to help clients adjust to their disability
  • Evaluate clients’ abilities, interests, experience, skills, health, and education
  • Develop a treatment plan in consultation with other professionals, such as doctors, therapists, and psychologists
  • Create rehabilitation or treatment plans based on clients’ values, strengths, limitations, and goals
  • Arrange for clients to obtain services, such as medical care or career training
  • Help employers understand the needs and abilities of people with disabilities, as well as laws and resources that impact people with disabilities
  • Assist clients in creating strategies to develop their strengths and adjust to their limitations
  • Locate resources, such as wheelchairs or computer programs, that help clients live and work more independently
  • Monitor clients’ progress and adjust the rehabilitation or treatment plan as necessary
  • Advocate for the rights of people with disabilities to live in the community and work in the job of their choice

Rehabilitation counselors help people with physical, mental, emotional, or social disabilities at various stages in their lives. Some work with students to develop strategies to live with their disability and move from school to work. Others help veterans cope with the mental or physical effects of their military service. Still others help elderly people adapt to disabilities developed later in life from illness or injury. Some rehabilitation counselors deal specifically with employment issues. These counselors, sometimes called vocational rehabilitation counselors, typically work with older students and adults rather than young children.

Some rehabilitation counselors work in private practice. These counselors must spend time marketing their practice to prospective clients and working with insurance companies and clients to get paid for their services. Some may provide expert testimony or assessments during personal injury or workers’ compensation cases.

Work Environment About this section

Rehabilitation counselors
Rehabilitation counselors work in a wide variety of settings, such as colleges, elementary and secondary schools, prisons, and independent living facilities.

Rehabilitation counselors held about 117,500 jobs in 2012. 

They work in a variety of settings, such as colleges, elementary and secondary schools, prisons, insurance companies, and independent-living facilities. They also work in private practice and in state, private, and nonprofit rehabilitation agencies.

The industries that employed the most rehabilitation counselors in 2012 were as follows:

Social assistance46%
Health care22
State government, excluding education and hospitals15
Local government, excluding education and hospitals6

Work Schedules

Most rehabilitation counselors work full time.

How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor About this section

Rehabilitation counselors
Most employers require rehabilitation counselors to have a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field.

Rehabilitation counselors typically need a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field. Some positions require certification or a license.

Education

Most employers require a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field. A bachelor’s degree in most fields is acceptable to enter a master’s-level program. Master’s degree programs teach students the theories, skills, and techniques to provide effective mental health counseling. These programs also train students in evaluating clients’ needs, formulating and implementing job placement strategies, and understanding the medical and psychological aspects of a disability. They typically require a period of supervised experience or training, such as an internship.

Although some employers hire workers with a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation and disability studies, these workers typically cannot offer the full range of services that a rehabilitation counselor with a master’s degree can provide. Bachelor’s degree programs teach students about issues that people with disabilities face and about the process of providing rehabilitation services.

Licenses

Licensing requirements for rehabilitation counselors differ by state and by type of services provided. Those providing counseling services to clients and patients must attain a license through their state licensing board. Other services provided by rehabilitation counselors, however, may be exempt from state licensing requirements. Rehabilitation counselors providing only vocational rehabilitation services or job placement assistance, for example, may not need a license.

Licensure requires a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. In addition, counselors must pass a state-recognized exam and complete annual continuing education credits. Applicants should contact the state licensing boards for information on what services or counseling positions require licensure. Contact information for these state licensing boards can be found through the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification website.

Certifications

Some employers prefer or require rehabilitation counselors to be Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC). Applicants must meet advanced education, work experience, and clinical supervision requirements and pass a test. Counselors must complete continuing education requirements or pass a reexamination to renew their certification. For more information, contact the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Rehabilitation counselors need to be able to communicate with clients effectively, expressing ideas and information in a way that is easily understood.

Compassion. Counselors often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations, so they must be compassionate and empathize with their clients.

Interpersonal skills. Being able to work with different types of people is essential for rehabilitation counselors, who spend most of their time working directly with clients, families, employers, or other professionals. They must be able to develop and maintain a good working relationship.

Listening skills. Good listening skills are essential for rehabilitation counselors, who need to give their full attention to clients in order to understand their problems, concerns, and values.

Patience. To help people learn new skills and strategies, rehabilitation counselors must have patience as clients struggle to learn about and address the impact of their disabilities.

Pay About this section

Rehabilitation Counselors

Median annual wages, May 2012

Community and social service occupations

$40,400

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Rehabilitation counselors

$33,880

 

The median annual wage for rehabilitation counselors was $33,880 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,990 and the top 10 percent earned more than $59,330.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for rehabilitation counselors in the top four industries in which these counselors worked were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals$43,550
Local government, excluding education and hospitals41,530
Health care32,290
Social assistance30,390

Most rehabilitation counselors work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Rehabilitation Counselors

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Rehabilitation counselors

20%

Community and social service occupations

17%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of rehabilitation counselors is projected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for rehabilitation counselors is expected to grow with the increase in the elderly population and with the continued rehabilitation needs of other groups, such as veterans and people with disabilities.

Older adults are more likely than other age groups to become disabled or injured. They will need to learn to adapt to their disabilities and learn strategies to live independently. As a result, they will require the services of rehabilitation counselors. As the size of the elderly population grows, so will the need for rehabilitation counselors.

In addition, there will be a continued need for rehabilitation counselors to work with veterans who were disabled during their military service. They will also be needed to work with other groups, such as people who have learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, or substance abuse problems.

Employment projections data for rehabilitation counselors, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Rehabilitation counselors

21-1015 117,500 140,900 20 23,400 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of rehabilitation counselors.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists

Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with their family and relationships. They listen to clients and ask questions, to help the clients understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives.

Master’s degree $41,500
Occupational therapists

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists treat injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working.

Master’s degree $75,400
Occupational therapy assistants and aides

Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working. Occupational therapy assistants are directly involved in providing therapy to patients, while occupational therapy aides typically perform support activities. Both assistants and aides work under the direction of occupational therapists.

See How to Become One $48,940
Psychologists

Psychologists

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and human behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments.

See How to Become One $69,280
School and Career Counselors

School and Career Counselors

School counselors help students develop social skills and succeed in school. Career counselors assist people with the process of making career decisions, by helping them choose a career or educational program.

Master’s degree $53,610
Social and human service assistants

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants help people get through difficult times or get additional support. They assist other workers, such as social workers, and they help clients find benefits or community services.

High school diploma or equivalent $28,850
Special education teachers

Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They adapt general education lessons and teach various subjects, such as reading, writing, and math, to students with mild and moderate disabilities. They also teach basic skills, such as literacy and communication techniques, to students with severe disabilities.

Bachelor’s degree $55,060
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, or other behavioral problems. They provide treatment and support to help the client recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors.

High school diploma or equivalent $38,520
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Rehabilitation Counselors,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/rehabilitation-counselors.htm (visited September 01, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014