Bureau of Labor Statistics

Rehabilitation Counselors

rehabilitation counselors image
Rehabilitation counselors help people with physical, mental, developmental, and emotional disabilities live independently.
Quick Facts: Rehabilitation Counselors
2020 Median Pay $37,530 per year
$18.05 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2020 104,500
Job Outlook, 2020-30 10% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 10,800

Summary

What Rehabilitation Counselors Do

Rehabilitation counselors help people with physical, mental, developmental, or emotional disabilities live independently.

Work Environment

Rehabilitation counselors work in a variety of settings, such as community rehabilitation centers, senior citizen centers, and youth guidance organizations.

How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor

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

Pay

The median annual wage for rehabilitation counselors was $37,530 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Employment of rehabilitation counselors is projected to grow 10 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 11,200 openings for rehabilitation counselors are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for rehabilitation counselors.

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

Rehabilitation counselors
Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities develop strategies to live with their disability and transition to employment.

Rehabilitation counselors help people with physical, mental, developmental, or emotional disabilities live independently. They work with clients to overcome or manage the personal, social, or psychological 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, experiences, skills, health, and education
  • Develop a treatment plan for clients, in consultation with other professionals, such as doctors, therapists, and psychologists
  • 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 affect people with disabilities
  • Help clients develop their strengths and adjust to their limitations
  • Locate resources, such as wheelchairs or computer programs, that help clients live and work more independently
  • Maintain client records and monitor clients’ progress, adjusting the rehabilitation or treatment plan as necessary
  • Advocate for the rights of people with disabilities to live in a community and work in the job of their choice

Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities at various stages in their lives. Some work with students, to develop strategies to live with their disability and transition 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 may provide expert testimony or assessments during personal-injury or workers’ compensation cases.

Some rehabilitation counselors deal specifically with employment issues. These counselors, sometimes called vocational rehabilitation counselors, typically work with older students and adults.

Work Environment

Rehabilitation counselors
Rehabilitation counselors work in a variety of settings, such as community rehabilitation centers, senior citizen centers, and youth guidance organizations.

Rehabilitation counselors held about 104,500 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of rehabilitation counselors were as follows:

Community and vocational rehabilitation services 31%
Individual and family services 17
State government, excluding education and hospitals 15
Nursing and residential care facilities 14
Self-employed workers 3

Rehabilitation counselors work in a variety of settings, such as community rehabilitation centers, senior citizen centers, and youth guidance organizations.

Work Schedules

Depending on where they work, some rehabilitation counselors may work evenings or weekends.

How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor

Rehabilitation counselors
Rehabilitation counselors may need to complete a period of supervised clinical experience as part of a master’s degree.

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. Master’s degree programs teach students to evaluate clients’ needs, formulate and implement job placement strategies, and understand the medical and psychological aspects of disabilities. These programs typically include a period of supervised clinical experience, 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. Students in bachelor’s degree programs learn about issues faced by people with disabilities and about the process of providing rehabilitation services. Some universities offer dual-degree programs in rehabilitation counseling, in which students can earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in 5 years.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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

Licensure typically 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. To maintain their license, counselors must complete annual continuing education credits.

Applicants should contact their state licensing board for information on which services or counseling positions require licensure. Contact information for these state licensing boards can be found through the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification.

Some employers prefer or require rehabilitation counselors to be certified. The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification offers the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) certification. Applicants must meet advanced education, work experience, and clinical supervision requirements and pass a test. Certification must be renewed every 5 years. Counselors must complete continuing education requirements or pass a reexamination to renew their certification.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Rehabilitation counselors need to be able to communicate effectively with clients. They must express ideas and information in a way that is easy to understand.

Compassion. Rehabilitation counselors often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations. They must be compassionate and empathize with their clients.

Critical-thinking skills. Rehabilitation counselors must be able to develop a treatment plan to help clients reach their goals by considering each client’s abilities and interests.

Interpersonal skills. Rehabilitation counselors must be able to work with different types of people. They spend most of their time working directly with clients, families, employers, or other professionals. They must be able to develop and maintain good working relationships.

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

Patience. Rehabilitation counselors must have patience to help clients learn new skills and strategies to address their disabilities.

Pay

Rehabilitation Counselors

Median annual wages, May 2020

Counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists

$47,500

Total, all occupations

$41,950

Rehabilitation counselors

$37,530

 

The median annual wage for rehabilitation counselors was $37,530 in May 2020. 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 $25,660, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $66,180.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for rehabilitation counselors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals $53,210
Individual and family services 35,380
Community and vocational rehabilitation services 33,510
Nursing and residential care facilities 32,720

Depending on where they work, some rehabilitation counselors may work evenings or weekends.

Job Outlook

Rehabilitation Counselors

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists

14%

Rehabilitation counselors

10%

Total, all occupations

8%

 

Employment of rehabilitation counselors is projected to grow 10 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 11,200 openings for rehabilitation counselors are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

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. Rehabilitation counselors will be needed to help the elderly learn to adapt to any new limitations and learn strategies to live independently.

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, 2020-30

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

Occupational Title

Rehabilitation counselors

SOC Code21-1015
Employment, 2020104,500
Projected Employment, 2030115,400
Percent Change, 2020-3010
Numeric Change, 2020-3010,800
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome problems with family and other relationships.

Master's degree $51,340
Occupational therapists Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists treat patients who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities.

Master's degree $86,280
Occupational therapy assistants and aides Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working.

See How to Become One $60,950
Psychologists Psychologists

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

See How to Become One $82,180
School and Career Counselors School and Career Counselors and Advisors

School counselors help students develop academic and social skills. Career counselors and advisors help people choose a path to employment.

Master's degree $58,120
Social and human service assistants Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants provide client services in a variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work.

High school diploma or equivalent $35,960
Special education teachers Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities.

Bachelor's degree $61,500
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors provide treatment and advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, or other mental or behavioral problems.

Bachelor's degree $47,660
Social workers Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives.

See How to Become One $51,760
Social and community service managers Social and Community Service Managers

Social and community service managers coordinate and supervise programs and organizations that support public well-being.

Bachelor's degree $69,600

Contacts for More Info

For more information about counseling and information about counseling specialties, visit

American Counseling Association

American Rehabilitation Counseling Association

For more information about accredited degree programs in rehabilitation counseling, visit

Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs

For more information about the Certified Rehabilitation Counselors certification and state licensing boards, visit

Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification

O*NET

Rehabilitation Counselors

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Rehabilitation Counselors,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/rehabilitation-counselors.htm (visited October 13, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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