This career is expected to grow 19 percent—faster than average—through 2018. The number of people who will need rehabilitation counseling is expected to grow as advances in medical technology allow more people to survive injury and live independently again. In addition, legislation requiring equal employment rights for people with disabilities will spur demand for counselors.
Salary & Wages
In 2008, rehabilitation counselors earned an average salary of $30,930. The middle 50 percent earned $24,110 to $41,240. The highest 10 percent earned more than $56,550. For rehabilitation counselors, government employers generally pay the highest wages, followed by hospitals and social service agencies. Residential care facilities often pay the lowest wages.
What is a Rehabilitation Counselor?
Rehabilitation counselors help people deal with the personal and vocational effects of disabilities. They counsel people with disabilities resulting from birth defects, illness, accidents or other causes. They evaluate the strengths and limitations of individuals, provide personal and vocational counseling, and arrange for medical care, vocational training and job placement.
Rehabilitation counselors interview both individuals with disabilities and their families, evaluate school and medical reports, and confer with physicians, psychologists, occupational therapists and employers to determine the capabilities and skills of the individual.
They develop rehabilitation programs by conferring with clients. These programs often include training to help develop job skills. Rehabilitation counselors also help clients work toward living independently.
Education & Degree Path
Carefully check the requirements that your state and local governments place on mental health counselors. You can also consult local employers and national certification organizations to find out which requirements apply to you. These will vary widely depending on your employer, location and specialty.
Licensing: The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) offers voluntary national certification for rehabilitation counselors. Many state and local governments require rehabilitation counselors to hold this certification.
The CRCC standards require applicants to hold accredited master’s degrees in either counseling or rehabilitation counseling and meet certain practice requirements. The applicant also must pass a national exam.
Entering the Field: Most begin working in this field as a human services assistant in outpatient residential care. Human services assistants work directly with the differently abled to teach them independent living skills. Most human services assistants hold associate or bachelor's degrees in human services, psychology, social science or counseling. Many work in direct patient care while going on to earn a master’s degree.
A master’s degree is usually required to be licensed as a counselor. Some states require counselors in public employment to have a master’s degree; others accept a bachelor’s degree with appropriate counseling courses.
Career Changers: If you already hold a master’s in counseling you can jump to rehabilitation from another counseling field by obtaining certification and meeting the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification’s requirements for experience.
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Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
American Counseling Association
National Board for Certified Counselors
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Source for salary and growth data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information on careers in rehabilitation counseling, salaries, and job prospects visit: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Counselors.