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Rehabilitation counselor

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What is a Rehabilitation counselor?

Rehabilitation counselors help individuals with physical, mental, and psychiatric disabilities achieve productive and independent lives. They help people deal with the personal, social and vocational effects of disabilities. Rehab counselors evaluate strengths and limitations of individuals, and coordinate medical care, vocational training, and job placement. They also provide personal and vocational counseling. These counselors work with families, schools, physicians, psychologists, occupational therapists and employers to determine the skills and capabilities of individuals. Disabilities of individuals may result from: - Congenital disability - Illness and disease - Work-related injuries - Automobile accidents - The stresses of war, work, and daily life - The aging process


Rehabilitation counselors were initially recruited from disciplines such as public health nursing, social work, and school counseling. Educational programs began in the 1940's for rehabilitation counseling, but not until 1954 did federal funding become available and the profession began to grow and establish its own identity. In the beginning, rehab counselors mainly worked with aged adults with disabilities. But, today rehab counselors work with all age groups with disabilities.

Where do Rehabilitation Counselors work?

Rehab counselors work at state and federal vocational rehabilitation agencies, rehabilitation centers, mental health programs, employee assistance programs, insurance companies, correctional facilities, private industry, and private practice. Many with further experience also enter research or college teaching. Today, the number of rehab counselors running their private practice is increasing.

What is the education required?

There are many undergraduate programs, but entering the profession generally requires a masters degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. Graduate programs run from 48-60 semester hours and established programs are accredited by Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE). If the program is not CORE accredited an individual will need a full year of work experience with a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor before being allowed to sit for the exam. Most individuals have an undergraduate background in the social or behavioral sciences. Typical courses in an RCE Program include: (1) Intro to Rehab (2) Counseling Theories and Techniques (3) Personality Theories (4) Psychosocial Aspects of Disability (5) Medical Aspects of Disability (6) Evaluation and Assesment (7) Vocational Aspects of Disability (8) Rehabilitation Case Management (9) Research Methods (10) Practicum (100 field hours) (11) Internship (600 field hours)



Licensure is offered through the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC). It involves passing an exam, acquiring supervised clinical experience and completing specified coursework


The CRCC certifies rehab counselor throughout the U.S. and Canada who meet the educational and work experience requirements, pass the exam, and complete 100 hours of acceptable continuing education credit every 5 years.


State workers’ compensation laws specify education, training and/or credentials for providing counseling services. Rehab counselors can pay a fee in these states and provide proof of education/certification to register with the state worker’s compensation agency.

What is the job outlook?

Excellent. “The demand exceeds the supply by at least 25 percent and the number of people needing rehabilitation services will rise as advances in medical technology save more lives. Legislation requiring equal-employments rights for persons with disabilities will also spur demand for counselors.” – U.S. News & World Report. Recent studies show that there are not enough rehabilitation counselor graduates currently to meet the anticipated marketplace needs.

What is the salary?

The starting salary for a rehab counselor in the public sector is 34,300 and can range between 27,500 and 51,700. States that require masters degrees may pay considerably higher. In addition, salaries in the private sector are significantly higher; the overall salary in the private sector is between 55,000 and 75,000 plus.

More Information

National Council on Rehabilitation Education Sharon Benshoff, Administrative Secretary 2012 West Norwood Drive Carbondale, IL 62901 618 549-3267 E-mail:

Certification Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification Cindy Chapman, Executive Director 300 North Martingale Road, Suite 460 Schaumburg, IL 60173 847 944-1325

Program Accreditation Council on Rehabilitation Education 300 North Martingale Road, Suite 460 Schaumburg, IL 60173 847 944-1345 847 944-1324 Fax