Be a Rehabilitation Counselor: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 05, 2020

Learn how to become a rehabilitation counselor. Research education and career requirements, licensure information, and experience needed to start a career in rehabilitation counseling.

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  • 0:03 Rehabilitation Counselor
  • 0:27 Career Requirements
  • 1:12 Career Steps

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Rehabilitation Counselor

Rehabilitation counselors help individuals with disabilities function in their day-to-day lives. Counselors might assist patients by setting up living arrangements for them or helping them pursue an education or find a job. There are several places that a rehabilitation counselor might find work, including schools, prisons, and nursing homes. These workers typically keep regular, full-time schedules.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Master's degree
Degree Field Counseling, psychology, or a related field
Licensure and Certification A state-issued license is required to work in private practice in all states; voluntary certification as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) available
Experience 2,000-3,000 hours of clinical observation time is required for licensing in most states
Key Skills Compassion, patience, verbal communication, and people skills
Median Salary (2018) $35,630 (for rehabilitation counselors)*

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Now, let's check out the career steps for rehabilitation counselors.

Career Steps

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Becoming a rehabilitation counselor requires years of formal education and clinical experience. Counselors typically begin their academic career by attending a 4-year college or university and earning a bachelor's degree. A specific undergraduate concentration isn't required, but students interested in pursuing this career may benefit from majoring in education, social work, or psychology.

Success Tip

It can be helpful to volunteer. Volunteering at a local rehabilitation clinic or similar setting can help an aspiring rehabilitation counselor gain valuable first-hand experience working in the field. It can also help an aspiring counselor stand out when applying to graduate school.

Step 2: Complete a Master's Degree Program

Master's degree programs in rehabilitation counseling are often administered through psychology, allied health, human services, or education departments of colleges and universities. The Council on Rehabilitation Education accredits master's-level rehabilitation counseling programs and sets educational standards for the profession. These degree programs generally take about two years to complete and require 2,000-3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Curriculum covers mental health counseling, assisting clients with job placement, and overall evaluation of clients' needs.

Step 3: Obtain Licensure and/or Certification

Although a license may not be required to work in some types of settings, all states require licensure for counselors who wish to go into private practice. Exact licensure requirements vary from one state to another, but the process generally involves passing a state exam. Certification through the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) can assist with the licensure process and attests to the education and preparation of the individual. NBCC certification requires 3,000 hours of counseling experience in addition to the master's degree and a passing score on the National Counselor Examination. Many states also require counselors to be Certified Rehabilitation Counselors through the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC).

Step 4: Continue Education

Many states require counselors to take annual continuing education courses to make sure they're current on all professional standards and practices. Continuing education or re-examination is also mandatory for renewal of CRCC certification.

Success Tip

To really shine, join a professional organization. Professional organizations, such as the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association, provide a variety of benefits, including continuing education options. Other benefits of membership include access to quarterly publications, workshops, liability insurance, and more.

To recap, with a master's degree, experience, and licensure or certification, a rehabilitation counselor can earn about $35,000 a year to assist patients by setting up living arrangements for them or helping them pursue an education or find a job.

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