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Rehabilitation Science Professionals: Job Info for Recent Grads

Learn about the many careers included in the rehabilitation science field. Explore educational requirements as well as employment outlook, necessary skills and salary to determine if this is the right career choice.

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Career Definition for a Rehabilitation Science Professional

Rehabilitation science professionals design and implement rehabilitation plans for medical patients by working with physical therapists, speech language pathologists, occupational therapists and counselors. They make sure that people who have recently suffered a debilitating injury, patients recovering from surgery and people with chronic disabilities achieve the highest level of independence possible.

Education Bachelor's or master's with state certification
Job Skills Medical/scientific knowledge, ability to administer and score diagnostic tests, good communication skills
Median Salary (2015)* $84,020 for physical therapists and $86,220 for biomedical engineers
Outlook (2014-2024)* 34% for physical therapists and 23% for biomedical engineers

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Needed

Nearly all positions available in the rehabilitation science profession require at least a 4-year bachelor's degree with a state certification, and most employers prefer people with master's degrees and certification. Students interested in becoming rehabilitation science professionals should take classes such as anatomy, psychology, chemistry, nursing and physiology.

Required Skills

Rehabilitation science professionals need to have a firm understanding of basic medical and scientific principles and should be able to administer and score a number of medical diagnostic tests. They should also have excellent communication skills and need to be sensitive to their patients' needs.

Economic and Career Outlook

From physical therapists, who are predicted to experience a 34% increase in jobs, to biomedical engineers, who are expected to see a 23% increase in employment, rehabilitation science professionals should find growth in several areas of specialization throughout the decade (2014-2024), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reported the median yearly salary for physical therapists to be $84,020, while biomedical engineers earned $86,220 per year, as of May 2015. Pay will depend highly on employer, experience and education.

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Alternative Careers

Similar career options within this field include:

Physical Therapist Assistant

For those interested in helping patients recover from injury who don't want to complete the extensive physical therapist educational requirements, becoming a physical therapist assistant may be a good fit. Therapist assistants carry out the treatment plan laid out by the physical therapist, which could include stretching, exercises and massage. They also teach the patient how to walk with the assistance of braces or crutches and report on progress through written notes. An associate degree in physical therapy is generally required by employers and licensure by examination is also required in every state except Hawaii. In 2014, the BLS found 78,700 physical therapist assistants working in the U.S. and measured their median annual salary at $55,170. Employment growth of 41% is projected for this field during the 2014-2024 decade.

Athletic Trainer

If a career designing rehabilitation plans for injured athletes sounds intriguing, consider becoming an athletic trainer. When an injury occurs, athletic trainers provide initial first aid and assess the injury. After consulting with doctors after medical diagnosis, and possibly surgery, they create a treatment protocol consisting of exercise, massage and heat and cold therapy. Athletic trainers work with many age groups and also create programs and methods for preventing injuries. To work in the profession, a bachelor's degree in athletic training is required and some employers prefer candidates with master's degrees. According to BLS predictions, athletic trainers should see job opportunities increase by 21% from 2014-2024. However, competition will be strong because only 5,400 new jobs will be created during that time. Based on BLS data from May of 2015, athletic trainers earned a median salary of $44,670.

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