Rehabilitation professionals work in rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, nursing homes, mental health institutions and other settings. Although a high school diploma is the entry-level requirement for many rehab technician jobs, undergraduate and graduate degrees are available.
Graduate programs culminate in a research project, like a dissertation or thesis. Master's degree programs in the field can prepare graduates to become rehabilitation or occupational therapists, while doctoral programs can prepare individuals for careers in academia or research.
Associate's Degree in Assistive or Rehabilitation Technology
This degree program prepares students for entry-level jobs as assistant rehabilitation technicians. Classes, labs and fieldwork train students to evaluate the physical, emotional and behavioral status of patients and provide rehab treatment. Students learn to work as part of a team that may include physicians, psychologists and social workers. Rehab technology programs teach students to maintain records and communicate with patients and other professionals.
Rehab technician courses at the associate's degree level cover the basics required to assist patients with a variety of disabilities. Common courses include the following:
- Wheeled mobility and seating
- Home accommodations
- Computer modifications
- Workplace accommodations
- Alternative and augmentative communication
Bachelor's Degree in Assistive or Rehabilitation Technology
Rehab technician students at the bachelor's degree level typically combine a liberal arts education with courses in the physical and behavioral sciences. Classes cover the musculoskeletal and neuromuscular principles of movement and exercise. Through fieldwork and labs, students learn to create rehab programs and manage patient behavior. Students become skilled at using special equipment and machines to help patients function normally at home, in the workplace and in other settings. The equipment may include Braille and speech devices.
Courses in rehab technician bachelor's degree programs include training in assistive and rehabilitation technology.
- Case management
- Rehab testing, measurement and substance abuse
- Assistive technology
- Anatomy and kinesiology
- Rehab technology
- Human behavior management
Master's Degree in Assistive or Rehabilitation Technology
At the master's degree level, rehab technology programs offer interdisciplinary studies that may include courses in the fields of rehabilitation, education and engineering. Master's degree programs in rehab technology focus heavily on assistive and rehabilitation technology and techniques. Students also receive training in research methods. Graduate level rehab technician programs generally require significant fieldwork in rehab facilities and clinics. Degree candidates typically have the option of writing a thesis or completing a research project or paper.
Students pursuing rehab technician degrees at the master's level combine courses in the natural and behavioral sciences, assistive rehabilitation technology and the natural and behavior sciences. The following courses are typical:
- Wheelchairs, mobility and seating
- Modifying homes and workplaces
- Neuromuscular stimulations
- Computer access and specialized transportation
- Disability psychology
- Rehab and assistive technology
Ph.D. in Assistive or Rehabilitation Technology
This interdisciplinary degree program combines rehab technology, the sciences and research. Curriculum focuses on the theory and practice of rehab technology, muscle physiology and assistive and rehabilitation technology. Students must design and conduct their own research projects. Students are expected to know the latest rehab technology methods and contribute to their improvement through research and practice in the field.
Courses at the Ph.D. level prepare candidates to be leading practitioners, teachers and researchers in rehab technology and related areas.
- Research design
- Rehabilitation research
- Disability and technology
- Grant writing
- Neural control and movement
Popular Career Options
Holders of rehab technician degrees have a range of job employment possibilities. Those who hold Ph.D. rehab technician degrees may pursue careers in supervision, practice, research and teaching. Some jobs may require additional certification. Possible career options are below:
- Rehab technology researcher
- Rehab or Assistive technology professor
- Rehabilitation technologist or engineer
- Physical therapist or personal trainer
- Exercise physiologist
- Vocational technician
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Rehab technology job prospects are good due to the increasing disabled and injured elderly population. Employment of rehabilitation counselors is expected to grow 9% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). The mean annual salary of rehabilitation counselors was $38,040 in 2015.
Employment prospects look good for people who earn master's-level rehab technician degrees and seek careers as occupational therapists. Between 2014 and 2024, the number of employed occupational therapists will increase by 27%, according to the BLS. Jobs will be available in hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions that provide rehab services. Occupational therapists earned a mean annual salary of $81,690 in 2015.
Fellowships in rehab technology, assistive and rehabilitation technology and related areas are available for holders of doctoral degrees in the field. Colleges, universities and rehab institutions typically collaborate in offering the fellowships.
There are a range of undergraduate and graduate level degrees for students who are interested in a career as a rehabilitation technician. Students who obtain higher levels of education will not only have higher salaries, they will also have the opportunity to pursue fellowships.