In vocational rehabilitation programs, students learn how to provide treatment for those with addictions or mental disabilities and to help these individuals pursue employment. Both bachelor's and master's programs provide students with the opportunity for hands-on experiences through internships. Admittance to a bachelor's program requires a GED or high school diploma and strong written and oral communication, and master's candidates must possess a bachelor's degree and present Graduate Records Examination (GRE) scores.
In some states, rehabilitation counselors must be licensed, though vocational rehab counselors may be exempt. Requirements for licensure typically include completion of a master's program, 2,000-4,000 hours of clinical practice and an exam. Professionals can also pursue voluntary certifications in the field.
Bachelor's Degree in Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) programs for vocational rehabilitation services are often interdisciplinary, covering topics from the social and natural sciences. Some undergraduate programs provide a general overview of rehabilitation, covering drug and alcohol counseling, residential services, juvenile corrections and mental health services along with vocational rehabilitation. Students complete classroom instruction and clinical observation as part of their required coursework.
Through undergraduate coursework in vocational rehabilitation, students learn to work with disabled populations, providing counseling and support services. Programs also emphasize collaboration with employers to put disabled employees in a position to succeed. Classes in the subjects noted below are usually offered:
- Ethics in rehabilitation
- Mental disability diagnosis
- Case management
- Addiction rehabilitation
- Counseling skills
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Master's Degree in Vocational Rehabilitation
Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.S) programs are for those who are interested in supervisory or teaching positions in vocational rehabilitation. Students learn to assess and improve patients' work skills, and how to develop and evaluate rehabilitation plans. Core courses in the program cover typical and atypical development, medical and psychosocial aspects of disability, human services and substance abuse. Programs often require students to complete supervised internships before graduation.
Graduate-level vocational rehabilitation programs discuss the theories and methods used to place disabled people in appropriate employment settings. Students learn to properly assess patients' employment aptitude and to interact with potential employers. Classes usually cover the following topics:
- Rehabilitation counseling research
- Medical and psychological effects of disability
- Career assessment
- Assessment of rehabilitation potential
- Legal aspects of vocational counseling
Popular Career Options
Earning a bachelor's degree in vocational rehabilitation services prepares graduates for several entry-level positions. Many with an M.S. or M.A. in Vocational Rehabilitation work in academic, supervisory or research roles. Others choose to work directly with patients either in clinics or private practice. Counseling positions often require further education and certification. The careers noted below are popular options:
- Direct care staff
- Vocational rehabilitation case manager assistant
- Addiction counselor assistant
- Licensed vocational rehabilitation counselor
- University professor
- Licensed social worker
Certification and Continuing Education Options
Counselors in nearly all states need to earn licensure before they can work with patients. Licensure requirements usually include earning a master's degree and completing a 2-year supervised internship. Some vocational counselors choose to earn voluntary certification through the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification, which requires passing a written exam and completing continuing educational requirements.
Students can pursue B.A. and B.S. programs as well as M.A. and M.S. degree programs in vocational rehabilitation, which prepares them for careers offering direct care services or rehabilitation counseling.