There are an estimated 48.9 million persons with disabilities residing in the United States, who represent 19.4% of the total population, according to statistics gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau and released by the National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP). According to estimates, 24.1 million people with disabilities have a severe impairment, while 34.2 million have some kind of functional handicap.

Rehabilitation counselors are mental health experts that assist people with disabilities in developing skills, coping with anxiety and despair, and finding solutions to issues including employment, mobility, chronic pain, basic care, transportation, and more. The objectives and methods of rehabilitation counseling are similar to those of many other careers in psychology, counseling, and mental health; a rehabilitation counselor will use assessment tools and tests to evaluate and comprehend a client's issues, develop a treatment plan, and apply therapeutic techniques to improve the client's quality of life.

Step 1: Complete a Rehabilitation Counselor Degree

You must complete a lot of demanding coursework to get a degree and work as a rehabilitation counselor. This typically entails earning a bachelor's degree first, followed by a master's degree, and lastly, optionally enrolling in a Ph.D. or doctoral program.

  • Bachelor's Degree – When considering a career in rehabilitation counseling, the correct education is crucial. A bachelor's degree in counseling is generally required for entry into the field for most aspiring rehabilitation counselors. Students should enroll in many courses in this field of interest during this period.
  • Master's Degree – For the majority of those wishing to begin a career in rehabilitation counseling, a master's degree is also often necessary. The U.S. has a number of universities that provide master's degree programs in this subject. You'll probably also be required to finish a certain number of hours in a clinical environment after receiving your master's degree.
  • Graduate Certificate – Some schools offer graduate certificates in rehabilitation counseling. These short (approx. one year total) programs are open to those with master’s degrees (and sometimes bachelor’s degrees) in related disciplines.
  • Doctorate Degree – While a doctoral degree such as a Ph.D. or PsyD isn't a requirement for most rehabilitation counselors, having such a degree will boost your credibility in this field.

Step 2: Become Licensed as a Rehabilitation Counselor

All states require licensing for counselors who want to work in private practice, even if it may not be necessary for other kinds of settings. The precise standards for licensing differ from state to state, but the procedure often includes passing a state test. National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) certification may help with the licensing procedure and can attest to a candidate's training and preparedness. A National Counselor Examination, a master's degree, and 3,000 hours worth of counseling experience are all requirements for NBCC certification.

Internship / Practicum Experience

As previously stated, 3,000 hours of counseling experience are needed to get certified as a counselor by the NBCC.

In addition, in order to ensure that rehabilitation counselors are up to date on all professional standards and practices, several states mandate that they complete yearly continuing education courses.


State-by-state variations in licensing requirements (see above and below) mean that passing a state exam is often part of the process of becoming a rehabilitation counselor. Renewal of the state-mandated Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) certification (see below) also requires participation in continuing education and/or retaking a test.

State Requirements

Even though it may not be required in other types of settings, all states require a license for rehabilitation counselors who wish to operate in private practice. A lot of states also require that rehabilitation counselors have certification from the CRCC.

Step 3: Apply for a Rehabilitation Counselor Job

Contrary to popular belief, almost everyone is capable of contributing to society and being a valuable participant, regardless of any limitations. However, some people may need assistance in learning how to become independent.

Rehabilitation counseling can assist in guiding these people toward greater independence. More independent people in our society improve not only the morale of the community as a whole but also ease the burden on resources such as government assistance.

What Careers Can I Pursue With a Rehabilitation Counselor Degree?

A rehabilitation counselor might help clients work through several different types of problems that could be holding them back in life. Many times, solving the right problem may consequently solve several other related problems. Problem-solving during counseling sessions is often accomplished by setting goals.

Goals are often a big part of rehabilitation counseling. The primary goal for individuals in need of rehabilitation counseling is usually to live as independently as possible. This is usually accomplished by setting and working toward several smaller goals. For instance, counselors working with people with limited mobility might work to help their clients gain access to transportation, such as public transportation. This small step may enable clients to run errands, go shopping, and find and keep a job, allowing them to be much more independent.

All of these skills and more will help you as a rehabilitation counselor, but also with many other jobs such as a consultant or educator, or another type of counselor.

In 2019, 93,200 rehabilitation counselors were employed in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Rehabilitation counselor employment is expected to grow at a rate of 11% during the 2021-2031 decade, generating some 103,000 new positions.

Where Can I Work With a Rehabilitation Counselor Degree?

Traditional hospitals, assisted living communities, physical therapy offices, independent living centers, and nursing homes are all places where rehabilitation counselors may work. They can also be found working for schools, prison facilities, institutions for the disabled, and agencies that provide social and human services.

Rehabilitation counselors have the same ability to establish private practices as many other types of psychologists and counselors.

Step 4: Learn About Rehabilitation Counselor Salaries

Rehabilitation counselors earned an average yearly salary of $44,470 in the U.S. as of 2021, according to the BLS. Rehabilitation counselors' median annual wages, according to the BLS, range from $52,200 in Massachusetts to $42,630 in Pennsylvania, the state with the greatest employment levels in this profession.

Joining a professional organization is a must if you want to really succeed as a rehabilitation counselor. Continuing education opportunities are one of the many advantages offered by professional organizations like the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association (ARCA). Access to seminars, quarterly publications, liability insurance, and other perks are also included with membership.

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