How To Become A Rehabilitation Counselor

A rehabilitation counselor counsels clients with emotional and physical disabilities so that they can manage their conditions. In collaboration with other healthcare professionals, you will develop a rehabilitation or treatment plan to help these individuals.

You also go a step further by helping clients get the necessary services they need by finding programs and other resources that will enable them to live independently despite their disabilities. In addition, you also enlighten employers on how they should treat their employees who have disabilities and show to them the laws and resources that support such. Meanwhile, vocational rehabilitation counselors are special kinds of rehabilitation counselors that help people deal with unemployment.

To be effective in this profession, you need to be compassionate to the difficulties faced by your clients. You also need to know how to handle different kinds of people since you will be directly working with and interacting not only with them but with their families and employers as well.

You also need to have excellent listening skills in order for you to truly comprehend their concerns and propose the right solutions. You also need to express your ideas well so you can communicate with your clients effectively. One final trait that you must have to succeed in this profession is patience. Counseling clients take time and they won’t always respond the way you want them to. This makes patience very vital to a healthy counselor-client relationship.

Why Become A Rehabilitation Counselor

There are many reasons to become a rehabilitation counselor. One of the most important reasons to pursue this career is the fulfillment it gives to being able to help people. Not everyone has what it takes to sit down, listen and actually find solutions for people who are suffering from their disabilities or advising those who are out of work. But for those who are inclined to this profession, the satisfaction it gives is more than what money can buy.

On the more practical side of the matter, another draw to this career is the fact that rehabilitation counselors are paid fairly well. The job outlook for this occupation is also positive in the coming years, making job opportunities available for aspiring rehabilitation counselors.

Rehabilitation Counselor Work Environment

Rehabilitation counselors work fulltime. Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that in 2012, an estimated 46 percent of rehabilitation counselors worked in social assistance industries. Twenty-two percent were employed in the healthcare industry, 15 percent worked in state governments while 6 percent were hired in local governments. They may work in schools and universities, prisons and independent-living facilities. They can provide counseling services individually or in groups.

Rehabilitation Counselor Salary

The May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that rehabilitation counselors were paid a mean annual wage of $37,660. This is a bit lower than the $43,700 paid to mental health counselors and the $56,160 received by educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors. The agency reported in 2012 that rehabilitation counselors working with the state government were paid the highest.

Average Rehabilitation Counselor Annual Salary


The average annual salary for rehabilitation counselors is $38,950 a year. Salaries start at $22,040 a year and go up to $62,780 a year.

Average Rehabilitation Counselor Hourly Wage


The average hourly wage for a rehabilitation counselor is $18.73. Hourly wages are between $10.59 and $30.18 an hour.

Stats were based out of 103,840 employed rehabilitation counselors in the United States.

Highest Paying States For Rehabilitation Counselors

Top Paying Cities For Rehabilitation Counselors

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Rehabilitation Counselor Career Outlook

The job outlook of rehabilitation counselors appears to be rosy from 2012 to 2022. In that ten-year time span, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the employment rate is forecasted to grow 20 percent, a rate that is faster than the average for all job types. From the 117,500 rehabilitation counselors employed in 2012, their number is expected to rise to 140,900 in 2022.

The demand is going to be fueled by the increase of the elderly population who will need the services of rehabilitation counselors so they can live independently. War veterans, children with learning disabilities and other disorders as well as those with substance abuse problems are also going to fuel demand.

Rehabilitation Counselor Degree

In order to become a rehabilitation counselor, one needs a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. Before one can be accepted in a master’s degree program, one needs to complete a bachelor’s degree which takes four years. It is possible to work as a rehabilitation counselor even with a bachelor’s degree but they won’t be able to provide the entire spectrum of services that someone with a master’s degree can give.

The courses in a master’s degree program will teach students how to review the needs of clients and come up with and implement strategies that will put clients in potential jobs. They will also be taught how to comprehend the medical and psychological issues of a disability. Master’s degree programs also require students to undergo supervised experience.

States have their own laws regarding the licensing of rehabilitation counselors. The state licensing board will issue the license to rehabilitation counselors that provide clients with counseling services. Those who only help clients with services like job placements or vocational rehabilitation may not need to obtain a license.

For states that require licensure, rehabilitation counselors must have completed anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience in addition to their master’s degree. They must also pass a state-recognized exam and comply with continuing education credits yearly.

It is also necessary for rehabilitation counselors to obtain the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor certification because employers will often ask for or even require it. To obtain certification, rehabilitation counselors should possess advanced education, work and clinical supervision requirements as well as pass a test. The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification has all the information needed for those who want to get certified.

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