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Rehabilitation Counselor: Education and Career Information

There are many individuals who need assistance in dealing with physical, psychological or emotional issues. These individuals may be living on their own or a rehabilitation center, but they need someone who can help them adjust to the issues that are going on in their lives. This is where a rehabilitation counselor comes in. They are there to provide the resources needed to keep the quality of life at a certain level. This could be a very lucrative career for someone who wants to help others in dealing with health problems and other situations that may occur as a result of being in rehab.

What does a rehabilitation counselor do?

The rehabilitation counselor wears a number of hats. They work with a variety of individuals, from children to the elderly. They assess issues and abilities, determining what needs the clients have. They are integral in providing resources, strategies and solutions. They work with agencies and other community support systems to coordinate services. They also work to find programs that will assist the core unit of the family, whether it is medical services, vocational programs, job support and education. They educate clients on how to function independently and have to maintain records and develop plans of care that include social, behavioral and emotional support. You can find them working in healthcare settings, residential facilities, private homes, correctional facilities, educational facilities and recreational facilities. You can also find them in private practices. Depending on what type of position they hold and the location of their employment, they may be available twenty-four hours a day.

How much does a rehabilitation counselor earn?

The pay for rehabilitation counselors vary based on where they work, education, experience and type of position they hold. The median annual wage in 2012 was $33,880, but they can make up to and over $100,000 per year. Working in surgical settings, the salary is usually in the $50,000 range. The projections for this position are expected to grow 20 percent through the year 2022, which is faster than the average in occupations, as the elderly population, and those with disabilities continuously need attention.

What types of skills must a rehabilitation counselor have?

There are a number of skills needed to be an effective rehabilitation counselor. There is a high attention to detail and a sincere level of compassion needed. Other skills include:

Active listening: Being able to actively listen is important in determining what the client needs and their concerns are. It’s important to be able to listen to the family’s concerns and point people within organizations you may have to work with.

Monitoring: Being able to closely monitor the status of projects, services, and the progress of clients. Being able to track paperwork and meet deadlines is key.

Critical Thinking: Being able to determine what types of services the clients need is important. You must be able to critically think about their personal situation and determine the best method of action.

Reading comprehension: Being able to read information from a number of agencies, medical records and client history is an important part of successfully carrying out your job.

Coordination: Coordinating the right services is key in making sure your clients have what they need, when they need it. Being able to work with a number of agencies and workers in the coordination process will elevate the standard of services you can provide.

Negotiation: Everything is a negotiation when working with agencies to get what you need. You will also need to negotiate with your clients in the types of services they need in comparison to the types of services they think they want. Being able to successfully negotiate these services while maintaining a level head and budget makes a significant difference in how well you succeed at your job.

Problem Solving: Being able to solve problems as you assess and coordinate services is very important.

Systems Evaluation: The current system of a particular agency may not work well for your client. Being able to thoroughly evaluate the systems that are currently in place to determine whether or not it will be a good fit for the client is crucial.

Customer Service: Since you will be dealing with so many different clients and entities, a high level of customer service is needed.

Administrative Skills: Being able to operate a computer, maintain records and a host of other administrative skills is necessary to successfully perform the duties of this job.

Internship Requirements

Each internship requirement is based on the program. Master’s and doctoral programs have internship components built into the program, which could be as little as 40 hours of supervised counseling, to over 400 hours. Students may seek outside internships that may enhance the educational training they receive.

Education Requirements

There is extensive education needed to become a rehabilitation counselor. First, a bachelor’s degree in counseling is required. Coursework includes psychology, therapy and counseling. Once this has been completed, a master’s degree in counseling is needed, which is an additional two years. During this time, the preferred area of interest is noted and courses in this specialty should be taken. After these two degrees have been obtained, a doctorate degree in counseling is needed. This will be an additional two years as well, which will be eight years total, not including residency or internships.

There is an option for rehabilitation counselors to become licensed as professional counselors through the National Counselor Examination. Certain states have their own rules for licensing, so getting the information for the state in which you reside is key. There are also voluntary certification programs through the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification, which must be renewed every five years.

The rehabilitation counselor is a growing field which can be lucrative for anyone who completes the educational requirements. If working with people and other social service agencies in coordinating services is something that interests you, this may be a career path worth pursuing.

Counseling Scholarships

American Psychological Foundation Scholarships Association of Black Psychologists Epilepsy Foundation
Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate Student Fellowship Future Counselors of America Scholarship Gallagher Koster Health Careers Scholarship
Kay Wilson Presidential Leadership Award NIH Undergraduate Scholarship NAJA Graduate Scholarship
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Psi Chi Awards and Grants Wayne F. Placek Grants
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Quick Fact
In 2018, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
median earnings per week than workers with only a high school diploma.*
*Bureau of Labor Statistics

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