How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor

Rehabilitation Counselor Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $44,000
Avg. Pay / hour $21.16
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 10%

Rehabilitation Counselors are professionals that work in the health care field and specialize in helping their patients overcome the limitations that an illness, disorder or injury can create.

Through their guidance and counseling, Rehabilitation Counselors can help their patients live a more fulfilled life by enabling them to live independently and at ease with their illness, disorder or physical limitation.

Individuals who want to become a Rehabilitation Counselor may have already noticed some innate characteristics needed to succeed in this career path.

Some important characteristics to have in this profession include: compassion and empathy, patience, communication skills, interpersonal skills and listening skills.

Education Requirements to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor

Individuals who want to become a Rehabilitation Counselor will need an advanced degree as well as a certification or license in order to apply for several jobs.

In addition to these requirements, individuals must also possess some characteristics that will help them take care of patients.

Some important qualities include having compassion, patience, communication skills, interpersonal and listening skills.

These skills can help in providing care to patients as well as working with other health care professionals.

Individuals who want to become a Rehabilitation Counselor may focus their undergraduate degree on a variety of programs.

However, to prepare for the Rehabilitation Counseling program at the Master’s level, individuals can use the gainful insight that a degree such as Psychology, Biology or a health care related field can provide.

Individuals who want to become a Rehabilitation Counselor can take a Master’s program in Rehabilitation Counseling or a closely related field to enter this profession.

During this program, individuals will gain an understanding in a variety of areas that will help them provide health care to patients.

Individuals will take a curriculum to gain insight on the medical and psychological traits of disability as well as learning a foundation of skills and techniques to provide mental health counseling.

Rehabilitation Counselor Job Description

Using their educational background and personal characteristics, Rehabilitation Counselors will work with patients with physical or mental limitations who are unable to live independently.

Rehabilitation Counselors may work with individuals or groups and may begin by evaluating a patient’s health record, abilities, education, skills and experience.

With the consultation of other health care professionals such as doctors, therapists or psychologists, a Rehabilitation Counselor will develop and implement a treatment and rehabilitation plan geared specifically to each client.

They will also work directly with a patient to discuss their limitations, if any, and help them develop a plan or strategy to determine their strengths and to readjust to their limitations, both physical and mental.

Rehabilitation Counselors will also provide individual or group counseling sessions to assist their patients in adjusting to their disability or physical or mental limitation.

These professionals will also coordinate other services such as health care or career services.

Rehabilitation Counselor Salary and Career Path

Individuals interested in a career as a Rehabilitation Counselor can expect a median annual wage of $33,880 working full time, according to figures from 2012.

Exact wages will depend on the industry an individual works in, as well as the level of experience one has.

For example, Rehabilitation Counselor’s working for state governments earn the highest wages at approximately $43,550 per year while professionals working in the social assistance field can expect the lowest wages for this profession at approximately $30,390.

The need for Rehabilitation Counselors is expected to increase by 20 percent through the year 2022.

This growth is considered a fast growth when compared to other professions and is caused by the increased demand for health care.

The aging population, veterans and those with disabilities are groups who need the expertise of a Rehabilitation Counselor.

With these groups expected to grow in the coming years, the demand for Rehabilitation Counselors is of great importance.

Rehabilitation Counselors use their educational knowledge and background to help individuals with diseases, injuries and disorders live as independent as possible.

In addition to the job security that the health profession provides, these professionals can also be assured that their skills are helping those who are not fully able to take or themselves.

Their work can help their patients feel empowered and capable of living independently.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$49,450
New Hampshire$45,550
New Jersey$71,570
New Mexico$41,690
New York$43,000
North Carolina$40,850
North Dakota$51,140
Rhode Island$60,230
South Carolina$34,640
South Dakota$45,120
West Virginia$42,480
Puerto Rico$31,540

The top earning state in the field is Maine, where the average salary is $80,550.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Maine - $80,550
New Jersey - $71,570
Rhode Island - $60,230
Alaska - $55,100
Massachusetts - $52,200
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Rehabilitation Counselors, OCC Code 21-1015, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do rehabilitation counselors do?

Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities live an independent life.

They provide individual and group counseling sessions for their clients, evaluate their client’s interests and abilities and consult with doctors, psychologists and therapists to develop a treatment plan.

As a rehabilitation counselor, you can specialize in a specific field; for example, some rehabilitation counselors help students learn how to live with their disability while others help adults or elderly people.

Rehabilitation counselors who specialize in helping people with disabilities find a place of employment are sometimes called vocational rehabilitation counselors.

If you’re a compassionate person with good communication and listening skills, a career as a rehabilitation counselor may be the right fit for you.

How much does a rehabilitation counselor make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for rehabilitation counselors was $35,630 in May 2018.

Salaries vary widely depending on the field of employment; rehabilitation counselors who work for the community and vocational rehabilitation services earned a median annual wage of $31,260, while those who work for state government earned a median wage of $51,350.

How much does it cost to become a rehabilitation counselor?

Most rehabilitation counselors hold a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field.

Usually, master’s degree programs in this field also include a period of internship.

In order to enroll in a master’s degree program, you typically need a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s degree programs can cost you anywhere between less than $9,000 and more than $30,000 a year, depending on the school you choose.

Tuition costs for master’s degree programs also vary based on a wide range of factors.

An online master’s degree program in rehabilitation services can cost you around $40,000.

In order to be able to provide counseling services to patients, you will also need a state license.

What is the demand for rehabilitation counselors?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for rehabilitation counselors is expected to grow 10 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Job prospects are expected to be good, especially for rehabilitation counselors who specialize in helping older people live an independent life.

How long does it take to become a rehabilitation counselor?

In order to become a rehabilitation counselor, you will need a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field.

Before enrolling at a master’s degree program you will need to get your bachelor’s degree.

A bachelor’s degree program usually can be completed in around 4 years and master’s degree programs can be completed in around 2 years.

Some universities also offer mixed programs that lead to both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree and can be completed in around 5 years.

Before being able to practice as a rehabilitation counselor you will need to get your state license.

Licensure requirements vary by state but most require a master’s degree, 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience and to pass an exam.

Rehabilitation counselors also need continuing education classes in order to maintain their license.

Some employers also require rehabilitation counselors to be certified.

The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification offers a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor credential which must be renewed every 5 years.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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