How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor

Although sometimes mistaken for addiction professionals, rehabilitation counselors are certified by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) and directly work with individuals with physical, mental, developmental, and emotional disabilities to live independently. Rehabilitation counselors may provide a wide range of services from assessment, case management, and program research to interventions to remove environmental barriers, job analysis and development, and consultation services with other agencies.

Some counselors in the rehabilitation field are referred to as vocational. These counselors work specifically with employment issues with older students and adults. Other populations that may encounter rehabilitation counseling include students transitioning from school to work, veterans, and elderly people in adaptation to changes in their lifestyle.

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What does a Rehabilitation Counselor do?

Counselors in rehabilitation perform and engage in a wide array of activities and responsibilities. Differing from a mental health counselor, rehabilitation professionals work with clients who have physical, emotional, developmental, or mental disabilities in creating a plan that fits their level of education, aptitude, physical abilities, and career goals. Often collaborating with other social service and mental health professionals, rehabilitation counselors also address barriers to employment, engage in job development and placement programs, and arrange for evaluations of physical, mental, academic, and vocational needs.

The Commission on Rehabilitation Counseling Certification (CRCC) describes the role of rehabilitation counselors as providing analysis and diagnostic information on mental, emotional, or behavioral conditions of their clients in order to develop an appropriate treatment plan for adjustment or healthy development. Through counseling treatment interventions such as developmental, wellness, pathologic, and multicultural lenses, rehabilitation counselors address their clients behavior through individual, group, family, and marriage counseling and psychotherapy.

Steps to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor

Step 1: Complete a bachelor’s degree in a rehabilitation and disability studies, behavioral, social science, or psychology field.

Because a master’s degree is a requirement for licensure, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation and disability studies or related fields sets the groundwork for rehabilitation counseling students. Coursework for undergraduate studies in rehabilitation and disability studies may include the evaluation of human development, counseling foundation, theories of personality, assessments, and/or vocational evaluations.

Step 2: Earn a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling.

There are many CACREP accredited universities that offer studies specifically in rehabilitation counseling. Obtaining your graduate degree in rehabilitation counseling is a requirement for practice as a licensed professional counselor and/or certified rehabilitation counselor.

Step 3: Complete graduate and postgraduate internship experience for certification/licensure requirements.

As a crucial aspect of accredited counseling master’s programs, graduate supervised counseling experience provides students with insight into their future role as a licensed professional counselor, gaining hands-on experience under other professional counselors. States typically require students to complete between 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised counseling experience and 100 hours of supervision over a two-year post-master’s time period unless they have graduated from a CACREP -accredited program.

Step 4: Pass any required rehabilitation counseling exams for licensure and certification.

Some states and/or counseling programs require the passing of a recognized examination for graduation or licensure such as the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and/or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). To become a certified rehabilitation counselor (CRC), you must pass the CRC examination.

Step 5: Apply for and earn additional counseling certifications.

Licensed professional counselors can pursue a national certification through the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC). Some employers require rehabilitation counselors to pursue certification as a CRC for professional practice.

Step 6: Continue your education and stay up to date on rehabilitation counseling trends and changes.

Continuing education is imperative to maintaining professional counseling licensure/certification and keeping up-to-date with changes and/or updates to rehabilitation, vocational, and career counseling fields. CRCs must complete 100 hours of continuing education within the current five-year period.

What are the certification and licensure requirements?

Similar to other counseling careers, certification and licensure requirements vary from state to state. Some employers require that rehabilitation counselors are certified by the CRCC as they require an examination and establish applicants as distinguished professionals in the field of rehabilitation.

Licensure for rehabilitation counselors typically require the same track as mental health counselors: completion of 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised clinical service and a passing score on a state-recognized exam.

Career Outlook for Rehabilitation Counselors

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that rehabilitation counseling will grow by 10% between 2018-2028 - higher than average. As the elderly population grows, the need for rehabilitation counselors rises.

Most Common Places of Employment of Rehabilitation Counselors:

  • Community and vocational rehabilitation services
  • Individual and Family Services
  • State Government

California, New York, and Pennsylvania employ the most rehabilitation counselors offering an average salary of about $38,000. The top paying states that offer more than $50,000 are New Jersey, Rhode Island, Colorado, Washington DC, and Vertmont however, Maryland offers the highest salary of more than $79,000.

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Assumption College

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Program Length: Two to three years
  • Instruction Methods: Asynchronous

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credit Hours
  • 100 Hour Practicum
  • 600 Hour Internship
  • Two 5-Day On-Campus Session

Admission Requirements

  • A bachelor’s degree in Biology or Social Services or Equivalent Work Experience
  • Online Application with Fee
  • Official Previous Transcripts
  • Minimum Undergraduate 2.7 GPA, 3.0 Preferred
  • Three Letters of Recommendation

Fort Valley State University

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling and Case Management
  • Program Length: Three years
  • Instruction Methods: Asynchronous

Program Requirements

  • 52 Credit Hours
  • 100 Hour Practicum
  • 600 Hour Internship
  • Maintain a 3.0 GPA
  • Written Examination

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree in a related field
  • Official Transcripts
  • 2.7 Undergraduate GPA
  • Graduate Application
  • Personal and Professional Essays
  • Resume
  • Interview

George Washington University

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Program Length: 3 years
  • Instruction Methods: Asynchronous

Program Requirements

  • 48 Credit Hours

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree from an Accredited College or University
  • Online Application
  • Resume
  • Statement of Purpose
  • 2 Letters of Recommendation
  • GRE or MAT
  • Transcripts (unofficial)
  • Application Fee

Montana State University - Billings

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling
  • Program Length: Five to six semesters
  • Instruction Methods: Asynchronous

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credits
  • Two on campus classes required
  • Pre-Practicum
  • Practicum
  • 6-12 Credits for Internship

Admission Requirements

  • Undergraduate degree from an accredited university with 3.0 GPA
  • Official transcripts
  • Application Essay
  • Current CV or Resume
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • GRE Scores

St. Cloud State University

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Instruction Methods: Asynchronous

Program Requirements

  • 48-52 Credit Hours
  • 100 Hour Practicum
  • 750 Hour Internship
  • Thesis or Comprehensive Examination
  • Maintain a 3.0 GPA
  • On-Campus Orientation

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree in a related field
  • Official Transcripts
  • 2.75 Undergraduate GPA
  • Graduate Application with fee
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Letter of Intent
  • GRE Scores
  • Interview
  • Resume

State University of New York at Buffalo

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Program Length: 4 to 6 Semesters
  • Instruction Methods: Asynchronous/Synchronous

Program Requirements

  • 48 Credit Hours
  • 150 Hour Practicum
  • 600 Hour Internship

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree from an Accredited College or University
  • Online Application with Fee
  • Two Letters of Recommendation
  • Official Previous Transcripts
  • Statement of Intent
  • Admission Interview

Texas Tech University

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Program Length: Three years
  • Instruction Methods: N/A

Program Requirements

  • 36 hours of core coursework
  • 12 hours of practicum and internship
  • 12 hours of specialty coursework 

Admission Requirements

  • Online Application
  • Application Fee
  • Official Transcripts
  • Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university
  • Minimum cumulative GPA of a 2.7 is required
  • Resume
  • Two Letters of Recommendation, three are preferred
  • TOEFL/IELTS Scores 

Thomas University

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling
  • Program Length: Two to four years
  • Instruction Methods: Asynchronous

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credit Hours
  • 100 Hour Practicum
  • 600 Hour Internship

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree in a related field
  • Official Transcript
  • Graduate Application with fee
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Resume

University of Alabama

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Instruction Methods: Asynchronous

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credit Hours
  • 100 Hour Practicum
  • 600 Hour Internship

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree from an Accredited College or University
  • Online Application with Fee
  • Official Previous Transcripts
  • Minimum Undergraduate 3.0 GPA
  • GRE Score of 300 or MAT Greater than the 50th Percentile
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Online Interview

University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Arts in Counseling, emphasis on Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Program Length: Two to four years
  • Instruction Methods: Asynchronous

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credit Hours
  • 100 Hour Practicum
  • 600 Hour Internship
  • Two 3-Day Residential Workshops

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree in a related field
  • Official Transcripts
  • 2.7 Undergraduate GPA
  • Graduate Application
  • Interview

University of Hawai'i

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Science in Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Science
  • Program Length: Three years
  • Instruction Methods: Asynchronous

Program Requirements

  • 48-60 Credit Hours
  • 100 Hour Practicum
  • 600 Hour Internship

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree from an Accredited College or University
  • KRS Specialization Form
  • Official Transcripts
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Statement of Objectives
  • Writing Sample
  • Interview
  • Resume

University of Kentucky

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Education in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Program Length: 16 months to three years
  • Instruction Methods: Asynchronous

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credit Hours
  • 200 Hour Practicum
  • 600 Hour Internship
  • Maintain a 3.0 GPA
  • One Summer Session
  • Final Examination

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree from an Accredited College or University
  • Online Application
  • Three Letters of Reference
  • Official Previous Transcripts
  • Minimum 2.7 Undergraduate GPA
  • Personal Interview

University of Massachusetts - Boston

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Program Length: Two to three and a half years
  • Instruction Methods: Asynchronous

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credit Hours
  • 100 Hour Practicum
  • 600 Hour Internship with Capstone Project
  • One Two-Week Residential Summer Session

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree from an Accredited College or University
  • Online Application
  • Official Previous Transcripts
  • GRE/MAT Scores
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Resume
  • Personal Interview

University of North Texas

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Program Length: N/A
  • Instruction Methods: Asynchronous

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credit Hours
  • 100 Hour Practicum
  • 600 Hour Internship
  • Examination

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree in a related field
  • Official Transcripts
  • Two Letters of Reference
  • University and Department Application with fee
  • Personal Statement
  • Group Interview with graduate faculty members
  • Resume

University of Wisconsin - Stout

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Program Length: Three years
  • Instruction Methods: Asynchronous

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credit Hours
  • Practicum
  • Internship
  • 2.5 Day On-Campus Orientation

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree from an Accredited College or University
  • Online Application with Fee
  • Official Previous Transcripts
  • Three Letters of Reference
  • Written Statement
  • Resume
  • Two Years of Related Work Experience

Utah State University

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Program Length: Two to three years
  • Instruction Methods: Synchronous

Program Requirements

  • 52 Credit Hours
  • 100 Hour Practicum
  • 600 Hour Internship
  • Two One-Week On-Campus Courses

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree from an Accredited College or University
  • Online Application with Fee
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA for Last 60 Credit Hours
  • GRE or MAT Scores in 40th Percentile or Higher
  • Letter of Intent
  • Three Letters of Recommendation

Winston-Salem State University

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Program Length: Two years
  • Instruction Methods: N/A

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credit Hours
  • 100 Hour Practicum
  • 700 Hour Internship

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree from an Accredited College or University
  • Recent GRE Score
  • Online Application with Fee
  • Minimum 2.7 Undergraduate GPA
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  • Two Official Transcripts
  • Three Professional References
  • Interview with Graduate Faculty

Wright State University

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Program Length: Two to three years
  • Instruction Methods: Asynchronous

Program Requirements

  • 63 Credit Hours
  • 100 Hour Practicum
  • 600 Hour Internship
  • Exit Exam

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s Degree from an Accredited College or University
  • Online Application
  • Minimum 2.7 Undergraduate GPA with GRE Test scores - 291 or MAT - 403
  • Minimum 3.3 GPA - no GRE required
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Personal Interview

Last updated: April 2020