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How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor

Written by Kate Lopaze

When you hear the word “rehab,” it might conjure up images of celebrities disappearing for a few weeks while publicists release statements about “exhaustion.” But while rehabilitation centers certainly do the very important work of helping patients with additions and related health issues, they also exist for helping patients get back on their feet after surgeries, injuries, or other illnesses. Rehabilitation counselors are crucial in helping these patients, as well as people with disabilities, recover and overcome barriers.

The Day-to-Day

Rehabilitation counselors are allied health professionals work with clients and families to help those clients to achieve personal, social, psychological, and professional goals. One of their main roles is helping people get back on track (or on track in the first place) after being diagnosed with a disability or illness, or as they recover from surgery or injuries. Counselors can work with clients of all ages and backgrounds, but may specialize in areas like patients with disabilities, patients coming back from military service or stress-related trauma, patients being treated for addictions, or patients dealing with work-related injuries. By creating treatment plans and coordinating services and accommodations, counselors help their clients make progress in their lives.

Rehabilitation counselors typically work a standard 40-hour week, though these hours might include evenings or weekends to accommodate client needs. Rehab counselors can work in a variety of places, like community centers, youth centers, senior centers, hospitals, or private clinics.

For more on what it’s like to be a rehabilitation counselor, check out these videos:

Understanding Rehabilitation Counseling

What is Rehabilitation Counseling?

So You Want to Be a Rehabilitation Counselor

The Requirements

Rehabilitation counselors typically have a master’s degree from an accredited program, though their undergraduate degrees can be in a variety of fields like social work, psychology, or counseling. Clinical training is usually included in the master’s program, in addition to an internship and a practicum. Certification is usually optional, but you should check your state’s requirements (or potential future employers’ requirements) ahead of time.

The Pay

Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, rehabilitation counselors earn a median salary of $34,380 per year, or $16.53 per hour.

The Outlook

Demand for rehabilitation counselors is expected to rise by at least 9% by 2024, reflecting a need for all kinds of outpatient follow-up care for people affected by injuries, trauma, stress, or illnesses.

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.