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Rehabilitation Counselors

At a Glance

  • Help people with disabilities work independently
  • Work closely with patients and health care workers
  • Keep detailed records
  • Most work full time
  • Have a master's degree
  • Need to be licensed, certified, or registered

Career summary

Rehabilitation counselors help people manage mental and physical disabilities. They help patients live as independently as possible.

Rehabilitation counselors work with patients who have a physical, mental, or emotional disability. Often, they work with people who were born with a disability. They may work with people who, after an accident or illness, have a permanent disability.

Rehabilitation counselors work one-on-one with patients. They design exercises that teach patients how to perform necessary skills. They may train them to do light tasks, such as sweeping and dusting.

They create new ways for patients to complete tasks they used to perform easily. This may mean that a patient may need to learn how to use special tools and devices. Rehabilitation counselors may help patients learn how to use braces and wheelchairs.

Part of rehabilitation counseling is working with others to help patients. When developing treatment plans, counselors often consult with:

They also often work directly with a patient's coworkers and managers.

They can advise others on how to work with the patient. They can also identify any potential problems, such as a physical barrier, so that necessary changes can be made.

Related careers

This career is part of the Human Services cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to rehabilitation counselors.

Common work activities

Rehabilitation counselors perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, rehabilitation counselors:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Rehabilitation counselors frequently:

It is important for rehabilitation counselors to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for rehabilitation counselors to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Rehabilitation counselors need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a rehabilitation counselor, you typically need to:

Education after high school

The most common way to become a rehabilitation counselor is to complete a master's degree. Thus you must complete a four-year bachelor's degree program and a two-year master's degree program. Your undergraduate degree usually is in a field such as psychology, nursing, or social work.

In graduate programs, you study psychology, physiology, and public policy. You also learn various types of therapy techniques and skills, including individual and group work as well as vocational therapy ideas. You also spend time working with clients, while supervised by a licensed rehabilitation counselor.

Work experience

Volunteer experience in hospitals or nursing homes is helpful when applying to college. Some employers prefer counselors with one to two years of work experience in a particular area.

On-the-job training

Many employers offer short-term, on-the-job training to orient you to procedures and policies. This training usually lasts a few months or less.

Military training

The military is a good source of training for this occupation. Military training includes classroom instruction and work experience applying rehabilitation therapy techniques.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers look for applicants with a master's degree in the field. They also desire counselors who have patience and strong interpersonal skills. Patience is important because many clients may not show rapid progress. Counselors must be prepared for that challenge. In addition, counselors need understanding and compassion when dealing with clients facing health problems. Employers also look for creativity and imagination. They prefer applicants who can inspire trust and respect in their clients. Rehabilitation counselors must be able to develop new activities to meet patients' needs.

Most rehabilitation counselors must be nationally certified.

Costs to workers

Workers may want to join a professional organization, which may have annual dues. Those who wish to be certified by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification must pay an application and exam fee of $405. The certification must be renewed every five years by continuing education or examination. Renewal fees are $395 for the continuing education option or $595 for renewal by examination.

#Checked exam/renewal fees which are still the same 3/22/12 lh & 3/25/15 cj. couldn't find renewal fee amt. 3/23/16 lh. Updated exam fee & added renewal fees as found them again, 1/23/17 cj. Updated exam and renewal fees 3/18/19 cj.


Rehabilitation counselors who work with certain state and federal agencies may need to be registered or certified by those agencies. Counselors who do work for federal programs, such as the Veteran's Administration, must have a master's degree. Rehabilitation counselors are often nationally certified by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC).

Requirements for the most common route to certification include:

Other routes to certification are available; contact the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (external link).

#Checked info 2/11/20

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Rehabilitation counselors (SOC 21-1015)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $15.26 $17.46 $21.12 $27.72 $36.78
Monthly $2,645 $3,026 $3,660 $4,804 $6,374
Yearly $31,730 $36,320 $43,930 $57,660 $76,500
    Bellingham Hourly $12.90 $14.65 $19.09 $28.20 $34.36
Monthly $2,236 $2,539 $3,308 $4,887 $5,955
Yearly $26,841 $30,477 $39,696 $58,670 $71,475
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $16.55 $18.90 $21.00 $24.98 $33.53
Monthly $2,868 $3,275 $3,639 $4,329 $5,811
Yearly $34,424 $39,312 $43,682 $51,945 $69,754
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $16.93 $19.42 $20.42 $24.44 $27.49
Monthly $2,934 $3,365 $3,539 $4,235 $4,764
Yearly $35,221 $40,392 $42,465 $50,831 $57,185
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $17.61 $25.63 $29.09 $33.77 $37.27
Monthly $3,052 $4,442 $5,041 $5,852 $6,459
Yearly $36,634 $53,299 $60,502 $70,236 $77,525
    Longview Hourly $12.58 $14.47 $27.54 $31.92 $45.39
Monthly $2,180 $2,508 $4,773 $5,532 $7,866
Yearly $26,154 $30,100 $57,277 $66,383 $94,400
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $14.71 $16.57 $19.11 $28.20 $35.85
Monthly $2,549 $2,872 $3,312 $4,887 $6,213
Yearly $30,608 $34,471 $39,749 $58,664 $74,572
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $19.15 $22.49 $28.21 $44.33 $52.62
Monthly $3,319 $3,898 $4,889 $7,682 $9,119
Yearly $39,835 $46,785 $58,677 $92,194 $109,443
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $16.02 $17.90 $21.71 $28.20 $40.12
Monthly $2,776 $3,102 $3,762 $4,887 $6,953
Yearly $33,322 $37,222 $45,163 $58,669 $83,443
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $16.23 $17.58 $19.52 $22.55 $28.15
Monthly $2,813 $3,047 $3,383 $3,908 $4,878
Yearly $33,754 $36,573 $40,608 $46,899 $58,555
    Vancouver Hourly $13.62 $15.70 $19.33 $28.44 $36.50
Monthly $2,360 $2,721 $3,350 $4,929 $6,325
Yearly $28,331 $32,651 $40,216 $59,149 $75,937
    Wenatchee Hourly $19.35 $21.51 $24.52 $28.92 $30.99
Monthly $3,353 $3,728 $4,249 $5,012 $5,371
Yearly $40,251 $44,734 $51,006 $60,167 $64,451
    Yakima Hourly $12.02 $16.55 $19.76 $23.60 $29.65
Monthly $2,083 $2,868 $3,424 $4,090 $5,138
Yearly $24,982 $34,423 $41,090 $49,093 $61,662
United States Hourly $11.05 $13.22 $17.13 $23.28 $30.68
Monthly $1,915 $2,291 $2,969 $4,034 $5,317
Yearly $22,990 $27,490 $35,630 $48,420 $63,820

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The counselor's level of experience also affects wages.

Counselors who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance. Some employers also provide a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Rehabilitation Counselors (SOC 21-1015)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 4,256 6.9% 16.1% 507
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 78 5.1% 13.4% 9
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 31 9.7% 8.6% 4
    Benton and Franklin Counties 109 -2.8% 15.0% 10
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 145 4.1% 11.9% 16
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 117 -2.6% 15.2% 11
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 282 13.5% 14.1% 39
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 234 17.9% 14.6% 35
    King County 1,051 5.8% 19.6% 122
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 261 6.1% 13.8% 30
    Pierce County 685 6.7% 15.2% 82
    Snohomish County 490 10.4% 12.4% 62
    Spokane County 816 5.3% 13.9% 94
United States 119,700 9.9% 5.2% 14,000

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Strong job growth in this occupation will be due to the needs of the aging population. Growth will also occur as there are more veterans and disabled people who will need services to help them adapt to living independently.

Other resources

International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals (external link)
1926 Waukegan Road, Suite 1
Glenview, IL 60025
International Association of Rehabilitation Professionals Washington Chapter (external link)
National Council on Rehabilitation Education (external link)
1099 E. Champlain Drive, Suite A, # 137
Fresno, CA 93720


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster