Rehabilitation counselors are professionals that work with the disabled, individuals who may have various physical, social and vocational challenges. These counselors coordinate activities for residents at treatment and care facilities, access client needs, implement rehabilitation programs, and provide the life skills training that such individuals need to find work and stay employed.
Skills and Duties
As part of their daily activities, rehabilitation counselors prepare and maintain records and case files, documenting information to help their clients including related correspondence. Tailor-made rehabilitation plans, monitoring client progress, arranging for evaluations and analyzing data are among the tasks that such counselors perform.
These professionals have strong active listing skills, and are adept at critical thinking, service orientation, social perceptiveness and time management. They build strong interpersonal relationships and are skilled at planning, organizing and prioritizing their work. Rehabilitation counselors must work well as a team and will often coordinate what they do with other professionals.
Educational Background and Training
About half of rehabilitation counselors have a master’s degree with one-quarter of such individuals possessing a bachelor’s degree. Some are able to find work with just a high school diploma or a GED.
Most employers, however, require a master’s degree, training that rehabilitation counselors get following receiving a bachelor’s degree in most any field. Such counselors typically study rehabilitation counseling and learn how to evaluate client needs, prepare vocational strategies, and provide mental health counseling. Licensing is available through the National Board of Certified Counselors.
National and State Salaries
The median wage for rehabilitation counselors was $33,880 in 2012 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those in the 10th percentile earned $21,000 per year on average while those in the 25th percentile made $26,100 per year. Salaries for 50th percentile counselors came in at $33,900 per year. Those in the 75th percentile earned $45,300 per year while counselors in the 90th percentile made $59,300 or more per year.
The top annual wages for rehabilitation counselors by state in 2012 was $52,100 for those working in Rhode Island, followed by New Jersey coming in at $51,900. Other top paying states included Alaska at $48,700, Utah at $44,500, and North Dakota at $44,200.
On the other end of the pay spectrum, the BLS reported that salaries in Tennessee averaged $19,500, below the national 10th percentile rate. In Wyoming, salaries averaged $24,800 per year, in Oklahoma counselors could expect to make $25,100 per year on average. Rehabilitation counselors in Illinois made $27,100 while those in Nevada averaged $28,600 per year.
The Job Outlook
The BLS projects a 28 percent increase in employment for rehabilitation counselors from 2010 to 2020. That rate is twice the pace the BLS projects for all jobs for the same period.
Fueling the increase is a rapidly aging population, one that will need special services as they age. Also, counselors will continue to work with veterans and the disabled. People with learning disabilities need special care too including individuals with autism spectrum disorders and those recovering from substance abuse.
The strongest growth for rehabilitation counselors should take place in individual and family services where the BLS projects a 67 percent growth rate followed by vocational rehab services at 30 percent. Nursing and residential care facilities are expected to also see a boost in employment, projected at 24 percent during that time. Demand from the government sector including local, state and federal areas is expected to grow the slowest.