What Is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor?

Vocational rehabilitation counselors assist disabled clients with career-related difficulties, and they usually have a master's degree. Read on to find out more about the job duties of a vocational rehabilitation counselor, as well as the educational requirements, job outlook and salary potential for this career. Schools offering Rehabilitation Sciences degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description and Duties

Vocational rehabilitation counselors help individuals deal with the career-related effects of physical and mental disabilities, which may have resulted from accidents, illnesses, injuries, birth defects or disease. These professionals train clients to search and apply for jobs. They also support those who have lost their jobs or who are dealing with job stress or other issues. In creating a rehabilitation program, they may confer with other professionals assisting in the client's care, including doctors, family members, occupational therapists, teachers and psychologists.

When meeting with a new client, you review the individual's career, education and job training history, and ask them about their personal skills, interests, goals and personality traits to determine their employment strengths and weaknesses. You may also arrange for a client to take an aptitude test to discern the best job options for that individual.

Important Facts About Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors

On-the-Job Training Not provided
Key Skills Close listening, social awareness, critical thinking, problem solving, clear spoken communication, compassion, patience
Work Environment State, private, and nonprofit rehabilitation agencies, schools, prisons, independent-living agencies
Similar Occupations Mental health counselors, marriage and family counselors, psychologists, substance and behavioral disorder counselors, school and career counselors

Education and Licensure

In order to become a vocational rehabilitation counselor, you likely need a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling or counseling psychology. Students learn about counseling theories and techniques, job placement strategies and disability. In addition, students usually do an internship before graduating.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), licensure may not be required for those offering just vocational rehabilitation services (www.bls.gov). If licensure is required, it involves completing a master's degree program, having supervised clinical experience, completing a state exam and fulfilling continuing education requirements. Experienced rehabilitation counselors also have the option to pursue certification as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC).

Career Outlook

According to the BLS, there will be a 13% expected increase in employment for rehabilitation counselors from 2016-2026. This growth is due to a need of rehab services for veterans, the elderly and the disabled. In 2016, there were approximately 119,300 of these professionals employed, and this number is expected to grow to 134,400 by 2026. The BLS also reported that as of May 2018, rehabilitation counselors earned a median annual wage of $35,630. Most of these counselors made between $22,990 and $63,820.

The top paying industries and their respective average salaries were local government ($47,640), insurance carriers ($61,410), colleges, universities, and professional schools ($53,160), community food and housing, and emergency and other relief services ($39,000) and other residential care facilities ($33,520), according to May 2018 BLS figures. The top industries of employment and their respective average wages were vocational rehabilitation services ($35,860), individual and family services ($36,590) and state government ($53,390). The top-paying states for rehabilitation counselors were New Jersey, Alaska, Rhode Island, Colorado and Maine, where these professionals earned between $50,860 and $65,350.

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