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Become A Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor

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Working As A Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor

  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work
  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Getting Information
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • $34,390

    Average Salary

What Does A Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Do

Rehabilitation counselors help people with physical, mental, developmental, and emotional disabilities live independently. They work with clients to overcome or manage the personal, social, or psychological effects of disabilities on employment or independent living.


Rehabilitation counselors typically do the following:

  • Provide individual and group counseling to help clients adjust to their disability
  • Evaluate clients’ abilities, interests, experiences, skills, health, and education
  • Develop a treatment plan for clients in consultation with other professionals, such as doctors, therapists, and psychologists
  • Arrange for clients to obtain services, such as medical care or career training
  • Help employers understand the needs and abilities of people with disabilities, as well as laws and resources that affect people with disabilities
  • Help clients develop their strengths and adjust to their limitations
  • Locate resources, such as wheelchairs or computer programs, that help clients live and work more independently
  • Maintain client records and monitor clients’ progress, adjusting the rehabilitation or treatment plan as necessary
  • Advocate for the rights of people with disabilities to live in a community and work in the job of their choice

Rehabilitation counselors help people with disabilities at various stages in their lives. Some work with students to develop strategies to live with their disability and move from school to work. Others help veterans cope with the mental or physical effects of their military service. Still others help elderly people adapt to disabilities developed later in life from illness or injury. Some may provide expert testimony or assessments during personal injury or workers’ compensation cases.

Some rehabilitation counselors deal specifically with employment issues. These counselors, sometimes called vocational rehabilitation counselors, typically work with older students and adults.

Rehabilitation counselors who work in private practice must spend time marketing their practice to prospective clients and working with insurance companies and clients to get paid for their services.

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How To Become A Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor

Rehabilitation counselors typically need a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field. Some positions require certification or a license.


Most employers require a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field. A bachelor’s degree in most fields is acceptable to enter a master’s degree program. Master’s degree programs teach students the theories, skills, and techniques that will enable them to provide effective mental health counseling. These programs also train students in evaluating clients’ needs, formulating and implementing job placement strategies, and understanding the medical and psychological aspects of a disability. They typically require a period of supervised clinical experience, such as an internship.

Although some employers hire workers with a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation and disability studies, these workers typically cannot offer the full range of services that a rehabilitation counselor with a master’s degree can provide. Students in bachelor’s degree programs learn about issues that people with disabilities face and about the process of providing rehabilitation services. Some universities offer dual-degree programs in rehabilitation counseling, in which students can earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in 5 years.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensing requirements for rehabilitation counselors differ by state and by type of services provided. Those providing counseling services to clients and patients must attain a license through their state licensing board. Other services provided by rehabilitation counselors, however, may be exempt from state licensing requirements. For example, rehabilitation counselors who provide only vocational rehabilitation services or job placement assistance may not need a license.

Licensure typically requires a master’s degree and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. In addition, counselors must pass a state-recognized exam. To maintain their licensure, counselors must complete annual continuing education credits.

Applicants should contact their state licensing board for information on what services or counseling positions require licensure. Contact information for these state licensing boards can be found through the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification.

Some employers prefer or require rehabilitation counselors to be certified. The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification offers the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) certification. Applicants must meet advanced education, work experience, and clinical supervision requirements and pass a test. Certification must be renewed every 5 years. Counselors must complete continuing education requirements or pass a reexamination to renew their certification.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Rehabilitation counselors need to be able to effectively communicate with clients. They must express ideas and information in a way that is easy to understand.

Compassion. Counselors often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations. They must be compassionate and empathize with their clients.

Critical-thinking skills. Counselors must be able to develop a treatment plan to help clients reach their goals by considering each client’s abilities and interests.   

Interpersonal skills. Being able to work with different types of people is essential for rehabilitation counselors, who spend most of their time working directly with clients, families, employers, or other professionals. They must be able to develop and maintain good working relationships.

Listening skills. Good listening skills are essential for rehabilitation counselors. They need to give their full attention in sessions in order to understand clients’ problems, concerns, and values.

Patience. To help people learn new skills and strategies, rehabilitation counselors must have patience as clients struggle to learn about and address their disabilities.

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Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor jobs

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Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Demographics


  • Female

  • Male

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Asian

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • Braille

  • French

  • Chinese

  • Russian

  • Navajo

  • Mandarin

  • Vietnamese

  • German

  • Dakota

  • Hmong

  • Carrier

  • Tagalog

  • Thai

  • Italian

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Real Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Paralyzed Veterans of America MA Nov 02, 2012 $78,000 -
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Paralyzed Veterans of America MA Nov 09, 2012 $78,000 -
Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor California Department of Rehabilitation Oakland, CA Nov 01, 2009 $45,048
Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor California Department of Rehabiliation Oakland, CA Nov 01, 2012 $42,648
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Advocare Group Inc. Cleveland, OH Sep 05, 2012 $41,891
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Advocare Group Inc. Cleveland, OH Sep 30, 2012 $41,496
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Michigan Commission for The Blind Detroit, MI Oct 01, 2011 $41,093
Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor California Department of Rehabilitation San Francisco, CA May 25, 2010 $36,412

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Top Skills for A Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor


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Top Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Skills

  1. Vocational Guidance
  2. Physical Disabilities
  3. Job Placement Services
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Conducted individual counseling to determine job readiness, vocational guidance and identify a suitable vocational goal.
  • Counseled person's with medical, emotional and physical disabilities to provide vocational rehabilitation services.
  • Followed progress of each client regarding their progress in school, in job placement services, on their jobs, etc.
  • Collaborated with Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors employed with private insurance companies to assist mutual customers receiving Workman Compensation benefits.
  • Prepare assessment reports and rehabilitation plans.

Top Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Employers

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Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Videos

CRC Certification: It Makes a Difference

Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor

Introducing Vocational Rehabilitation Services: Simply Said