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How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor

Most often, rehabilitation counselors must have 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. Most master’s programs in rehabilitation counseling accept a bachelor’s degree in almost any field to enter. These programs focus on evaluating clients’ needs, formulating and implementing job placement strategies, and providing mental health counseling. They typically require a period of supervised experience, such as an internship.

Some employers hire workers with a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation and disability studies. Generally, these workers cannot offer the full range of services that a rehabilitation counselor with a master’s degree can provide. Bachelor’s degree programs teach students about issues that people with disabilities face and about the process of providing rehabilitation services.


Some employers prefer to hire licensed rehabilitation counselors, but a license may not be necessary in many settings. However, it is required to work in private practice. Licensure requires a master’s degree and 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. In addition, counselors must pass a state-recognized exam and complete annual continuing education credits. Contact information for state regulating boards is available through the National Board of Certified Counselors.


Some employers prefer rehabilitation counselors who are Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC). Applicants must meet advanced education, work experience, and clinical supervision requirements, and pass a test. Once certified, counselors must complete continuing education requirements. For more information, contact the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification.

Important Qualities

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

Listening skills. Good listening skills are essential for rehabilitation counselors, who need to give their full attention to clients in order to understand their 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 the impact of their disabilities.

People 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 a good working relationship.

Speaking skills. Rehabilitation counselors need to be able to communicate with clients effectively, expressing ideas and information in a way that is easily understood.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition