How to Become a Rehabilitation Counselor
Vocational rehabilitation agencies and other potential employers occasionally accept a bachelor's degree in rehabilitation services, or in similar majors such as sociology or counseling. Most prefer a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling or a closely related topic, however.
Actual experience in social work or job rehabilitation is another useful credential, though not strictly required. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs provides listings of accredited rehabilitation programs on its website.
1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)
Some agencies accept a bachelor's degree for entry-level employment in rehabilitation therapy, but most need a master's degree.
Getting a Bachelor's is key to furthering your education. Majoring in a social science or another service profession is a good foundation for becoming a rehabilitation therapist.
Coursework usually includes:
- Biological sciences
- Human development courses
- General education
2. Earn a Master's Degree (2 Years)
A master's is necessary for most jobs in rehabilitation therapy. A master's teaches theories, skills, and techniques to provide effective mental health counseling.
It's important to get into a Commission On Rehab Education (CORE) accredited program or meet the requirements to get Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) certified.
These ensure you complete the proper internships and work experience needed to be eligible to work in the field.
Master's program coursework includes 39 required credits: 33 credits of coursework in principles and practices of Rehabilitation Counseling, 3 credits of practicum (100 hours of supervised counseling experience) and 3 credits of internship (600 hours of supervised field experience).
You can also receive 9 credits of specific electives for additional study in addiction, family, and psychiatric rehabilitation.
3. Earn a Doctoral Degree (Optional)
A PhD is not necessary, but can help land administrative jobs and be involved in policy making. A PhD also allows you to teach at a University level.
It is also needed if you want to research and be involved in academia as a PhD allows you to teach at a University level.
4. Earn the Required License
Licensing policies vary by state and are not always necessary, but they are an asset. Lots of times the place and type of work you do dictates the license you need. Counseling services in exempt settings don't need licensure but you need a certain license to be able to be exempt.
So either way, you probably need to get some type of license. Licensing requires 2,000-4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience and must complete the states licensing exam. Since it varies by state, contact your state-licensing board to learn the requirements.
5. Maintain Certification Through Continuing Education
To maintain certification, Rehabilitation Therapists must renew every 5 years by continuing education or reexamination.
To continue practicing one must complete 100 hours of continuing education – including a minimum of 10 hours in Ethics - within the five-year period.