Certified Rehabilitation Counselor

Navigating the world with a disability—be it mental, emotional, or physical—can be incredibly challenging. Not only are disabled individuals required to learn to adapt to their abilities, but they also have to navigate a world that is not set up to accommodate them. In order to be successful, they need coaching, skill training, and advocacy. Thankfully, there are trained certified rehabilitation counselors in nursing homes, care facilities, schools, and government agencies ready to serve them.

Certified rehabilitation counselors (CRC) are allied health professionals with the skills to assist people with disabilities. They work hard to help individuals gain access to employment, education, live independently, and access community services. By meeting with clients one on one and setting goals, they are able to assess skills and needs, setting a treatment plan to help a client meet their objectives. With a keen understanding of all forms of disability, CRCs can work with diverse populations from the elderly, to kids, to people recovering from workplace injuries, and even with those suffering from PTSD.

Education is critical to becoming a CRC. A master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling is highly recommended, although it is possible to obtain a certification with a related degree, as long as the required courses have been taken. Certification also requires at least 600 hours of internship experience. Licensure is done on a state by state basis and requires between 2,000 to 4,000 supervised work hours. Pay for this career varies based on experience and education.

Becoming a certified rehabilitation counselor can be a very rewarding career choice. Below is an outline of the career including education requirements, how to become licensed, and typical job duties.

Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Specializations & Degree Types

In order to become a certified rehabilitation counselor, it is necessary to complete a master’s degree. Most professionals in the field earn their master’s in rehabilitation counseling. although it is possible to obtain a certification with a degree from a related field such as counseling, psychology, or education. This degree program is a specialization in rehabilitation. However, there are additional areas of study, including addiction, long-term care, and education.

Admissions Requirements for Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Programs

While admission requirements for rehabilitation counselor master’s programs vary, there are some standard required pieces. Most programs require that you have already completed a bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology, education, or a related field. Many programs require GRE scores to be submitted as well. Frequently, programs require letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, or a resume as supporting documentation. The most competitive programs require on-campus interviews as part of the application process.

Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Program Accreditation

Rehabilitation counselor programs are accredited through The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). CACREP is important because it ensures that the programs meet a minimum standard of quality. While it is possible to become a certified rehabilitation counselor (CRC) without attending a CACREP program, the path to certification is much easier with a degree from a CACREP program.

On-Campus Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Degree Programs

The George Washington University – Graduate School of Education and Human Development

The master of arts (MA) in education and human development in the field of rehabilitation counseling program at the George Washington University prepares students to enter this challenging and rewarding field. Graduates of this program are prepared to help patients with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities live as independently as possible.

The flexible courses are offered in the evenings from Monday to Thursday, allowing students time to complete internships or work while obtaining their degree. Required classes include the theory of counseling, medical and psychosocial aspects of disabilities, and job placement and supported employment. This program boasts a 100 percent graduate employment rate within six months of graduation.

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Duration: Three years
  • Accreditation: The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $1,655 per credit-hour

University of Wisconsin, Madison – School of Education

Earning a master’s in science in rehabilitation counseling at the University of Wisconsin, Madison School of Education prepares graduates to work with adults, adolescents, kids, and seniors with disabilities to improve their quality of life. Students who complete this program are well-versed in counseling, assessment, case management, and advocacy for their clients and patients.

A unique aspect of this program is the strong emphasis on field experience. Students spend a minimum of three semesters in internships in practical rehabilitation counseling settings. Professors in this program are not only professionals in the rehabilitation counseling field, but many are also in the field of psychology, offering students a diverse and well-rounded education. Graduates of this program are eligible to sit for the CRC examination.

  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $1,640.12 per credit-hour

Online or Hybrid Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Degree Programs

University of Kentucky – College of Education

The master’s in clinical rehabilitation counseling accelerated distance learning program at the University of Kentucky College of Education is a completely online degree program. This format features asynchronous classes, which means students can complete their coursework when it best suits them. Supervision for the practicum and internship is completed through video chats.

This accelerated program can be completed in 15 intense months. Required courses include medical and psychosocial aspects of disability, group and family counseling, mental health diagnosis, and treatment planning. Distance learning students qualify for in-state tuition rates making this program extremely affordable.

  • Location: Lexington, KY
  • Duration: 15 months
  • Accreditation: The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $6,702 per year

San Diego State University – Department of Administration, Rehabilitation and Postsecondary Education

Graduates of the master’s of science in rehabilitation counseling at San Diego State University have the necessary skills to evaluate patients with varying disabilities. They can propose and implement a training program that will aid the patient in reaching their independence goals. This program is offered both online and on-campus, so students can choose which style of learning best suits their needs.

Students enrolled in this program take courses in rehabilitation foundations, multicultural dimensions in counseling, and methods of inquiry. Students also complete a practicum as part of their studies. Graduates of this program are eligible to become a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC) in the state of California, after completing the required 3,000 hours of supervised clinical work and passing the CRC exam.

  • Location: San Diego, CA
  • Duration: Two and a half to three years
  • Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Tuition: $1,186 per credit-hour

How Long Does it Take to Become a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor?

After graduating from high school, it can take four to six years to become a certified rehabilitation counselor. The timeline varies based on the time it takes to complete a master’s degree and the number of hours of supervised clinical work required for state licensure.

How To Become a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Complete a GED (Four Years)

Graduating from high school or obtaining a GED is the first step towards becoming a certified rehabilitation counselor. Students who wish to pursue this career can get a head start on their studies by taking courses such as psychology, biology, math, and health. Advanced placement tests can allow students to obtain college credits while still in high school, reducing the required number of credits to complete their undergraduate degree.

Step 2: Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree (Four Years)

Most graduate rehabilitation counselor programs require applicants to have already completed a bachelor’s degree. Typical majors for prospective rehabilitation counselors include counseling, psychology, disability studies, education, or other social sciences. Internships in clinical rehabilitation clinics are recommended as they can give students hands-on experience as well as make students more competitive when applying for master’s programs.

Step 3: Complete a Master’s Degree (One to Three Years)

In order to become a certified rehabilitation counselor, it is necessary to complete a master’s in rehabilitation counseling. Depending on the program it can be either a master’s of science or a master’s of arts. Attending a program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) makes the professional certification process easier, as the program already meets specific standards. Programs typically take between one to three years and can be taken online or on campus.

Step 4: Complete 600 Internship Hours (Timelines Vary)

If the master’s program didn’t require an internship component, prospective CRC will need to complete at least 600 internship hours in order to be eligible to sit for the certification exam.

Step 5: Get Certified (Timeline Varies)

Certification is awarded by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC). Once students have met all the requirements including internship hours and required education, they may apply to sit for the CRC exam. This exam takes three-and-a-half hours and comprises 175 multiple-choice questions. Students may take the exam in the final months of study if they so choose.

Step 6: Complete State Required Supervised Work Experience (Two to Four Years)

All states require certified rehabilitation counselors to complete supervised work experience prior to licensure. The number of hours varies by state but can range from 2,000 hours on the low end to more than 6,000 in some states.

Step 7: Attain Licensure (Timelines Varies)

Once the required number of supervised work hours is complete, professionals may apply for licensure from their state. Licensing is done on a state by state basis and requirements vary. Applicants should verify requirements with their state boards.

Step 8: Maintain Certification and Licensure (Timelines Varies)

Part of maintaining state licensure and certification entails continuing education. Professionals are required to renew their CRC every five years and need to complete 100 continuing education hours in order to do so. Additionally, states require a varying number of continuing education hours in order to maintain licensure. Professionals should check their state board for requirements.

What Do Certified Rehabilitation Counselors Do?

Certified rehabilitation counselors work anywhere disabled individuals need services including in long term care facilities, youth organizations, hospitals, school districts, and government agencies. Job duties vary based on place of employment but typical responsibilities include:

  • Meeting with clients one on one or in a group
  • Assessing client abilities
  • Developing a professional rapport with the client to better understand their goals and objectives
  • Writing a treatment plan
  • Interfacing with client’s other medical providers including therapists, doctors, and psychologists
  • Assisting clients in developing the skills they need to meet their goals
  • Working with employers to understand the client’s abilities and limitations and aiding the employer in complying with state and federal disability laws
  • Helping clients access resources such as medical goods, transportation, and social services
  • Advocating for the client
  • Maintaining client records

Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Certifications & Licensure

The primary certification for certified rehabilitation counselors is through the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC). There is also general counselor licensing through the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC).

All states require rehabilitation counselors to be licensed. Licensing is done on a state by state basis and requirements vary however, all states require testing and supervised work experience.

How Much Do Certified Rehabilitation Counselors Make?

Wages for certified rehabilitation counselors vary based on responsibilities, place of employment, and years of experience. According to the BLS (May 2018), the 106,860 professionals in this field earned an average annual salary of $39,930. Here are the salary percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $22,990
  • 25th percentile: $27,490
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,630
  • 75th percentile: $48,420
  • 90th percentile: $63,820
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson


Kimmy is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.

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