Rehabilitation Counseling Degrees

For individuals that have disabilities, some common tasks such as finding employment, housing, and recreational activities can be a difficult task. In the wide field of counseling, there are professionals that are educated and trained to assist people with disabilities in leading normal and boundary-free lifestyles.

Rehabilitation counselors can work with their clients to find methods and resources for conducting every day business. If you have a passion for helping those with disabilities that stem from physical, mental, or emotional needs, becoming a rehabilitation counselor may be the right choice for you.

Consider an online counseling program: Our Lady of the Lake University's online MA in Counseling has multiple specializations in School Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling. Learn more.
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Rehabilitation Counselor Degree Programs

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In 2017, CORE (Council on Rehabilitation Education), the premier accrediting body for Rehabilitation Counseling programs, merged with CACREP (check out our CACREP Accredited Programs guide). CACREP is now responsible for the review and accreditation for graduate programs in Rehabilitation Counseling. CACREP is very well respected - we have a number of CACREP accredited counseling programs in our database and they are denoted with the CACREP designation.

What Kind of Degree Do I Need To Become A Rehabilitation Counselor?

Looking deeper into the educational requirements for this career field, you might be wondering what type of degree you should work towards at each level. At the very beginning, a bachelor's program can help shape your future in the field of rehabilitation counseling, but a Master's in Rehabilitation Counseling will likely be a requirement if you are considering a clinical counseling career.

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☰ For detailed degree information, view the guides to:
Online CACREP Accredited programs | Online MPCAC Accredited programs

Bachelors in Rehabilitation Counseling

Bachelor's programs in Counseling or Psychology are excellent choices, since they can provide you with a stable foundation in learning about the human brain, cognitive ability, and the different types of disabilities that require rehabilitation services. As you can learn at this level, disabilities can potentially stem from genetic predisposition, injury or accident, or even through addiction and drug abuse.

Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling

In a Master in Rehabilitation Counseling program, students usually become more specified in their curriculum. This allows for a more focused approach at learning about how people with disabilities suffer when trying to live productive lives and how you can help.

Master's degrees in Rehabilitation Counseling, Mental Health Counseling, Counseling, or Counseling Psychology are great choices at this level, since they focus on the methods for providing counseling services to people within the community. These programs can also help students learn about the various ethical concerns, laws, and privacy matters that appear regularly in this type of career.

Doctoral Programs Focused on Rehabilitation Counseling

Some students even go as far as the doctorate level when seeking a career in rehabilitation counseling. While most states require a minimum of a Master's degree in Counseling for this career, pursuing a doctorate-level degree can help strengthen your abilities as a counselor and help you provide further expertise within the field.

Doctorate programs in Counseling and Rehabilitation Counseling can provide a deeper look into the various disabilities that are common within society, the different treatment methods available to counseling professionals, and the research and development that is constantly taking place in the field.

Campus or Online Rehabilitation Counseling Degree?

In terms of your method of acquisition, some students have a different preference depending on what their current lifestyle has in store. Traditional educational programs have always been the norm for upcoming college students. These programs can give students the opportunity to engage in face-to-face learning in a common environment, which is a preferred instruction method for some students. The in-person experience of on-campus programs can give students direct instruction opportunities that can help them better understand the material.

Online Rehabilitation Counseling Programs

However, at the master’s level, some students may already be working full-time in a position or have a full schedule with their family at home. These types of upcoming students require a more convenient option that allows them to appropriately balance their free time between all of their current obligations. The benefits of online educational programs include flexible scheduling, finishing assignments at your own pace, and developing methods of self-instruction and self-discipline that can help increase your effectiveness as a professional.

Depending on what you require the most to learn effectively, either of these options could be great for you. Online programs have become a more reliable source of obtaining a higher degree, since they require the same accreditation as campus programs for licensure. As the country moves forward in technological development, you may see an increase in the availability of online programs within many different disciplines.

How To Become a Rehabilitation Counselor

In order to become a rehabilitation counselor, you must take part in the required educational requirements set forth by licensing agencies. At the bachelor’s level, professionals can get their feet through the door in this line of work, by qualifying for rehabilitation assistant jobs in rehabilitation facilities. Although this is a great method for obtaining experience in the field, you may be required to go further into graduate-level programs in order to become licensed and provide the most service to your clients.

Once you have obtained your Master’s degree in Counseling, you can take part in supervised work experience in order to qualify for licensure. Most rehabilitation agencies that are seeking qualified counselors require that professionals be licensed prior to working with clients with special needs.

Common Rehabilitation Psychology Degree Courses

  • Counseling Skills
  • Medical, Functional, and Environmental Aspects of Disability
  • Life Span Development
  • Multicultural Counseling
  • Vocational Rehabilitation

Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling Programs

The Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling program is a great way for students to meet both the qualification of licensed counselors within their state and learn the basics of treating people that live with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. Most master’s level programs consist of 2-3 years of graduate education, although there are some programs that claim they can be completed sooner.

Consider the Credit Hours for Completion

One university that currently offers a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling states that their program requires students to complete 48 credit hours in order to graduate. Although the program is completely online, this university requires that students also complete a practicum requirement as part of their curriculum.

Look for Varied Coursework: Physical, Mental, and Emotional Classes

The curriculum of Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling programs usually consists of a blend of different courses that center around the purpose of these counselors. Students within this field must have a good understanding of the various physical, mental, and emotional disabilities that people have been diagnosed with, as well as the origins and effects of these disorders. Also, students may be expected to take courses that outline the different counseling techniques and ethics that are associated with providing counseling services to the public.

Rehabilitation Counseling Licensure

Since master’s-level programs in this discipline usually pan out into licensure for students, most students prepare themselves to take part in a supervised work experience either during their educational experience or shortly after completing it. The amount of time that students must engage in this experience may vary depending on what their individual state requires, but most states require around 1 1/2 to 2 years total. Every state has its own licensure requirements for Counseling.

View the full Counseling Licensure Guide.

Doctorate Degrees in Rehabilitation Counseling

Doctorate level programs in Rehabilitation Counseling can be suitable for professionals that are looking to diversify their resume, gain more knowledge in the field of rehabilitation counseling, or find higher positions within their current career. At this level, students can find a deeper understanding of the barriers that are placed on people with disabilities – in terms of financial independence and individual freedom.

In universities that offer this degree program, students might be expected to spend 3 to 4 years in this educational program – depending on their current level of degree. Most PhD programs require that students have at least a Master’s in Counseling prior to enrolling, which can cut down the amount of time spent in the degree program to 2 years or less.

A Refined, Concentrated Curriculum

The curriculum of doctorate level programs in this field includes a more refined look into rehabilitation counseling. Students may also take courses that help increase their research and analysis skills, which can contribute to a more thorough dissertation within the last year of the program. Doctorate level programs can assist learners with becoming more effective research and development specialists within their chosen field.

Students that are enrolled in doctoral programs such as these may be required to complete 45 – 60 extra credit hours in addition to their master’s degree. As part of the doctoral process, students may also take part in the completion of a dissertation, which is created in order to provide a new idea of topic to the field of rehabilitation counseling. While there are programs that state that they are 100% online, you may find some that still require some in-person coursework during the dissertation process.

Major Differences Between Masters and Doctorate Degrees in Rehabilitation Counseling Programs

Since students have the option of enrolling in either a Master’s or Doctorate program in Rehabilitation Counseling after their bachelor’s program, it is common for them to consider the benefits of risks of both programs prior to enrolling. Some students want to obtain licensure as soon as possible, so that they can begin working in the field and obtaining experience at the earliest convenience.


The Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling program is the quickest route for students that want to begin working with clients in the field. The program is based around the methods and techniques that are used by counseling professionals to assist people with living normal lives. With the shorter time frame and more practice-focused curriculum, this program is best suited for professionals that are interested in obtaining positions as hands-on counselors in the field.
View Masters in Counseling Degrees:

Doctorate of Rehabilitation Counseling

At the Doctorate level, programs are designed to give students an analytical viewpoint of the field of rehabilitation counseling. Students within these programs can learn to scrutinize current methods and develop better methods for providing services to the public. Doctorate programs may also help students learn different management techniques so that they can obtain leadership positions in the field. While this degree program is excellent for upcoming counselors that want to know more about their field, it is best suited for professionals that want to go further than just providing counseling services to individuals in the field.
View Doctorate of Counseling Programs

Accreditation for Rehabilitation Psychology Graduate Programs

The Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) is a leading accreditation agency for educational programs in Rehabilitation Counseling. This organization seeks to provide educational standards to colleges and universities that offer these programs, in an attempt to better educate upcoming counseling professionals from all over the country.

When seeking out degree programs in rehabilitation counseling, it is vital that you ensure the quality of your degree program prior to enrolling. The accreditation process can assist you in finding reliable degree programs that are acceptable to licensing agencies and future employers. With the growth of online educational programs, it is important to always locate the CACREP’s seal of approval on any degree program that focuses on rehabilitation counseling.

Rehabilitation Counseling Degree Salary and Job Growth Information

List of Rehabilitation Counseling Programs

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