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Rehabilitation counselors, otherwise known as rehab counselors, help people live independent and dignified lives despite their mental or emotional challenges. The work a rehab counselor does might involve helping people with things such as getting a job, finding a place to live, finding an educational program to attend, or helping them get other needed services. If you hope to become a rehab counselor, generally you will need a college degree and a post-graduate degree.
The college degree that you earn can be in any subject. Granted, if you hope to become a rehab counselor, it might be helpful to get a college degree in psychology or counseling; those topics are most closely aligned with the academic material you will be expected to learn in graduate school. Also, if you want to become a rehab counselor, doing volunteer work in a rehabilitation center during college can be helpful because it will give you a sense of what it is like to work with people and help them to find the jobs, residences, or education programs they need.
During the final semester of college, there are two possible paths you could take if you wish to become a rehab counselor. You could choose to apply to graduate school, which means you would need to get your official academic transcripts, letters of recommendation from your professors, and applications to apply to prospective graduate rehabilitation counseling programs you are interested in. Or, you could seek a job in a rehabilitation counseling environment.
If you opt to seek a job that you can start immediately after college, most likely the career services department at your college can help you to find a job. Also, professors in the counseling or psychology program at your college could be helpful because they might be aware of jobs available in rehabilitation counseling. By contrast, if you choose to apply to a graduate rehabilitation counseling program, keep in mind that the Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) degree in rehabilitation counseling, which includes counseling courses and practicum experiences, is typically recommended for anyone who wants to become a rehab counselor.
Attaining national certification in rehab counseling is also recommended. For instance, it is possible to become a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) as a result of meeting the requirements set by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC). Also, passing the required licensure exam in whatever location you hope to practice counseling in is necessary if you want to work as a rehab counselor.
Once you gain licensure and are eligible to become a rehab counselor, you can work in various places. For example, you could work in medical settings or you could work in educational settings, such as an elementary school, a junior high school, a high school, or a college. By contrast, you could work in community agencies, job training organizations, substance abuse treatment centers, prisons, employee assistance departments, or even insurance companies. If you didn't want to work in any of the aforementioned settings, you could go back to school to get a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in counseling, which would enable you to teach college counseling courses.