two uw students talking in an rpse class

What Is Rehabilitation Counseling?

Rehabilitation counseling is a profession whose purpose is to assist people with disabilities in leading productive and meaningful lives. The role of the professional rehabilitation counselor is, primarily, to utilize one-to-one and group counseling procedures, case management, advocacy, and job development and placement services to bring about improved functioning and satisfaction in the personal, educational, vocational, and social aspects of life.

Where do rehabilitation counselors work?

Rehabilitation counselors are employed in a variety of public and private agencies whose services to people with disabilities emphasize rehabilitation philosophies and principles. Clients of such agencies are adolescents or adults with physical, mental, social, or emotional disabilities that often carry major socio-cultural and psychological ramifications. Although the focus is often upon the optimal vocational development and placement of people served, rehabilitation counselors are concerned with the individual’s total development and functioning as a contributing member of society (see official statement on Scope of Practice from the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification). For a full description of the profession and practice of rehabilitation counseling, please read Professor Norm Berven’s entry in the 2008 Encyclopedia of Counseling.

Opportunities for professional employment are varied. As with other types of human service employment, opportunities are sometimes adversely affected during periods of reduced government spending, but employment opportunities have been available even during those times. One significant factor has been the tremendous growth in private proprietary rehabilitation organizations, which provide rehabilitation services primarily to individuals with work-related disabilities who are receiving worker’s compensation benefits. In addition, opportunities have continued to exist in government-sponsored and private non-profit agencies, even during difficult economic periods. A Salary Report is available on the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC).

What is the employment outlook for program graduates?

Students who have completed master’s degree coursework in rehabilitation counseling at the UW–Madison have been successful in finding employment. With only a very few exceptions, all graduates in recent years have obtained rehabilitation counseling and related positions in a diverse array of rehabilitation and related agencies, including state vocational rehabilitation agencies, independent living centers, supported employment programs, community support programs for people with severe and persistent mental illness, community-based programs for long-term support of people with developmental disabilities, programs for individuals with traumatic brain injuries, hospital-based physical medicine and rehabilitation programs, alcohol and other drug abuse programs, and a variety of other rehabilitation and related human service programs.

In terms of location, graduates have found employment throughout the United States, with the largest concentrations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois. Because of the excellent national reputation of both the UW–Madison rehabilitation counseling program and the university as a whole, graduates who have sought employment in other states have been consistently well received, and some have obtained positions in other countries. To facilitate employment opportunities in other states, the full-time internship, typically completed in the last semester of graduate study, can be arranged in various locations nationwide.