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Rehabilitation Specialist

Significant Points
Rehabilitation specialist and physical therapist Employment is expected to increase faster than the average, as growth in the number of individuals with disabilities or limited function spurs demand for therapy services.
After graduating from an accredited rehabilitation therapist / physical therapist educational program, therapists must pass a licensure exam before they can practice.
About two-thirds of physical therapists work either in hospitals or in offices of physical therapists.

Nature of the Work
A rehabilitation specialist is a healthcare professional who helps people recover from an illness or injury and return to daily life. The work of rehabilitation specialists also entails helping people with disabilities caused by illnesses, accidents, birth defects, or stress. They provide counseling and help people get needed services, learn skills, find jobs, and live on their own.

Rehabilitation specialists also may work with individuals, professional organizations, and advocacy groups to address the environmental and social barriers that create obstacles for people with disabilities.

Professionals in rehabilitation settings may do the following tasks:
• arrange for rehabilitation and transition services for children within the school systems,
• provide geriatric services to older persons who are experiencing changing lifestyles and health problems,
• serve industrially-injured workers through private rehabilitation companies and employee assistance programs,
• assist individuals with behavior problems associated with failure to follow laws that govern our society,
• support medical rehabilitation efforts in hospital-based programs, and
• assist individuals with addiction disorders.

Examples of rehabilitation specialists are physical therapists, occupational therapists, cardiac rehabilitation specialists, and mental health professional and/or behavioral health rehab specialists.

Working Conditions
Rehabilitation specialists work in a variety of settings, such as colleges, elementary and secondary schools, prisons, insurance companies, and independent-living facilities. They also work in private practice and in state, private, and nonprofit rehabilitation agencies.
The industries that employed the most rehabilitation counselors in 2012 were as follows:
Social assistance 46%
Health care 22
State government, excluding education and hospitals 15
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 6

Physical therapists held about 137,000 jobs in 2002. The number of jobs is greater than the number of practicing physical therapists, because some physical therapists hold two or more jobs. For example, some may work in a private practice, but also work part time in another healthcare facility.

About two-thirds of jobs for physical therapists were either in hospitals or in offices of other health practitioners (which includes offices of physical therapists). Other jobs were in home healthcare services, nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers, and offices of physicians.

Some physical therapists were self-employed in private practices, seeing individual patients and contracting to provide services in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing care facilities, home healthcare agencies, adult daycare programs, and schools. Physical therapists also teach in academic institutions and conduct research.

A master's degree in rehabilitation counseling or related field is usually required. Rehabilitation counselor education programs typically provide between 18 and 24 months of academic and field-based clinical training. Clinical training consists of a practicum and a minimum of 600 hours of supervised internship experience. Clinical field experiences are available in a variety of community, state, federal, and private rehabilitation-related programs.

Related fields of training include counseling, psychology, medicine, psychiatry, sociology, social work, education, and law.

In a typical masters level curriculum, students are taught the theories, skills, and techniques to provide effective mental health counseling. These programs also train students in evaluating clients’ needs, formulating and implementing job placement strategies, and understanding the medical and psychological aspects of a disability. They typically require a period of supervised experience or training, such as an internship.

Other Qualifications
Foremost, those interested to work as rehabilitation specialists should be open-minded about people who may be different from them, be able to focus on what people with disabilities can do, not on what they can't. At the same time, rehabilitation specialists need to appreciate the hardship faced by people with disabilities in society.

Rehabilitation specialists must possess these important qualities:
- Communication skills; compassion; interpersonal skills; listening skills; patience

Rehabilitation specialists usually have to obtain credentials soon after graduation in order to show they have at least the minimum training and have met supervised work experience standards established by professional groups and governmental agencies, and to protect the public as well. Certification means an individual meets educational and work experience requirements and passes an examination. A counseling license is a credential authorized by a state legislature that regulates the title and/or practice of professional counselors.

Job Outlook
Employment of rehabilitation specialists is expected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the BLS' Occupational Outlook Handbook. The demand for them will grow together with the increase in the elderly population as well as in the continuous need for rehabiltaion of people with disablities.

The salary for a rehabilitation specialist depends on the work experience, credentials, and whether the place of work is private or public. Salaries in the private sector is estimated to be between $55,000-$75,000, while those in the public sector may be somewhat lower.

According to the BLS' Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual wage for rehabilitation counselors was $33,880 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,990 and the top 10 percent earned more than $59,330.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for rehabilitation counselors in the top four industries in which these counselors worked were as follows:
State government, excluding education and hospitals $43,550
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 41,530
Health care 32,290
Social assistance 30,390

Related Occupations
Physical therapists rehabilitate persons with physical disabilities. Others who work in the rehabilitation field include audiologists, chiropractors, occupational therapists, recreational therapists, rehabilitation counselors, respiratory therapists, and speech-language pathologists.

Sources of Additional Information
Additional career information and a list of accredited educational programs in physical therapy are available from:

American Physical Therapy Association, 1111 North Fairfax St., Alexandria, VA 22314-1488. Internet:

State Career Channel

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