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Best Online Master’s Degrees in Rehabilitation Counseling

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The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) defines the profession as: “a systematic process which assists persons with physical, mental, developmental, cognitive, and emotional disabilities to achieve their personal, career, and independent living goals in the most integrated setting possible through the application of the counseling process”. The attributes necessary to emulate this definition are many. One of the most important is communication skills since counseling of any type stresses the ability to listen intently and communicate effectively. Throughout this communication process, you must be empathetic and compassionate, but not emotional. The latter connotes a personal involvement which should be avoided in order to remain objective while also building a rapport with the client.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reports the median salary in 2015 at $34,390 with a master’s degree. According to the BLS, employment is set to grow 9 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average of most occupations inside and outside the field. The demand is projected to increase because of the large population of elderly people, as well as the need for services for disabled veterans and people affected by learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders and substance abuse.

This ranking system has been derived from independent, reputable sources, such as US News & World Report, as well as the respective school’s Master’s program. We have also taken into consideration the different accreditation organizations affiliated with each college and each program. This is by no means a resolute ranking system as there will always be a lack of consensus regarding any type of grading system. You, the student, are the best judge of which program best suits your needs, budget and career aspirations.

1. Winston-Salem State University

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Dr. Simon Green Atkins distinguished himself in his home state of North Carolina as an advocate of teacher-training programs for African Americans. He founded a small school, Winston-Salem Teachers College in 1892, that he developed into Winston-Salem State University, a four-year institution, and oversaw its transition from private to state control. Today, the school offers over 40 academic majors and 10 graduates degrees with a total enrollment of approximately 6,500 and 400+ faculty.

The university has many Points of Pride, as they call them, which makes them an excellent choice for selection as a learning institution:

  • #2 in the UNC System for highest salary after receiving a graduate degree (North Carolina Department of Commerce, 2014)
  • #3 in the nation for Best Online Counseling Programs (Affordable Colleges Online, 2016)
  • Best Colleges in the South (U.S. News and World Report, 2016)
  • Top Public Schools (U.S. News and World Report, 2016, 2017)
  • #4 in North Carolina for the largest percent return on educational investment (PayScale, Inc.)

WSSU’s School of Health Sciences offers a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling in a 60 hours program that can be completed in a minimum of 2 years of full-time study. Two significant objectives of the degree are:

  1. To provide high quality academic training that is responsive to the needs of practicing Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Counselors from the NC Department of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (NCDVRS), the NC Division of Services for the Blind (NCDSB), and other community rehabilitation programs.
  2. To present an academic curriculum that meets or exceeds standards of the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE), our accrediting body.

Graduates of the program will have the knowledge and skills to pass the National Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) exam. You will be eligible to sit for this exam after completing 75% of the coursework. Upon graduation, you will also be able to competently access, analyze, plan, and implement the facilitation of services to people with disabilities. Grads will also possess a degree from a program accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE).

Tuition: $235.35 per hour (incl. fees for in-state residents); $703.78 (non-residents of NC)

2. University of Alabama

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For almost 175 years, this institution has produced a higher level of graduate. This trait of education excellence extends to their distance learning programs that are taught by the same professors who teach on campus. Making your degree the same as one earned by an on campus student. Also, their online programs are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award baccalaureate, masters, education specialist, and doctoral degrees.

The school offers a Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling 100% online in a 48 credit hours program. You will learn to provide individual and group counseling, vocational assessment, case management, advocacy, and assistive technology and consultation services to help those with disabilities meet personal, social, vocational, psychological, independent living and quality-of-life goals. All rehabilitation courses are offered as synchronous courses and require weekly participation via live virtual classroom (Blackboard Collaborate). Sessions are recorded giving students the opportunity to review what occurred during the live class. The outcome of  the Rehabilitation Counselor Education (RCE) online program is to prepare professional rehabilitation counselors who will provide quality rehabilitation counseling services for persons with disabilities from diverse backgrounds and their families.

The rehabilitation counseling curriculum provides both didactic and experiential learning and culminates in a 600 hour internship under the supervision of a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. The RCE program is accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE). Students completing the RCE program are eligible to become Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC).

Tuition: $367 per credit hour

3. Fort Valley State University

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University’s Online Education is offered through the College of Graduate Studies and Extended Education. Online Education is used as a vehicle to reach out and serve a segment of traditional learners, the adult student population including graduate Students seeking to pursue various studies, former college students who need to continue their education in order to acquire a baccalaureate degree, or employees/employers seeking professional development. Their online and hybrid courses provide amazing flexibility in allowing you to continue your education without traveling to campus several times per week.

One of these online degrees is the Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling and Case Management. This program is professionally accredited by The Council on Rehabilitation Counselor Education (CORE), focuses upon providing training for students who are interested in working with the physically and emotionally disabled. This program also requires extensive field experience. It prepares professional rehabilitation counselors to work effectively with individuals who have physical, mental, or emotional disabilities, assisting them to achieve, to the fullest capacity, inclusive of economic independence, and improved quality of life. Graduates of the Rehabilitation Counseling program are eligible to sit for the national certifying examination in order to obtain the Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC) credential.

Another important consideration is that Fort Valley State is a National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) approved institution in the state of Georgia. Any degree-granting institution based in the United States, holding proper authorization from Congress, a U.S. state or a federally recognized Indian tribe and holding accreditation from an accrediting association recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education is eligible to apply to its home state to participate in SARA if that state is a SARA member.

Tuition: $219 per credit hour; Plus: All online courses are required to pay the Student Center Fee ($150/credit) and Institutional Fee ($125/credit)

4. University of Buffalo

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UB’s Graduate School of Education offers a  Master’s Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling prepares students to become competent and skillful Rehabilitation Counselors. Our graduates are prepared to be successful in a wide variety of settings and client populations. This Master of Science program is just one of many programs in the Department of Counseling, School, and Educational Psychology in the Graduate School of Education at the University at Buffalo. This online program is only for individuals residing a minimum of 75 miles or more from campus.

This course provides basic training in counseling skills and prepares students for the Practicum and Internship experiences. You are expected to locate, visit, and explore facilities, and programs that employ Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.  In Practicum, you will begin counseling with a small caseload under the close supervision of your on-site and university supervisors. The total number of hours expected for the Practicum is 150 hours at the site. In addition, you are required to do an Internship at a site different from your Practicum. The internship requires 600 contact hours in the field.

Their M.S. is fully accredited by CORE and is currently delivered in two formats (on-campus since 1956 and online since 2008). U.S. News and World Report has ranked the University at Buffalo’s Graduate School of Education in the top 15 percent of online graduate education programs for the past three years. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Tuition: $6,673.50 (NY state resident: full-time-12 credit hours or more); $12,343.50 (non-resident total); both totals include fees

5. Assumption College

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Assumption College, a Catholic institution sponsored by the Augustinians of the Assumption and rooted in the Catholic intellectual tradition, strives to form graduates known for critical intelligence, thoughtful citizenship and compassionate service. By highlighting the Catholic intellectual tradition, their students encounter ideas that have contributed to the formation of a Christian outlook on the world. This educational philosophy reflects the type of teaching envisioned by Father Emmanuel d’Alzon, the founder of the Assumptionists.

Located in Worcester, Massachusetts, their dedication to education and faith has earned them Best Regional University (2017 US News); Top third of Colleges in the USA by the Wall Street Journal; Top Third by The Economist; and 2016-17 College of Distinction Award.

The online graduate program in Rehabilitation Counseling is a 20-course, 60-credit program that can be completed in less than 3 years during the course of 8 semesters. Upon completion, students will be awarded a Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling, and will be eligible to sit for the CRC exam. Also, it is one of only a few online degrees offered by a top-ranked Rehabilitation Counseling graduate program in the northeastern region of the United States.

Some of the program features are:

  • Program is primarily asynchronous, and allows students to learn at their own convenience each week
  • Provides continuing education and professional development training to literally thousands of practicing Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselors and other public VR staff
  • Has prepared qualified VR Counselors since 1968
  • Program is fully accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE)
  • Program is ranked among the top Rehabilitation Counseling graduate programs in New England and the nation by U.S. News

Tuition: $615 per credit

6. University of Wisconsin-Stout

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The school offers a Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. The online program is designed for individuals who are currently working in the field of rehabilitation or have prior employment experience working with individuals with disabilities, and wish to complete their graduate degree on a part-time basis. A minimum of two years related work experience is required for admission into the online program. Two courses are offered each semester (one during the summer), allowing students to complete the online degree program in three years.

The program utilizes asynchronous learning methods, which means that you can participate in weekly learning assignments at a time that is most convenient for you. The university uses a course delivery system called “Learn at UW-Stout,” and training is provided in how to access course materials. New content information (the equivalent of a classroom “lecture”) is typically posted once a week, with a corresponding group discussion and student activities or assignments. Most classes also require field based activities, such as community site visits and projects involving your local rehabilitation service offices and/or employers. Practicum and internship experiences will be arranged in your home area on an individualized basis, and can often be completed in your current place of employment.

The distant learning courses and all program requirements are identical to our on-campus program, which is accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) since 1994. It has also been ranked among the top 10 rehabilitation programs in the USA by US News in 2015.

Tuition: $382.10 per credit (Wisconsin residents); $809.52 (non-residents); $414.60 (Minnesota residents); $564.05 (Midwest Exchange students)

7. University of Arkansas-Little Rock

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In 1927, Little Rock Junior College opened to provide college-level courses to central Arkansas citizens who wanted and needed access to higher education. In 1957, the institution began a four‐year degree program, became independent and privately supported under a separate board of trustees, and took the name Little Rock University. The school now offers more than 100 undergraduate majors, an extensive schedule of night, weekend, and off‐campus classes. UALR began offering graduate and professional work in 1975, and their Graduate School was created in 1977.

UALR’s School of Counseling, Human Performance and Rehabilitation offers a Master of Arts in Counseling with emphasis in Rehabilitation Counseling program, also known as the Rehabilitation Counseling Program at UALR, is a fully accredited 60 hour online graduate degree program that seeks to prepare rehabilitation counseling professionals to provide direct services and resource coordination for individuals with disabilities. Three of the primary goals of the program are:

  1. To provide a comprehensive graduate degree curriculum that prepares students to provide high quality services to individuals with disabilities.
  2. To promote values, skills and knowledge that results in genuine commitment to human rights, professionalism, personal integrity and ethical practice.
  3. To advance the basic philosophical tenets of rehabilitation.                        

There is also the requirement of a practicum and internship. One hundred (100) hours of supervised practice in rehab setting under a CRC supervisor. The internship consists of advanced fieldwork in rehabilitation counseling in an off–campus field site placement. Six hundred (600) hours of supervised practice in rehab setting under a CRC supervisor.

This degree is accredited by the CORE and classes meet the LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) licensure requirements of Arkansas and many other states. The program was ranked 24th Best Rehabilitation Counseling program by U.S. News in 2016.

Tuition: $320 per hour (AR resident); $725 (non-resident)

8. Auburn University

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AU’s College of Education offers a Master of Education or Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling. Students may select a thesis (M.S.) or non-thesis (M. Ed.) program of study. The thesis option requires 64 hours of course work while the non-thesis program requires 60 semester hours. The latter requires the student to pass a written comprehensive examination—the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor examination administered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. It also requires a 100 hour practicum taken early in the program and a 600 hour supervised clinical practice or internship generally taken near the conclusion of the program.

The online program has received the Excellence in Education and Training award from the U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration, and principally serves eight southeastern states. They utilize current technologies to deliver a blend of synchronous and asynchronous courses. An on-campus component facilitates a strong peer-support network evidenced by a high graduation rate and 100% student success on the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) examination. It is also fully accredited by the CORE.

Auburn’s College of Education is NCATE-accredited (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education) and is listed as a top 25 percent U.S. News school of education offering degrees in teacher certification degree areas. And, it was ranked #7 by U.S. News for their Online Graduate Education Programs. In addition to the counseling degrees, they offer degrees to prepare professionals in school and health administration.

Tuition: $504 + Fees ($88) per credit hour: resident and non-resident

9. Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University

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VCU is one of the first rehabilitation counseling programs in the U.S. when established in 1955, VCU now ranks 4th among masters level rehabilitation and mental health counseling training programs in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. As one of the largest rehabilitation and mental health counseling graduate programs in the country, we currently serve around 100 on-campus and distance-learning students, with faculty based in our own department. Over 3,000 alumni of the program currently practice in nearly every state in the country, as well as internationally.

Their 60 credit Master of Science in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling program is fully accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education. Graduates are immediately eligible for certification as Certified Rehabilitation Counselors, and following residency, for License Professional Counselor status. Additionally, the school offers The Advanced Certificate in Professional Counseling program that is designed to meet the needs of counseling professionals with masters degrees from other universities. This certificate makes you eligible to become a licensed professional counselor or for those who seek certification in a variety of specialty areas.

Note, however, that the distance-learning program does require students to attend two courses on campus, in order to receive in-person instruction and feedback to develop effective counseling skills. Those two courses, RHAB 612 Group Counseling and RHAB 691 Counseling Techniques, are each offered in a one-week intensive “boot camp” format, as well as in the traditional weekly meeting format.

Tuition: $364 per hour (residents of VA.); $644 (non-residents)

10. Thomas University

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The mission of Thomas University’s Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE) accredited graduate program in Clinical Rehabilitation & Mental Health Counseling is to create a dynamic learning environment. The result being to advance the intellectual and personal development goals of their students to work as professionals in the field of rehabilitation and mental health counseling. This includes preparing each student to pass the national Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) exam, as well as providing students with the academic requirements necessary to sit for the professional counselor credential in the state in which they reside.

This Master of Science 63-credit hour program will provide students with the curriculum content that abides by the CORE requirements for CRC certification, and students are eligible to sit for the CRC exam as early as after successfully completing 75% of the  program. This exam is administered by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification. As part of the curriculum, there is a practicum and internship requirement that can be completed in your state of residence.

Graduates are also eligible to become Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCC) and Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC) depending on your state of practice.  Their fully online curriculum is designed to provide all rehabilitation and mental health counseling students with the opportunity to take the courses needed to be able to accrue post-graduate hours towards LPCC or LMHC designations, as well as the required exams.

Tuition: $655 per credit hour; $250 (Active Duty Military, Reserve, Guard, DoD Employee and spouses)

11. Emporia State University

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Since 1863, Emporia State University (ESU) has prepared teachers in nationally acclaimed teacher education programs. For the last 40 years, outstanding and highly accredited programs in Business, Library and Information Management, and Liberal Arts and Sciences. The school currently offers more than 65 majors, minors and concentrations with a student to faculty ratio of 18:1. Since its founding, ESU has improved the lives of students from Kansas, throughout the U.S., and around the world. Their Teachers College offers a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling, referred to as RC48: the initials for the degree specialty and the numbers refer to the 48 credits required to complete the program. The ESU Rehabilitation Education Programs were established in 1966 and have since trained over 500 professional rehabilitation counselors; RC48’s antecedent (the 60-credit Rehabilitation Counseling program) has been CORE-accredited since 1972. At present, RC48 is accredited through 2022.

Each student must complete a practicum, that usually consists of a student working with consumers 4-8 hours per week, for an agreed-upon number of weeks. It is understood that the student is neither expected nor required to carry out or to perform the same rehabilitation counseling responsibilities as a full-time, employed staff member. In addition, there is an internship that mandates a minimum of 600 hours of field experience at a state rehabilitation setting for 9 hours of graduate credit.

Tuition: $333.55 per credit hour (residents of Kansas); $457.30 (non-resident)

12. Utah State University

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Utah State University (USU) was founded in Logan, Utah in 1888 with the express mission of providing access to education to all. In 1997, USU leveraged the internet & offered its first fully online course. Twenty years later, USU offers over 30 completely online degrees and programs to students in nearly every state in the U.S. Today, the school is recognized as a TOP College for Military Advanced Education, Best Online Bachelor’s programs (US News & World Report), and Best Online Master’s programs in Education (US News).

The school’s Master of Rehabilitation Counseling prepares persons with the basic competencies to provide rehabilitation counseling to individuals with a broad range of disabilities in a variety of settings, such as state rehabilitation agencies, independent living centers, rehabilitation hospitals, and private rehabilitation facilities and agencies. Rehabilitation Counseling has a dual identity, that of an allied health profession and that of a specialized area of general counseling, assisting people with disabilities, while also helping their families respond to a disability. The degree is a 52-credit  program consistent with the requirements of the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE).

The MRC degree is offered via distance education nationwide. Students participate in live classes at home through the internet. In addition to the online classes, students are required to travel to the Logan, UT campus during the summer semester to take three one-week courses. This online program is currently authorized in all states; however there may be restrictions in certain non-SARA states regarding internships and practicums. The university is a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), and it is an approved SARA institution.

Tuition: $330 per credit in-state; $394 Non-Utah resident

13. University of Massachusetts

University of Massachusetts

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UMass has accumulated many accolades and awards, over the years,  for its education prowess. Examples are: UMass Ranked Among Top 10 Best Colleges in Online Education in Communication & Public Relations Degrees, 2011 by The Best Colleges; 19th highest rated university in the world by the Times of London; and 21st Century Best Practices Award, United States Distance Learning Association. The institution also boasts that over 140 of the University’s degrees and certificates are now available online, and more than 1500 online courses offered annually.

The school’s distance learning known as UMassOnline offers a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling. It is a 60 credit master’s which prepares students to meet the academic requirements for licensure in the state of Massachusetts and achieve national certification as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC). Also, it is fully accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE).

The program operates on a cohort model whereby all participants complete the same program of study. Two weeks of on campus study is required during the first summer of the program to complete two required clinical courses. They are generally taught in the middle of July. The remaining coursework is online. The sessions are held at a site in Massachusetts and housing is available at a reasonable rate. The remaining courses are delivered entirely online and follow the semester calendar.

According to the university’s website: The University of Massachusetts Boston is currently not accepting students for online study who reside in Alabama, Arkansas, Maryland, or Minnesota, due to regulations in those states.

Tuition: $520 per credit

14. George Washington University

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GW’s online Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling program is offered by the Graduate School of Education and Human development. The coursework prepares knowledgeable students to become professionals who empower physically, mentally, emotionally or socially disabled persons to rehabilitate and resume their place in society. Consisting of 48 credits, the program encompasses a wide range of rehabilitation counseling theories and practices, including multicultural counseling, attitudinal and environmental barriers for people with disabilities, rehabilitation services, case management, medical and psychosocial aspects of disability, job placement and ethical standards for rehabilitation counselors.

Through Core (42 credits ) and Elective Courses (6 credits), Practicum and Internship experiences, and mentoring relationships, you will be fully prepared for professional practice. The practicum is a total of 100 hours, and the internship totals 600 hours across two semesters. The Mentorship Program pairs you with program graduates who are now working in a variety of industries to help you network while you engage in first-hand learning.

GW’s Rehabilitation Counseling curriculum is ranked 6th in the nation by U.S. News and World Report and accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE). More importantly, as a member of the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), the university has the opportunity to deliver their distance education programs to as many learners as possible. Through the SARA membership, they have obtained authorization to operate in a majority of U.S. states. In states where SARA does not apply, the school has worked directly with the state to ensure compliance.

Tuition: $760 per credit

15. University of Kentucky

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UK, founded in 1865,  takes pride in educating health professionals, sports leaders, counseling psychologists, rehabilitation counselors, and instructional systems designers, to name just a few. Long recognized as a leader in education and health professions, they take great pride in producing well-prepared professionals, ready to join local and global efforts in addressing some of society’s most critical needs. The institution comprises 16 colleges, a graduate school, 93 undergraduate programs, 120 master programs, 66 doctoral programs, and seven professional programs.  the highest ranked research university in the state according to U.S. News and World Report.

UK’s College of Education offers a Master’s in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling Accelerated Distance Learning Program is an innovative online academic experience. This program was developed by the CORE accredited rehabilitation counseling graduate program at the University of Kentucky to meet the unique learning needs of rehabilitation professionals. The curriculum is comprised of a total of 58 credit hours.

The accelerated format is accomplished by dividing the traditional 16-week semester into two eight-week blocks. Each course’s instruction is condensed into an eight-week period. All coursework, with the exception of Practica and Internship is presented via asynchronous web-based instruction. Supervision for Practica and Internship is conducted via live compressed video and web-cam. Students receive quality instruction equivalent to the campus-based master’s program. The program can be completed in a 16-month time frame and is fully accessible to students with disabilities. An alternate part-time sequence of coursework is available which will allow the student to complete the program in three years.

Tuition: $6,118 per semester (Kentucky residents); $14,190 (non-residents)

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