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Why Earn a Master’s in Rehabilitation Therapy?

Graduate programs in rehabilitation therapy, sometimes also called vocational rehabilitation, might address therapy in mental health, hearing, speech, visual, physical, and vocational rehabilitation to help get the client back to work or improve their health, lifestyle, and mental health and overcome attitudinal and environmental barriers. Training for rehabilitation therapy through these degrees may include helping patients with physical therapy who are affected by athletic or accidental injuries, aging, cancer, stroke, or other conditions that can impair an individual’s independence to regain stamina, flexibility, and strength, especially during the post-illness or post-surgery recovery process.

A program in rehabilitation therapy, health sciences, and/or physical therapy may qualify you for a career in the medical field of speech-language pathology, audiology, or occupational or recreational therapy. Rehabilitation therapy is basically a program that can help students learn how to assist injured or ill patients in regaining mobility and independence.

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  • Completing a Master of Science Rehabilitation Therapy program opens up numerous employment opportunities in physical and occupational therapy that pay well
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), occupational therapy/rehabilitation therapy is a field that’s growing fast within the health industry
  • A graduate degree opens up certification opportunities for rehabilitation therapists
  • Occupational therapy or rehabilitation therapy allows you to help others, which can be very rewarding
  • It doesn’t take as much time as a doctorate to complete
  • An internship can provide you with experience before you begin working full-time
  • You will be eligible for licensure as a certified rehabilitation therapist after completing this graduate program from any school


  • Master's occupational therapy and rehabilitation therapy programs can be expensive, whether taken online or on campus
  • Job opportunities are mainly limited to teaching positions, rehabilitation therapy, or occupational therapy - Rehabilitation services may only be offered by specific rehabilitation centers
  • Some schools only accept 25 students into their graduate rehabilitation therapy programs per year; therefore, these graduate degrees can be competitive and you may not get in if you aren't willing to attend full-time
  • To earn your master’s or graduate degree, it takes many years of schooling
  • Someone with a doctorate will get a job sooner than someone with a master’s in rehabilitation therapy

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Overview of an Rehabilitation Therapy Master's

What Rehabilitation Therapy Master’s Degrees are Available?

Graduate rehabilitation therapy programs are not offered by most colleges and universities. Those who wish to pursue this degree might consider enrolling in a similar degree program, such as; Masters in Occupational Therapy (MOT) which is more common and easier to find. However, here are some master’s degree’s that may be available to pursue:

  • Master of Arts in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy
  • Master of Science in Recreational Therapy
  • Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT)

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Admission Requirements for Master's Programs in Rehabilitation Therapy

To enroll in a master of rehabilitation therapy degree program, you will need a bachelor’s degree from related educational programs, possibly in one of the following areas:

  • Physiology
  • Gerontology
  • Practice Management
  • Anatomy
  • Lab Sciences
  • Neuroscience

In addition, to enter into this program you may also require:

  • TOEFL, GRE, or other tests
  • Previous medical terminology, statistics, or anatomy coursework
  • A state license to practice occupational or physical therapy
  • Generally, 30 to 40 credits that include major subjects
  • Possibly a thesis
  • Clinical practicums
  • One to two years of experience/internships

How long does it take to earn a Rehabilitation Therapy Master’s?

Most master’s programs can take from two to five years to complete for a full-time student. In order to accommodate a working healthcare professional’s needs, many of these programs offer a flexible schedule that takes place nights and weekends.

These part-time programs can usually be completed in three or more years. However, the time it takes for both full- and part-time students to earn their degree depends on a variety of factors, including if a student is able to attend summer classes between years, the number of courses the student takes per semester, and how the internship hours are incorporated.

Potential Careers in Rehabilitation Therapy with a Master’s

  • Physical Therapist
    Physical therapists are directly involved in the recovery of patients with a wide range of medical conditions; problems can range from simple sprained ankles or knees to extreme disabilities, such as strokes.

    A physical therapist is generally responsible for helping people regain the ability to perform basic daily activities. They work with patients of all ages, from children to the elderly. Some may work in small outpatient rehab facilities with athletes that have minor disabilities or in large inpatient rehab hospitals with individuals who have more severe disabilities.
    Average Salary: $71,400

  • Occupational Therapist
    Occupational therapists help individuals to gain better body function and improve their performance of daily activities. After performing an evaluation to determine a patient’s abilities, wants, and needs; goals will be planned to achieve them and may be modified with time according to a patient’s progress. It is important that each patient is evaluated individually and evaluations and modifications to their plan are provided regularly.
    Average Salary: $66,600

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  • Recreation Therapist
    Also known as therapeutic recreation coordinators, recreational therapists provide quality care to patients by overseeing the coordination, direction, and planning of treatment-based programs for various patients, which includes those with illnesses, injuries, or disabilities. These professionals help rehabilitate and restore a person’s independence and functioning level in regular activities by providing quality treatment services. They also help reduce patients' physical limitations through various activities, like arts and crafts, sports, social activities, trips, and more.
    Average Salary: $41,300
  • Rehabilitation Director
    Also known as a director of rehabilitation (DOR), a rehabilitation director leads a group of professionals in a facility's rehabilitation department. They are typically responsible for, overseeing maintenance and financial affairs of the rehabilitation department, and hiring employees for the rehabilitation team. The DOR may have contact directly with patients at smaller facilities while also serving as a hands-on team member of the department.
    Average Salary: $90,100
  • Audiologist
    An audiologist diagnoses patients with hearing problems by performing hearing tests. Once the tests are completed, the audiologist will go over the results with the patient to make a determination. It is important to have good communication skills in order to communicate the test results to patients accurately and professionally.
    Average Salary: $68,900

Options to Advance

Those who graduate from a rehabilitation studies master's degree program can continue their education to earn a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from an accredited university. These programs take 5 to 7 years to complete and are designed for those who wish to pursue a career in teaching physical therapy, rehabilitation science, or occupational therapy at a university level.

While a master's level degree in rehabilitation science will give physical therapists an opportunity to conduct research in particular aspects of rehabilitation science, a doctorate can prepare students for a higher-level position in the field with more lucrative earnings.

Best Master’s of Science in Rehabilitation Therapy Programs

  • Western Michigan University
    Kalamazoo, MI

    The Vision Rehabilitation Therapy, Master of Arts program teaches students to provide instruction to those who have low vision or blindness skills for independent living and employment. The courses cover:

    • Visual Skills Training
    • Personal Management
    • Mainstream and Assistive Computer Technologies
    • Leisure Time Activities
    • Low Vision Technologies
    • Home Management
    • Adaptive Communications

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Arts in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy
  • University of California
    Irvine, CA

    The School of Medicine at UCI educates over 400 medical students each year, including 200 masters and doctoral students and over 600 fellows and residents. The school is accredited by the Medical Accreditation Liaison Committee and is ranked among the top 50 for research nationwide. Some of the programs offered are an MD degree and a dual MD /PhD program.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Masters in Occupational Therapy (MOT)
  • University of Florida
    Gainesville, Fl

    The UF Department of Occupational Therapy prepares students to meet the demands of a fast-paced, highly technological American healthcare system. The Master’s program in Occupational Therapy is designed for those without an entry-level professional degree. To enter the program, undergraduate students must complete the pre-OT track program and the UF Health Science (BHS) degree program. Students with an undergraduate degree from another program can enter through the Conditional Graduate program.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Masters in Occupational Therapy (MOT)
  • New England Institute of Technology
    Warwick, RI

    The MSOT program at New England Tech allows occupational therapy assistants who are certified to expand their clinical and academic experience to become leaders in the industry. Designed as a bridge for those who wish to move to the next level of occupational therapy, the program is offered on weekends. Individuals who follow the program as outlined will be able to earn this degree in ten quarters.

    Occupational therapists (OTRs) help people with handicaps or varying abilities to become independent by completing day-to-day activities. Because everyone has a different set of circumstances, OTRs develop, evaluate, and carry out unique treatment plans for each person.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master's Degree - Occupational Therapy
  • West Coast University
    Hollywood, CA

    The Masters in Occupational Therapy degree program engages students in an environment that allows them to harness the power of advanced technology. All aspects of the program occur face-to-face without any online components while stressing critical thinking skills, oral communication, professional education, program literacy, and effective computer and written proficiency. Graduates are prepared for the legal requirements and ethical standards expected of an occupational therapist.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT)

Traditional Schools Offering a M.S. in Rehabilitation Therapy

  • Logan University
    Chesterfield, MO

    The Master of Science in Rehabilitation and Sports Science program online is a comprehensive, interdisciplinary, graduate program designed to help prepare students for performance management and sports injury. The curriculum prepares students to treat, rehabilitate, and evaluate chronic and acute pain along with musculoskeletal pathology by using didactic learning opportunities. Student’s graduate with the essential skills needed for treatment, rehabilitation, assessment, and management of sports-related injuries.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Sports Science and Rehabilitation
  • Indiana University Online
    Bloomington, IN

    The MS in Recreation, with a focus on Recreational Therapy degree program, offered online by Indiana University, teaches students to use leisure and recreation activities as a tool to help improve well-being and function for individuals with illnesses or disabilities. There are a variety of ways this can be done, including sports, drama, community reintegration, wellness forums, dance, music, or other activities. The course curriculum focuses on:

    • Research in Kinesiology, Health, and Recreation
    • Management and Theory, Practices
    • Therapeutic Interventions
    • Clinical Outcomes
    • Public Health Statistics

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Recreation / Recreational Therapy

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  • Tuskegee University
    Tuskegee, AL

    Occupational Therapy (OT) is a rehabilitation/health profession where the practitioners work in a wide range of settings that include rehabilitation centers, acute care hospitals, community mental health facilities, schools, psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes, and more. This profession contributes to the emotional and/or physical well-being and independence of an individual through the selection of activities and occupations of everyday life that have purpose and meaning to the individual.

    This enables people to regain, gain, or prevent loss of skills, tasks, habits, roles, or routines they performed in the past, or are learning in order to fully participate as a contributing member of their personal environment or community.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science degree in Occupational Therapy
  • Stanbridge University
    Irvine, CA

    The Master of Science in Occupational Therapy degree program teaches students innovative new ways to help those in need to accomplish things they love to do most. Under the expert faculty guidance, students can apply groundbreaking research projects to core OT concepts and practice with emerging rehab technology to gain enough confidence to lead in an in-demand dynamic profession.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Occupational Therapy
  • Nova Southeastern University's (NSU)
    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    The students and faculty of the NSU Occupational Therapy Department are prepared with the values, skills, and knowledge needed for a lifelong learning process of practicing in the field of occupational therapy with innovative customary ways in an ever-changing world.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master's in Occupational Therapy

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