Recovering from knee surgery, restoring balance and strength after a stroke, ensuring accessibility in a public building. When it comes to helping people overcome physical and occupational challenges, those trained in rehabilitation sciences are essential.
The satisfaction of helping make life easier for others is only one reason to pursue this field. Jobs in physical and occupational therapy are well-paid and often offer flexible schedules — not to mention plentiful; the rehabilitation field is experiencing turbo-charged growth, with some roles within this sector growing three times the average rate of all U.S. occupations—and others, even faster than that.
In 2019, U.S. News & World Report listed both occupational therapist and physical therapist in the top of 20 of its Best 100 Jobs list. A Master of Science in Rehabilitation Sciences degree is a solid way to gain the skills you need to work in this field—and set yourself up for a career spent in all kinds of settings, helping all kinds of people.
This degree is designed to help students with academic or professional grounding in physical rehabilitation advance their careers in new directions of health and wellness. Education typically includes courses related to research, development, and leadership in physical rehabilitation, neurological rehabilitation, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, sports medicine, exercise science, and health and well-being.
Master's degree programs in rehabilitation sciences are designed for those with prior experience in physical or occupational therapy. It provides skills and knowledge for entrance into academia and research, development, or leadership areas of the field.
For many programs, applicants need a bachelor’s degree and a GRE score, though some programs do not require the GRE. MS in Rehabilitation Sciences degrees are likely to require that you already have a certification in physical therapy or some professional experience in physical therapy or a related field. Programs can typically be completed in two years by full-time students and may be done mostly as an online master’s degree (usually with a short residency required).
A master's degree in rehabilitation sciences can open many doors. You can practice in a specialty, move into leadership, or branch out in other ways.
Specialist physical therapist: Gaining advanced training in a specialty within physical therapy—such as sports medicine, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, or women's health—allows experienced physical therapists to take on new types of clients, work in new environments, and work on a deeper level of treatment. MS in Rehabilitation Science graduates can become board-certified clinical specialists in a particular area of practice through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), physical therapists make an median salary of $86,000 a year, and likely more when practicing a particular specialty. Physical therapy jobs are growing extremely quickly. They're expected to increase 28 percent by 2026, four times as fast as the average U.S. occupation.
Director of rehabilitation (DOR): This role in charge of a healthcare facility's rehabilitation department, and is responsible for guiding the department's finances, human resources, and team training and professional development. The DOR may also provide hands-on rehabilitation as part of a smaller team in a more intimate facility.
According to PayScale, rehabilitation directors average more than $90,000 per year, with the potential for more with bonuses and profit-sharing. BLS indicates that the medical and health administration job outlook is robust, expected to grow 20 percent by 2026.
Executive leader: Graduates of MS in Rehabilitation Sciences program are well-positioned to take on leadership roles in the field of rehabilitation, which includes work at clinics, private practices, hospitals, and rehab-related companies. Leadership roles suited to these professionals may be the director of a department, the administrator of a program, or even the CEO of a company or organization.
According to BLS, chief executives earn median annual salaries of $183,270, and general and operations managers earn media pay of more than $100,000. Bonuses and profit-sharing can add substantial sums to these totals. Employment prospects for these professionals are expected to increase 8 percent by 2026.
Research scientist: MS in Rehabilitation Sciences programs are frequently geared toward readying physical therapists to pursue a PhD in rehabilitation sciences and become a professor or academic researcher. Those with a PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences may do research on topics regarding physical resiliency and rehabilitation, such as the physical mechanics of falls, cognitive and motor therapies, and post-stroke rehabilitation. PayScale reports that research scientists in university settings make an average salary of $78,000, with a high-earners pulling in close to $120,000.
Usability specialist: Those with advanced training in rehabilitation sciences can work as usability experts in a consulting role. These professionals advise companies and organizations on issues of workplace safety, usability, and access in public and private spaces for individuals with disabilities. An MS in Rehabilitation Sciences can provide the technical knowledge needed to enter this field. PayScale data shows that usability specialists bring in comfortable salaries, making an average of $70,654 per year.
An MS in Rehabilitation Science allows those with experience in the field of physical or occupational therapy to go deeper in their training and find new directions for their careers. Whichever direction you choose, a career in this field is likely to be well-compensated and secure, and spent helping those with disabilities and chronic illnesses make every day less burdensome.
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