John Wadsworth, associate professor in rehabilitation and counselor education and grant principal investigator, talks to a student in his office

John Wadsworth, associate professor in rehabilitation and counselor education and principal investigator of a new grant to train more rehabilitation counselors, speaks with a student. Photo by Mei-Ling Shaw.

| October 13, 2020

The state of Iowa needs more rehabilitation counselors, especially in rural communities.

Faculty in the top-ranked University of Iowa College of Education’s Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling program will now be able to recruit and educate more highly-qualified rehabilitation counselors, thanks to a new $750,000 Department of Education grant.

The grant funds a joint project between the Rehabilitation Counseling Program and Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services.

John Wadsworth, associate professor in rehabilitation and counselor education and principal investigator, says the grant will help the program recruit more top-notch students, especially veterans.

“The project trains highly qualified employment specialists to help Iowans, especially Iowans with disabilities, poor employment histories, and low demand skills, find and maintain high- paying jobs,” Wadsworth says.

He adds that the partnership with community agencies is crucial as the state and nation face a shortage of such professionals who can serve and support this population, especially those in rural communities.

The Rehabilitation Services Administration reports a 7% shortage in qualified rehabilitation counselors in the Midwest, with Iowa reporting a 9% shortage.

The project will indirectly support the training of 70 master’s level rehabilitation counselor trainees in five years and provide a full scholarship and stipend to 35 trainees, all who meet national credentialing standards.

The goal is to increase the pool of eligible applicants to state vocational rehabilitation services. There is a special focus on increasing rural capacity. The students will also be trained in providing tele-delivery rehabilitation services, even more important in the pandemic.

Rehabilitation counselors help individuals with physical or mental disabilities to obtain employment and live more independently through the provision of such supports as counseling, medical and psychological services, job training, and other individualized services.

Currently, there are 2,150 rehabilitation counselors in the state of Iowa with 26 newly-created job openings annually through 2026.

All master’s level trainees will participate in rigorous, established, and sequenced pedagogy that is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and blends theory, research, and practice.

The curriculum is taught by full-time, tenured faculty who are engaged in employment research and consultation. All students engage in high-quality mentoring on campus and at Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) offices. Students complete two field experiences at VR agencies that focus on vocational counseling, emerging employment trends, employer partnerships, and transition of youth at a VR program.

The Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling Program is ranked ninth nationally among all rehabilitation counselor education programs, according to the 2021 U.S. News and World Report Best Graduate Programs. For more than 15 years, it has consistently ranked in the top 10 of all programs nationally.

For more information, contact Wadsworth at 319-335-5246 or visit the Rehabilitation Counseling web page.