Preparation and Utilization of Undergraduate Workers in Rehabilitation: Comparative Perceptions of Respondents

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Human Services


Kenneth W. Reagles


CORE model, Rehabilitation Services Education

Subject Categories

Rehabilitation and Therapy


Following the CORE model for evaluating graduate degree programs in rehabilitation, this research compared perceptions of a national sample of seniors, graduates, field placement supervisors, and faculty associated with undergraduate rehabilitation services education programs (RSE), and employers of RSE graduates. Individuals who received questionnaires included: all faculty and field placement supervisors, a 50% stratified random sample (by program and graduation date) of graduates and seniors, and all employers identified by responding graduates. A total of 788 questionnaires were received from 1,797 mailed. Response rates varied among respondent groups, ranging from 72.4% (employers) to 28.9.% (seniors). The major topics investigated were: characteristics of RSE programs, career activities of graduates from 1975-1979, and graduates' preparation and utilization in the rehabilitation work force.

RSE programs varied greatly in size (number of students graduating per year) and curriculum. Roughly 40% of the programs graduated fewer than 10 students per year, and roughly 25% graduated more than 25 students per year. Curriculi varied both in number of "rehabilitation" courses and in amount of and nature of fieldwork. Some programs offered three rehabilitation courses or less (usually an "introductory/historical overview" of rehabilitation, a "medical information" course, and a "psychological aspects of disability" course), while other programs offered more than 8 rehabilitation courses. Some programs offered no fieldwork, while others required 600 clock hours of supervised fieldwork. In about half of the programs that offered fieldwork, students responsibility for a caseload; in about one-third, students "observed" (i.e., no official responsibilities).

Immediately after graduation 38% of the graduates were employed in rehabilitation settings, 21% were enrolled in graduate school, 22% were employed outside the field of rehabilitation, and 17% were unemployed. Of those in graduate school, one-third were enrolled in rehabilitation counseling and other rehabilitation programs (e.g., vocational evaluation, administration). In sum, 44% immediately entered rehabilitation jobs or school. However, over the 1975-1979 time span, a total of 65% of the graduates reported working in rehabilitation after graduation. Those never working in rehabilitation reported lack of available rehabilitation jobs as the main reason (40%). The main reasons that graduates reported they might leave the field centered around: low salaries (36%), poor job market (lack of available jobs) (26%), lack of promotional opportunities (20%), and job frustration (15%). Graduates were employed in a wide variety of rehabilitation settings, with no more than 19% in any particular type of setting. Just over 10% were employed in state rehabilitation agencies.

Statistical analyses revealed that respondent groups differed significantly in their perceptions of (1) who was performing job tasks, (2) who should be performing various job tasks, and (3) how appropriate it was for RSE graduates to perform various tasks. Faculty most closely agreed with the "traditional" distinctions in roles and functions between bachelors degree workers and masters degree workers in rehabilitation. Employers and graduates reported a much greater overlap in job duties between the two levels of workers. Analyses were based on responses to a 27-item list of job duties that was composed of 9 "bachelors-level" tasks, 9 "masters-level" tasks, and 9 tasks that could be performed by "either" category of workers. Items were selected from published role and function studies, and reports on undergraduate rehabilitation education.

Impact of the undergraduate programs on the work force, graduate education, and professionalism in rehabilitation counseling were also discussed.


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