How to Become a Rehabilitation Engineer in the US

Rehabilitation Engineer in the US
Wheelchair Travelling

People with disabilities often go through the hands of several rehabilitation practitioners, including rehabilitation engineers. This breed of biomedical engineers focuses on developing and implementing technological solutions that can help the disabled to lead independent and fulfilling lives. If you are a caring person who would love to pursue a career in engineering, keep reading!

What do rehabilitation engineers do?

The duties of rehabilitation engineers include:

  • Assessing the individual needs of people with disabilities
  • Designing and building custom-made equipment such as wheelchairs, robotic aids and artificial limbs
  • Testing the safety of existing rehabilitative equipment and assistive devices
  • Collaborating with other members of the rehabilitation team, including occupational therapists and physiotherapists
  • Counseling users on how to use the equipment safely and appropriately
  • Supervising rehabilitation technicians
  • Conducting research on a range of rehabilitation engineering topics

Work environment

Rehabilitation engineers work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. When they are not in engineering labs designing rehabilitative equipment, they can be found in a variety of healthcare settings assessing the needs of disabled people.

The work can be emotionally draining, as it many involve assessing people with severe injuries.


How much do rehabilitation engineers earn in a year? Find out below:


Annual wage

Rehabilitation Technology Practitioners

$25,000 - $35,000

Rehabilitation Engineers

$35,000 - $50,000

Source: University of Iowa

Entry requirements

The road to becoming a rehabilitation engineer begins with earning a bachelor’s degree in any of the following disciplines:

  • Industrial engineering
  • Biomedical engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Electrical engineering

The next step is to earn a master’s degree in rehabilitation engineering or technology. Some of the universities offering this credential include:

  • University of Colorado Denver, Colorado
  • University of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
  • Stanford University, California

At this point, you are ready to find employment as a rehabilitation engineer.

Important qualities

Which skills do you need to be a successful rehabilitation engineer? You need:

  • Strong skills in equipment design
  • Strong analytical skills to assess patients’ disabilities
  • Strong innovative problem-solving skills
  • Strong teamwork skills
  • Excellent practical and technical skills
  • Good research skills
  • Empathy and emotional resilience
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • An understanding of disability laws

Career development

After getting employed as a rehabilitation engineer, you can take the following career advancement options:

  • Obtain a professional certification from the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America – the association also offers membership opportunities.
  • Obtain the Professional Engineer license from your state’s engineering board – you must pass two levels of examinations to become licensed. Licensure enhances your credibility.
  • Pursue a doctoral degree in rehabilitation engineering.

Job opportunities

As a qualified rehabilitation engineer, you can be hired by:

  • Private rehabilitation agencies
  • Biomedical engineering companies
  • Research facilities
  • Suppliers of medical equipment
  • Health agencies that run community rehabilitation programs

Although many experienced rehabilitation engineers progress to become senior engineers, those with a doctoral degree secure teaching jobs in universities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of all biomedical engineers, including rehabilitation engineers, will grow by 27 percent from 2012 through 2022. This faster-than-average growth means rehabilitation engineers have strong employment prospects.

So you don’t have to be a medical school graduate to help people with disabilities live productive lives. By becoming a rehabilitation engineer, you can also realize this goal!