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The state of state vocational evaluators: a national study.

Many of the founders of the profession of vocational evaluation were employed by state vocational rehabilitation programs (VR). Their first meeting was hosted at a state-operated facility in Georgia, and other states soon followed (Hoffman, 2008). Mike Ahlers, former President of the Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Association (VEWAA) and the Vocational Evaluation and Career Assessment Professionals (VECAP), has noted that "The founding membership included many state employees, as does the current membership" (personal communication, January 17, 2011). To date, however, there has been no examination of the employment practices of state VR regarding vocational evaluators, and only one study (Thomas, 1989) has compared vocational evaluators with rehabilitation counselors (RC) who work for VR. This paper discusses the definition of vocational evaluation, the roles and functions of vocational evaluators, the current climate of VE, and reports a national survey of VE professionals.

Contextualizing Vocational Evaluation

Vocational evaluation (VE), originally known as work evaluation (Hoffman, 2008), has experienced several redefinitions, usually in conjunction with variations in the perceived roles and functions of vocational evaluators. The current definition of VE, which was developed by the Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Association (VEWAA), is as follows:

A comprehensive process that systematically uses work, either real or simulated, as the focal point for assessment and vocational exploration, the purpose of which is to assist individuals with vocational development. Vocational evaluation incorporates medical, psychological, social, vocational, educational, cultural, and economic data into the process to attain the goals of evaluation (Dowd, 1993).

This definition implies that VE is a methodical approach that uses specific tools to measure factors affecting an individual's employability. However, the definition remains vague, to give individual professionals the flexibility to vary methods and tools in the design and delivery of a VE. The definition is an encompassing description of a process that can be implemented in numerous ways; it does not limit the scope of the process to specific procedures and tools. Vocational evaluation, therefore, can be shaped to meet the needs of the client. A potential disadvantage of the vagueness, however, is that it allows ambiguity and significant variation in the process, to such a point that VE may begin not to look like VE anymore. Therefore, it is important to identify the processes that exist in VE to assess actual variability in the professional identity and characteristics of vocational evaluators.

Roles and Functions of Vocational Evaluators

The rehabilitation literature includes studies of vocational evaluator roles and functions (Coffey, 1978; Hamilton & Shumate, 2005; Leahy & Wright, 1988; Pruitt, 1972; Taylor et al., 1993; Taylor & Bordieri, 1993). The key roles and functions identified in all six are provided in Table 1. Although these six studies collectively specify 36 roles and functions, only seven of the roles and functions (counseling, behavioral observation, administration of instruments, occupational/career analysis, case management, and professionalism) are shared. This suggests two possibilities. Either the roles and functions have changed over time, or variability exists among respondents in their perceptions of the roles and functions of vocational evaluators. Thus there may be notable differences in how VE is perceived and practiced.

The Thirtieth Institute on Rehabilitation Issues (30th IRI; 2003) identified 11 paradigm shifts presented in Table 2. The shifts were in the following areas: the role and functions of the vocational evaluator, the VE process; the VE setting; and the length of a VE. The importance of contributory underpinnings becomes evident: recognition of individualization; an emphasis on client empowerment; promotion of universal design to maximize accessibility; and accountability for cultural considerations.

The Current Climate of VE

Recent activity in the field of VE is troubling, particularly the cessation of the Commission on Certification of Work Adjustment and Vocational Evaluation Specialists (CCWAVES) and the transition of the Certified Vocational Evaluation Specialist (CVE) credential from an open process that included new evaluators to a maintenance process for already credentialed professionals. These two developments point to a critical need for attention to the profession's longevity. The population of CVEs will retire or leave the field, eventually resulting in the group's extinction. With each year, there is some attrition of providers who have demonstrated minimal competency through certification. The rehabilitation field is then likely to experience an increase in the number of vocational evaluators who may not be trained to provide services at the same level of competency. The danger is that without some benchmarks for a credential, there will be no mechanism to ascertain a professional's competency. This is a great concern to many in the field who think the integrity of VE is being compromised (Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Association, 2011). Thus a detailed investigation into the employment conditions of practicing vocational evaluators is warranted.

Examining State Vocational Rehabilitation Employment Practices

No employment practices study has been published for the VE field. In an early study, Thomas (1989) collected information on vocational evaluators and rehabilitation counselors and found that vocational evaluators were employed by 32 states and the District of Columbia. In most states, evaluators' education, experience, and salaries were similar; none of the states required certification, in a more recent study, the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC, 2008) published a self-report survey on rehabilitation professionals (n=1220) who were Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC). This study examined work setting, academic degree held, and other variables that may influence salaries. CRCC reported that 36% of the participants were state employees, their average pay was $57,176, and the salary range by work setting was $45K to $78K. There were differences in earnings by gender, race/ethnicity, geographic location, educational attainment, and educational specialization.

Vocational evaluators who work for VR are subject to state policies and practices in regard to the provision of the service: that is, whether to provide VE directly, purchase VE from vendors, use a combination of both, or not use the service. As state employees, vocational evaluators are also subject to various conditions of employment, including entry level job requirements, compensation, job duties, and tools provided. Rehabilitation counselors (RC) have knowledge similar to vocational evaluators (e.g., effects of disability, world of work, principles of testing), as well as similar skills (e.g., career counseling, case management), and educational (masters degree) requirements. In the CRCC study, 15% of the respondents who were certified RCs reported employment in the job category of vocational evaluator.


Given the current economic climate and the concerns about the vocational evaluators' roles, functions, and credentials, it is important to examine the current employment practices under which these professionals provide services. This study therefore examined current practices of state VR programs in regards to the provision of VE services, including conditions of employment in programs that employ vocational evaluators. Research questions were: a) How do state VR programs provide VE services? b) What proportion of VR programs employ vocational evaluators? c) How do the conditions of employment compare for vocational evaluators and rehabilitation counselors? d) What are the employment practices of vocational evaluators employed in VR programs?


A 32-item survey was administered from June 2010 to April 2011 to a purposeful sample of 64 general, blind, or combined VR programs in the United States. A respondent in the central office with statewide responsibilities for the VE program was sought. This person was typically a program specialist. Because no directory of these positions exists, one had to be created. The research assistant first called the VR Director's office and then proceeded through the organization until an appropriate party was identified. Next, a phone interview was conducted with follow-up calls or emails.

The survey was developed based on benchmarking, which is a process of measurement and comparison (Watson, 1993) used to examine performance and practice (Stapenhurst, 2009). Survey items were based on three other studies: Thomas (1989) compared vocational evaluators and rehabilitation counselors; the Federal Salary Council (2005) compared Federal General Schedule pay to non-Federal pay; and Riehl (2009) looked at Speech-to-Text (Sign Language) Interpreter salaries. Some items were added to collect information specific to vocational evaluators and rehabilitation counselors. The survey was administered by graduate research assistants (RAs) who were trained to follow a protocol to identify participants, record responses, and follow-up to obtain lists of tools or sample reports or outlines. The VR contact person's information and responses were recorded in Survey Monkey, an online survey tool. Descriptive statistics were used in the data analysis. The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of East Carolina University.


The following data is reported as sample size and relative percentage. Of the 64 VR programs contacted, 63 participated in the survey, which is a response rate of 98.4%. One program declined to participate. Sixty respondents (3 skipped the question) self-identified the following program types: 15 (24.6%) blind, 19 (31.1%) general, and 27 (44.3%) combined.

Twenty-six of the 63 VR programs (41.3%) employed vocational evaluators and the respondents from these programs had the following types of positional authority: 12 (46.2%) had staff authority--these were program directors; 11 (42.3%) had direct line authority (supervisors); and 3 (11.5%) were direct service providers (two vocational evaluators and one RC). When asked who had line authority over the vocational evaluators, respondents commented that 14 (73.7%) had a supervisor who also had responsibilities for other disciplines/personnel, and 5 (26.3%) had a supervisor whose primary responsibilities were directed to VE.

Almost all the VR programs (60, 96.8%) purchased VE services; the remaining 3 (4.8%) included two that conducted VE only using state employees and one did not comment. Respondents indicated that most VR Programs purchased VE services from community rehabilitation programs (52, 86.7%), followed by vocational evaluators in private practice (35, 58.3%), or psychologists (25, 41.7%). Four (6.7%) used private contractors, employment service organizations, and technology centers. One program hired consumers to assist with computer skills evaluation and transferable skills analyses.

Employment Conditions of Vocational Evaluators and Rehabilitation Counselors

Twenty-six state VR programs that employed both vocational evaluators and rehabilitation counselors were compared using seven common components of jobs: the job titles, the number of positions currently available, entry level requirements, career ladders (both horizontal and vertical), salaries, geographic assignments and responsibilities, and the job's exemption status from the US Department of Labor Fair Labor Standards Act.

Exemption status is an indicator of how the personnel system views the professionalism of incumbents. In order for the vocational evaluator and rehabilitation counselor to be considered for the learned professional employee exemption, all of the following tests must be met:

* The employee must be compensated on a salary or fee basis (as defined in the regulations) at a rate not less than $455 per week.

* The employee's primary duty must be the performance of work requiring advanced knowledge, defined as work which is predominantly intellectual in character and which includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment.

* The advanced knowledge must be in a field of science or learning.

* The advanced knowledge must be customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction (US DOL Wage and Hour Division, 2008).

Job Titles

Vocational evaluator was the title used by the most programs for vocational evaluators (12, 46.2%). Five programs used counselor, and another five used vocational rehabilitation or rehabilitation specialist (19.2% each). There were five other titles used: assessment and career evaluation specialist (referred to as a vocational ACE), technician, psychologist 1, vocational rehabilitation technician, and human service counselor. One respondent noted that the vocational evaluator title was in the process of being changed to rehabilitation counselor.

Rehabilitation counselor, vocational rehabilitation counselor, and counselor were the titles used by most of the programs for rehabilitation counselors (23, 82.1%). Five programs reported three other titles: specialist (3, 10.7%), rehabilitation counselor representative (1, 3.8%), and human services counselor (1, 3.8%).


The total number of vocational evaluator positions in 24 programs was 363 (one respondent did not answer and one respondent's information could not be verified; see Table 3). The average number of vocational evaluator positions per program was 15.12. The great majority of the programs (23, 95.8%) had less than 50 positions, with a range from 1 (three programs, 12.5%) to 72 (one program, 4%). The total number of RC positions in 15 programs was 1,462 and the average per state was 97.47. The majority of the programs (14, 71.4%) had more than 50 positions, with a range of 10-315.

Entry-Level Requirements

Three entry level requirements were examined: education, experience, and certification (see Table 4). The preferred educational level for both vocational evaluator and rehabilitation counselor positions was a master's degree. Vocational evaluators could have a master's in VE (12, 46.2%), rehabilitation counseling (17, 65.4%) or a closely related field (14, 53.8%) (1). Rehabilitation counselors could have a degree in vocational evaluation (6, 23.1%), rehabilitation counseling (22, 84.6%), or a closely related field (18, 69.2%). A bachelor's degree was acceptable for either position in 12 (46.2%) programs, and one (3.8%) program accepted an associate degree for a vocational evaluator. Respondent comments included these: "The employee must agree to obtain a master's degree within 5 years" (6), "The agency provides training" (1), and "There is an internship available" (for vocational evaluators; 1).

Most of the programs did not have a minimum experience requirement for either the vocational evaluators (17, 68.0%) or rehabilitation counselors (20, 80.0%). Seven programs (28%) required between 1-3 years of experience for vocational evaluatots, and five programs (20%) required 1-3 years experience for rehabilitation counselors. One program required over 5 years of experience to qualify for entry as a vocational evaluator. Comments indicated that no experience was required for master's level applicants and the experience requirements were for applicants with a bachelor's degree. One program required experience with adults with disabilities to work as a vocational evaluator.

Certification was not required by most of the programs for either vocational evaluators (17, 65.4%) or rehabilitation counselors (14, 56.0%) (1). Two respondents said that they preferred the applicant to be eligible for certification for either position. Certification for vocational evaluators included CVE (4, 15.4%), CRC (7, 26.9%), or Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC; 3, 11.5%). Certification for rehabilitation counselors included CRC (13, 52.0%), or LPC (3, 12.0%).

Career Ladder

There were 17 horizontal and 12 vertical career ladder titles for vocational evaluators noted by 16 respondents. Horizontal titles that showed different levels (11, 64.7%) included: vocational evaluator 1, 2 or 3; or vocational evaluator entry, vocational evaluator, or master's evaluator. Other specific titles provided were senior vocational evaluator, rehabilitation counselor and other (2, 11.7% each). Vertical titles included first line supervisor (i.e., VE supervisor; 4, 33.3%), middle to upper management (i.e., unit supervisor, regional director; 3, 25.0%), and program specialist (5, 41.7%).

There were 27 horizontal and 26 vertical career ladder titles for rehabilitation counselors noted by 26 respondents. One reported no career ladders. Horizontal titles that showed different levels (20, 74.0%) included: rehabilitation counselor 1, 2, 3, or 4; and rehabilitation counselor (entry), then certified rehabilitation counselor 2 or 3. Other horizontal titles included senior rehabilitation counselor (4, 14.8%) and 3 others: rehabilitation counselor, vocational rehabilitation counselor specialist, and vocational career counselor (3.7% each). Vertical titles included first line supervisor (12, 46.2%), middle to upper management (same titles provided as for vocational evaluator; 6, 23.0%), program specialist (6, 23.0%), and two others: consultant and rehabilitation counselor career (3.8% each).


Seventeen respondents reported that the starting salary for vocational evaluators ranged from $20K to $24,999 in one program (5.9%) to $45K to $49,999 in the highest paying program (1, 5.9%; see Table 5). The majority (16, 94.1%) of the programs' starting pay was in the broad range of $25K to $49,999, with a modal range of $30K to $34,999 (7, 41.2%). Sixteen respondents reported that the pay scale started at $25K to $29,999 (1, 6.3%) and ended at >$60k (2, 12.5%), with a modal range of $50K to $54,999 (5, 31.3%).

The findings were similar for rehabilitation counselors, with 15 respondents reporting that the starting salary ranged from $25K to $29,999 (2, 13.3%) to $45K to $49,999 in the highest paying program (1, 6.7%). The majority (13, 86.7%) of the programs' starting pay was in the broad range of $30K to $49,999, with a modal range of $30K to $34,999 (8, 53.3%). Thirteen respondents reported that the pay scale started at $30K to $34,999 (1, 7.7%) and ended at >$60k (2, 15.4%), with a modal range of $50K to $54,999 (4, 30.8%).

Geographical Assignment

Of the 26 respondents, 22 (84.6%) said that vocational evaluators practiced within geographical assignments, while 4 (15.4%) reported this did not occur. There were four primary mechanisms by which vocational evaluation services were assigned: based on the number of counties or regions (15, 75.0%); site-based, (such as the state capitol or at larger, metropolitan centers; 4, 20.0%); within territories based on population size (1, 5.0%); and statewide (3, 15.0%).

Twenty-five (96.2%) programs assigned specific geographical areas to rehabilitation counselors and one (3.8%) did not. Assignments were based on the number of counties or regions (18, 75.0%); or site-based, such as the state capitol or at larger, metropolitan centers (1, 4.1%); within territories based on population size (5, 20.8%); or statewide (1, 4.10%). One (4.1%) program served by school district.

Department of Labor Status

The programs were very similar in DOL classification. Exempt positions were assigned to vocational evaluators in 10 (45.4%) programs and RCs in 10 (50.0%). Non-exempt positions were assigned to vocational evaluators in 12 (54.6%) programs and to RCs in 10 (50.0%).

Employment Practices for Vocational Evaluators

Selected employment practices were analyzed to examine the day to day operations of vocational evaluators providing services for VR. The practices analyzed were production requirements, including frequency and content of VE reports, and requirements or preferences for tools used by vocational evaluators.

Production Requirements and Report Writing

Of the 26 programs conducting VE, 15 (57.7%) respondents said there was no quota in terms of report productivity; 11 (42.3%) reported a production requirement. Twelve respondents shared the requirements, which varied widely: two (16.7%) reported production at 3-4 per month (36-48 annually), five (41.7%) reported 7-10 per month (84-120 annually), three reported 12-20 per month (144-240 annually), and two (16.7%) reported a variable quota depending on location, other duties, and available slots. One respondent added that the reports had to be completed within five days.

Eleven respondents (42.3%) said that the VE report length varied significantly. Reports could be as short as two pages, but could also exceed 12 pages in length. Several respondents noted that report length was based on client characteristics. However, 21 programs (80.8%) had an outline for VE reports to follow.

All 26 programs had similar requirements for information that must be in reports: 22 (84.6%) required behavioral observation data, a summary of the evaluation process, and vocational recommendations; and 21 (80.8%) also required client demographics. Reports were also required to include tools and methods applied: 23 (88.5%) required psychometric tests; 20 (76.9%) required work samples; 15 (57.7%) required situational assessments and findings; and 10 (38.5%) required community-based assessments and findings.

Seventeen respondents provided 26 comments about other topics that were required less frequently. Three respondents mentioned career guidance (e.g., information, knowledge, exploration). Two respondents said reports were required to include: answers to referral questions, assistive technology recommendations, labor market analysis data, medical information, job modifications, and transferable skills analysis results. One mention was made of: functional capacity evaluation results, learning styles information, situational assessment, specific behavioral observations, and job recommendations (including entry level, middle, and dream jobs). Two respondents said that report contents were completely driven by the referral source's questions. One respondent repeated there were no requirements for the information in the VE report.

Tools Utilized

Of the 26 respondents, 24 (92.3%) said that they maintained a list of tools to be used by vocational evaluators. Two participants (7.7%) said that a list was not maintained. Twenty-two participants were willing to provide the researchers a copy of their tools.


Comparisons with Thomas and CRCC Data

The current study surveyed 63 VR programs; and in an earlier survey, Thomas (1989) examined 51 programs but gave no indication of whether these were general, blind, or combined. Therefore comparisons must be considered as approximate. Since the Thomas study, the percentage of states that employ vocational evaluators has decreased: Thomas found 64% (n=32) and the current study found 41.2% (n=26).

Thomas (1989) and the current research found salaries to be very similar between vocational evaluators and rehabilitation counselors, with modal and highest starting salaries the same and lowest starting salaries differing by only one program for vocational evaluators. The CRCC (2008) salary information ranged from salaries for new professionals or those whose career started in the 2000s to those with 30 plus years of experience. Using the former, the average salary was $40,000. This same figure was reported for vocational evaluators and rehabilitation counselors who worked for VR programs. The figure is higher than the $30,000 to $34,999 modal range found in the current study and may be explained by the inclusion of professionals in private practice, academics, or those who had sufficient experience to have earned raises.

There were marked differences in educational requirements between Thomas (1989) and the current study. Thomas found that 23.3% (n=30) of programs required a master's degree for employment as a RC or vocational evaluator. The current study found that a master's degree was required for vocational evaluators, in 65.4% (n=17) of programs and for rehabilitation counselors in 84.6% (n=22), representing increases of 242% and 314%, respectively. There was no difference, however, in bachelor's degree requirements, with both studies finding them required in 46% of the programs. The programs requiring experience for entry also increased. Thomas found that 12.5% (n=4) of the programs required experience for both vocational evaluators and RCs, while the current study found 32% (n=8) required experience for vocational evaluators and 20% (n=5) for rehabilitation counselors, or increases of 200% and 125%, respectively. There was no change in certification requirement: certification was not required in 1989 and it is still not required. Thomas did not collect national information on a career ladder, though he reported on horizontal ladders in seven states in the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Region IV. Four states had a career ladder for both rehabilitation counselors and vocational evaluators, two states did not have a ladder, and one state had a ladder for rehabilitation counselors, but not vocational evaluators. The current study found that 16 programs reported both horizontal and vertical ladders for vocational evaluators and 26 reported horizontal and vertical ladders for rehabilitation counselors.


Vocational evaluators work primarily in settings in which the supervisor has responsibilities for other professions and services beyond VE (14, 73.7%). This implies that vocational evaluators need to be capable of practicing independently with administrative but not clinical supervision. The practice of VE in state VR programs is conducted in a competitive environment, with 96.8% (n=60) of programs purchasing VE services from other sources. The average ratio of full time equivalent (FTE) vocational evaluators to rehabilitation counselors is .25:1. Given this situation, vocational evaluators must assume the role of educator as defined by Thomas (1999), to help others (including the supervisor and referring counselors) to learn about the scope and purpose of the profession.

Clearly, rehabilitation counselors have a stronger professional identity than vocational evaluators as shown by job titles and entry requirements. Most (23, 82.1%) of the respondents in the current study said their preferred job title was rehabilitation counselor; only 42% (n=12) indicated vocational evaluator. To enter the profession, all of the respondents said that different MS degrees were acceptable but most preferred rehabilitation counseling for either RC (22, 84.6%) or VE (17, 65.4%) positions. Preferred credentials reveal similar findings, with 52 % (n=13) of the states preferring CRC and 15% (n=4) preferring CVE. None of the programs would accept CVE as a credential for an RC position.

Interestingly, programs accepted the LPC as a suitable entry level credential for either rehabilitation counselors (3, 12%) or vocational evaluators (3, 11.5%). Also about half the programs DOL classification for both positions were non-exempt--10 or 50% for the rehabilitation counselors and 12 or 45.6% for vocational evaluators indicating that these programs do not consider either position as a learned professional employee.

Two findings can serve as additional benchmarks. First there were only slight differences in experience requirements: no experience was required by 17 programs (68%) for vocational evaluators and none was required by 20 programs (80%) for rehabilitation counselors. Second, most of the programs (22, 84.6%) for vocational evaluators and (25, 96.2%) for rehabilitation counselors assigned work geographically, and the most common assignment was by county or region (15, 75%) for vocational evaluators and (18, 75%) rehabilitation counselors.

Practice Implications

The production requirements, in terms of how many VE reports were due monthly or annually, and the specifics required in the reports was striking. There were significant differences in the quotas for report submission, with a range of 4-20 a month. The higher end of this range, which represents 5 evaluation reports per week, is particularly surprising. The time required to conduct an initial interview, behavioral observations, and evaluative measurements (e.g., psychometric testing, work sampling, real work evaluation) would appear to leave minimal time for actual report writing. Fortunately, the modal number of reports due weekly was 2, which would seem to be more manageable considering the time involved in the evaluation process. One state program required reports to be submitted within 5 days of the evaluation appointment(s), suggesting a preference for working with one case at a time in their evaluation process. Production requirements, as defined by report quotas varied by program, and probably was influenced by supply and demand factors: how many evaluators were present, how many clients required evaluations, and how evaluators and clients were paired based on geographic assignments.

Required components of VE reports also varied by program. For example, page requirements ranged from 2 pages to more than 12. The modal page number, however, was approximately 6-8 pages. This figure differs from previous reports, including one article by Simmons (1975) and one unpublished thesis by McDaniel (as cited in Thomas, 1986) which reported a preference for evaluation report length of two pages. Although two pages are still accepted by some programs, the modal number of 6-8 clearly shows that the expectation of page length has dramatically increased since the 1970s.

The majority of the programs (80.8%) required that the report be drafted with an outline, and there was little variation in the components required in the evaluation reports. However, there was significant variability in the length of the VE reports, suggesting that reports were drafted to represent an individualized evaluation process, rather than a "cookie-cutter" report writing system. The variations noted in the page lengths, therefore, may be attributable to the depth and scope of the information required, based on the individual client.

Report requirements suggest that some programs also required that specific instruments be used in the evaluation process. This is not too surprising, since evaluation programs have been known to select tools based on the client population (e.g., age, educational level, disability type), the tools' validity for measuring the constructs of interest (aptitude, etc.) as well as more practical considerations such as cost and availability. Using an established list of tools also promotes standardization of the evaluation process, which may provide greater efficiency and time management. However, there are some dangers to limiting tool usage, including limiting areas of assessment and a potential lack of "fit" with the consumer population.


This study had several limitations. First, the goal was to describe the current situation in the vocational evaluation profession. Therefore, the data do not lend themselves to inferences, but merely depict the employment conditions of vocational evaluators and RCs. Also, data were collected via a telephonic survey, which has potential threats to internal validity, specifically instrumentation. Since research assistants collected the data, it is also possible that deviations in the measurement process, which could yield inaccurate information, occurred. This potential error was minimized by training and follow-up. Third, the data were provided by an authority in the chain of command in each state program, and therefore the assumption was that this individual provided accurate data. This issue was minimized, however, by the diligence taken to identify the appropriate respondent, including at times multiple calls before identifying the best source of information. Finally, the data were limited to state vocational rehabilitation programs that were willing to participate. One state was not included, and the data do not depict employment conditions for vocational evaluators working in community-based programs or in the private sector.

Future Research

There is a tremendous need for further research on this topic. It would be useful to replicate the study in the community-based vocational evaluation arena, as well as with private sector providers, to capture a comprehensive picture of vocational evaluators. This is challenging, however, since it would be difficult to identify these vocational evaluators and collect data. The benefit of examining state employees is that a sampling frame is present; the number of vocational evaluators working within community-based programs may be impossible to determine. Nevertheless, research that attempts to collect this data would be beneficial for the profession. Research replicating this study in the near future would also be beneficial in order to monitor changes and trends over time. This information is especially critical given the current climate, with shifts in credentialing bodies and professional organization involvement. Additionally, research on the professional identity of vocational evaluators is needed. Finally it would be useful to obtain the views of vocational evaluators about their professional identity and best practices.


In the state VR programs, rehabilitation counselors maintain a more prominent professional identity than vocational evaluators. Data on rehabilitation counselors are therefore easier to obtain. This may mean that the rehabilitation counselor profession is more crystallized than that of the vocational evaluator. Professional organizations exist for both groups; however, there are clearly more for rehabilitation counseling. Rehabilitation counseling, as a profession, is older and larger than vocational evaluation, and is more cohesive than vocational evaluation.

A key indicator that should serve as a red flag for vocational evaluators is the difference between the two professions' career ladders. There are clearly more opportunities for advancement as a rehabilitation counselor in state vocational rehabilitation systems than for vocational evaluators. Overall, the data suggests that rehabilitation counselors maintain greater recognition, cohesiveness, and professional career-building opportunities than vocational evaluators in the state VR programs.

However, it is important to remember that recent activity in the vocational evaluation field has produced promising results. In 2010, a VE Task Force was formed (Pell, Lui, & Guthrie, 2010) which created a new credential, the Professional Vocational Evaluator (PVE), that became operational on April 1, 2011 (Registry of Professional Vocational Evaluators, 2011). The PVE has several purposes: it serves as an equivalent to the CVE, and will eventually replace the CVE as those with this credential phase out; it reestablishes the professional identity of vocational evaluators; maintains cohesion in the profession; and limits the erosion of professional accountability. VEWAA and the Vocational Evaluation and Career Assessment Professionals (VECAP) are engaged in collaborative work towards the revitalization of the vocational evaluation profession, and will continue to do so. The data collected in this study will serve to educate all parties associated with vocational evaluation in state vocational rehabilitation programs and support efforts to promote the vocational evaluation profession.


The authors wish to acknowledge Jimmie McIver and Betty Beacham, vocational evaluators who work for the state VR program in NC, who provided the impetus for this study. We also gratefully thank the work done by Danielle Nilges and Kyle Slough, graduate research assistants from East Carolina University. They spent many hours going through the VR administration to find respondents and then many more following up to collect information.


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Steven R. Sligar

East Carolina University

Chad J. Betters

Winston-Salem State University

(1) Because there are multiple points of entry, each requirement is treated as a separate element.

Steven Sligar, CAHS/DRS, AH Bldg Room 4425, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858-4353.

Table 1

An Analysis of the Roles and Functions of Vocational Evaluators

Studies                               Key Roles & Functions

Pruitt (1972)               Evaluation, Interviewing/Counseling,
                            Training, Administration, Occupational
                            Analysis, Communication,

Coffey (1978)               Effective Communication, Report Writing
                            Professionalism, Interpretation of
                            Evaluation Results, Formulation of

Leahy & Wright (1988)       Assessment Planning/Interpretation,
                            Vocational Counseling, Assessment
                            Administration, Job Analysis, Case
                            Management, Personal Adjustment

Taylor et al. (1993)        Vocational Assessment, Job Matching,
                            Vocational Counseling, Situational
                            Assessment Report Writing, Job Readiness

Taylor & Bordieri (1993)    Vocational Counseling, Behavioral
                            Observation, Occupational Development,
                            Standardized Assessment, Professionalism,
                            Case Management

Hamilton & Shumate (2005)   Analysis/Synthesis of Assessment Data,
                            Behavioral Observation and Evaluation
                            Techniques, Case Management, Occupational
                            Analysis, Vocational Counseling,

Table 2
Paradigm Shifts in Vocational Evaluation by Area

Old Paradigm                       Current/New Paradigm         Area

VE used as gatekeeper          VE used to optimize            Function
(eligibility determination)    consumer driven employment
                               outcome and long-term
                               career development

Screen client in/out of        Facilitate customer's          Function
rehabilitation services        success in effectively
                               choosing and maintaining
                               desired employment despite
                               severity of disability

Fit client to the VE           Tailor the VE process to       Function
process                        fit the consumer

Provide long-term              Provide individualized         Length
evaluations                    evaluations of varying
                               lengths that are sensitive
                               to specific information
                               needs and outcomes

Focus on VE process            Focus on employment outcome    Process
                               with the consumer

Evaluator is the sole          VE is a team approach          Role
provider of VE                 directed by the evaluator

Evaluator in control of the    Evaluator facilitates a        Function
VE Process                     consumer-driven process
                               emphasizing participant
                               involvement and decision
                               making (the basis of
                               empowerment, self
                               determination, informed

VE offered primarily in a      The community is one of the    Setting
clinical setting               many VE settings

VE only offered once           VE offered more than once      Process
                               as a dynamic process to
                               evaluate change and

Offered in isolation as a      Incorporates other             Process
standalone service             disciplines (assistive
                               technology, career
                               development, transition,
                               empowerment using profiles
                               and portfolios for consumer
                               involvement and ownership)

Initially offered in           Offered in a variety of        Setting
sheltered workshop settings    community-based settings
primarily for VR               for numerous populations

The Old and Current and New Paradigms from the 30th IRI
(2003, pp. 22-23).

Table 3

Vocational Evaluator and Rehabilitation Counselor Positions in State
VR Programs.

Number of        Programs with                Programs with
Position    Vocational Evaluators *   Rehabilitation Counselors **

1-10                  14                            1
11-20                  5                            2
21-30                  1                            2
31-50                  3                            2
51-100                 1                            2
>100-                 --                            6

* Mean for Vocational Evaluators = 15.12 positions statewide (n = 24)

** Mean for Rehabilitation Counselors = 97.47 positions statewide
(n = 15)

Table 4

Educational Requirements for Entry Level per Position.

Education                         Vocational   Rehabilitation
                                  Evaluator      Counselor

Master's in
Vocational Evaluation             12 (46.2%)     6 (23.1%)

Master's in                       17 (65.4%)     22 (84.6%)
Rehabilitation Counseling

Master's in Closely Related       14 (53.8%)     18 (69.2%)
Fields (Psychology, MSW, etc.)

Bachelor's                        12 (46.2%)     12 (46.2%)

Associate                          1 (3.8%)

Table 5

Starting and Ending Salary Ranges per Position

Salary Range   Starting--Vocational   Starting--Rehabilitation
                    Evaluator                Counselor

20-24,999            1 (5.9%)                    --
25-29,999           4 (23.5%)                2 (13.3%)
30-34,999           7 (41.2%)                8 (53.3%)
35-35,999            1 (5.9%)                2 (13.3%)
40-44,999           3 (17.6%)                2 (13.3%)
45-49,999            1 (5.9%)                 1 (6.7%)
50-54,999               --                       --
55-59,999               --                       --
>60,000                 --                       --

Salary Range   Ending--Vocational   Ending--Rehabilitation
                   Evaluator              Counselor

20-24,999              --                     --
25-29,999           1 (6.3%)                  --
30-34,999          2 (12.5%)               1 (7.7%)
35-35,999          2 (12.5%)              2 (15.4%)
40-44,999          2 (12.5%)                  --
45-49,999              --                 2 (15.4%)
50-54,999          5 (31.3%)              4 (30.8%)
55-59,999          2 (12.5%)              2 (15.4%)
>60,000            2 (12.5%)              2 (15.4%)
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Author:Sligar, Steven R.; Betters, Chad J.
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2012
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