In-Demand Skills Rehabilitation Engineers Need to Stay Competitive

Industry Advice Healthcare

While the human body is an amazing tool that many take for granted, millions of people rely on supplemental therapy and technologies to maintain independence. Human movement and rehabilitation professionals support this community by developing, implementing, and practicing various therapeutic methods and technologies.

Why Is Human Movement and Rehabilitation Important?

Contrary to popular belief, rehabilitation involves much more than physical therapy for a sprained ankle. In fact, human movement and rehabilitation science give healthcare professionals the tools to teach patients suffering from physical impairments how to improve mobility to continue the activities they love. This therapy is based on a thorough understanding of the body and is performed in occupational, recreational, and other settings.

This work is incredibly important to the quality of life and longevity of the elderly and those suffering from life-altering injuries or diseases. While this might seem like a small percentage, these populations are increasing in number. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years old will nearly double from 12 percent to 22 percent from 2015 to 2050.

With more patients comes a greater need for knowledgeable, skilled human movement and rehabilitation professionals. Here’s everything you need to know about the skills you need to make yourself more marketable to prospective employers.

Emerging Skills in Human Movement and Rehabilitation

Much like other professions in the healthcare industry, human movement and rehabilitation sciences have evolved with the changing needs of communities. With these advancements, many skills have slowly grown in popularity among employers. While these skills aren’t the most in-demand competencies, adding them to your repertoire can give you a significant advantage compared to other applicants.

Here are the top three emerging skills that human movement and rehabilitation professionals should develop.

1. Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)

Activities of daily living (ADLs) are defined as routine tasks that individuals perform on a daily basis. When individuals cannot complete these essential activities, it leads to poor quality of life and, in some cases, unsafe conditions. While this isn’t a new concept in the rehabilitation world, there’s a growing awareness of the importance of ADL assessments by healthcare professionals to ensure patients receive proper assistance. Making sure you’re well-versed in this assessment process could give you an advantage over other candidates.

2. Art Therapy

Art therapy is a relatively new topic in the world of rehabilitation. The practice uses various artistic mediums, the creative process, and artwork creation in the therapeutic or healing process. Not to be confused with an arts and crafts session, art therapy is rooted in a knowledge of human development and movement, psychology, and counseling. The success rates of art therapy varies, but increasing numbers of healthcare providers see value in hiring rehabilitation professionals with skills or a background in art therapy.

3. Dispute Resolution

Dispute resolution is an interesting, specialized skill in the field of human movement and rehabilitation. “Dispute resolution involves expert witnessing,” says Jack Dennerlein, program director of Northeastern University’s Human Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences program. “People can go and work for several companies and advise lawyers on disputes regarding injury, mechanics, or even malpractice.” With the rise in class action suits and civil disputes around injury or malpractice, this skill often makes candidates stand out in the field.

Top 5 Skills Rehabilitation Engineers Need to Stay Competitive

As a prospective rehabilitation engineer, there are a number of skills needed to stay competitive in today’s dynamic job market. Here are the top 5 skills you can add to your arsenal to obtain a job in human movement and rehabilitation.

Chart showing the top five skills rehabilitation engineers need to stay competitive


1. Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical engineering is one of the most essential skills rehabilitation professionals are required to have. It focuses on the application of engineering principles to the field of biology and medicine.

This skill is crucial to the technological aspect of rehabilitation. Healthcare equipment like implantable medical devices (e.g., pacemakers and artificial hips), stem cell engineering, and 3-D printing of biological organs are all byproducts of biomedical engineering.

2. Rehabilitation

Since rehabilitation is a key component in this field of study, it makes sense that it’s a required skill for prospective rehabilitation engineers. WHO defines rehabilitation as a set of interventions designed to optimize functioning and reduce physical impairments of individuals suffering from certain health conditions or injuries. Healthcare professionals hoping to improve others’ lives with actionable steps to independence need this skill to succeed.

Anyone may find themselves in need of rehabilitation care at some point in their lives following an injury, surgery, disease, illness, or aging. Here are some examples of rehabilitation experiences employers value:

  • Creating, planning, and teaching exercises to patients
  • Recommending and modifying patients’ home environments to improve safety and independence
  • Making, fitting, and educating patients on prostheses or other rehabilitation devices

3. Planning

Planning is a critical skill in human movement and rehabilitation. Creating treatment plans for patients requires planning aptitude; however, there’s an even more valuable element to this job requirement. Dennerlein says that rehabilitation engineers must understand how to design experiments, measure the results, and evaluate next steps. “This process is really considered ‘planning.’”

4. Teaching

Teaching is a versatile skill to have in your toolbox as a prospective rehabilitation engineer. Those interested in the rehabilitation side of the field must have an aptitude for educating others on human functionality. However, individuals more passionate about the technological side must have the teaching skills needed to articulate product designs, experiment findings, and possible applications. Whatever path you choose, skills related to instruction are foundational to your success in the field.

5. Communication

No matter what career path you choose, communication is a vital component of a successful rehabilitation career. Communication is the foundation of any healthcare team whose objective is to solve complex patient-care problems. As an interdisciplinary field, rehabilitation relies on communication with healthcare professionals, patients, and their families in various settings (e.g., inpatient, outpatient, community).

How to Obtain the Right Rehabilitation Skills

Individuals interested in breaking into the human movement and rehabilitation field should seriously consider developing these high-demand industry skills. While many feel that earning a traditional master’s degree is the best route for prospective rehabilitation professionals to develop their skill sets, other options exist to improve your odds in today’s job market.

Experiential learning programs are incredibly effective because they combine a traditional degree’s coursework with opportunities to put it into practice within the industry. When asked about the greatest benefit of experiential learning, Dennerlein says, “On the job experience. That’s what makes you more competitive, even though job postings don’t say experience is necessary.”

These experiential degree programs can be particularly beneficial to those reentering the field after some time, or those who are changing careers but have the fundamental knowledge found in traditional coursework. According to Dennerlein, experience-based programs help you “understand how to translate your knowledge to action. I think that’s kind of key and what makes Northeastern’s program stand apart. The experiential aspect of this program is really about how to take that acquired knowledge and turn it to application.”

Northeastern University Jack Dennerlein Quotation:

Level Up Your Career in Human Movement and Rehabilitation

Human movement and rehabilitation sciences is a growing field that provides amazing opportunities to prospective healthcare professionals who want to make a difference in peoples’ lives. Earning the right skills is the first and most crucial step to succeeding in this field. So it’s essential to find the right degree program that targets and builds on your existing and less refined skills.

Learn more about the MS in Human Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences at Northeastern and take your first step toward a career in this exciting field today.