The choice of an appropriate method for rare earth element (REE) preconcentration from industrial by-products is a very difficult task. Most of the REE separation reviews focus on liquid extraction methods, whereas sorption processes are usually mentioned in connection with chromatographic individual REE separation. Limited information is currently available on ion exchange methods for REE preconcentration. The REE sorption methods are gradually acquiring great practical significance due to depleting REE sources. The present review deals with the history, recent studies and commercial applications of REE sorption from various complex industrial by-products such as products of apatite treatment, phosphogypsum and uranium ores. It covers an extensive study on the recent research related to use of polymeric ion-exchange sorption materials for REE preconcentration and recovery from various industrial wastes.