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15 Careers Working to Help Clients with Disabilities in the USA

For those who are committed to service, a career devoted to helping others allows them to fulfill their passion. Jobs helping people with disabilities span across industries and experience levels. By taking the time to review the unique opportunities available to you, you can determine which career path is right for you and the steps you need to take to achieve it.

In this article, we define disabilities, review the categories used to classify disabilities and list 15 jobs that allow you to assist people with disabilities, along with salary expectations and key job responsibilities.

What are disabilities?

A disability is a form of impairment that causes individuals to perform daily tasks differently than others. Individuals may be born with certain disabilities while others develop or acquire them during the course of their life. Still, with the right treatment and support, people with disabilities can learn to live with their conditions. Here are the four main categories of disabilities used to organize the different conditions people can have:

Physical disabilities

Physical disabilities can be either permanent or temporary and can be a result of an accident or pre-existing condition. They can impair an individual’s ability to stand, walk or perform daily tasks like driving, cooking or writing. Some examples of physical disabilities include:

Learning disabilities

Learning disabilities cause individuals to have trouble communicating, understanding social cues and performing tasks like reading and writing. They may also have trouble interpreting and retaining information. Learning disabilities can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, living environments, injuries and other situations. Some examples of learning disabilities include:

  • Dyslexia

  • Dysgraphia

  • Dyscalculia

  • Down syndrome

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

  • Fragile X syndrome

Mental disabilities

Mental disabilities affect an individual’s mind. They can further affect an individual’s perception of reality. Some individuals are born with mental disabilities as a result of genetic conditions. However, they may be caused by traumatic events or unhealthy living situations. Here are a few examples of mental disabilities:

  • Anxiety

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Depression

  • Eating disorders

  • Schizophrenia

  • Bipolar disorder

Sensory disabilities

Sensory disabilities affect a person’s senses. This includes sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. Individuals may be born with sensory disabilities or acquire them from an injury during the course of their lives. Some examples include:

  • Autism

  • Sensory processing disorder

  • Full or partial blindness

  • Color-blindness

  • Full or partial deafness

15 jobs that involve working with the disabled

Here are 15 examples of jobs that involve assisting people with disabilities, along with responsibilities, education requirements and salary expectations. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on each salary link below:

1. Home health aide

National average salary: $29,020 per year

Primary duties: A home health aide works as part of a care team to perform household chores, prepare meals, administer medications, run errands and keep residents company. Home health aides may work with clients who have physical or mental disabilities clients to help them complete tasks they otherwise could not. To become a home health aide, you should partake in a specialized training program. No formal education is required.

2. Disability support worker

National average salary: $31,638 per year

Primary duties: A disability support worker works exclusively with patients with disabilities to improve their daily lives. They cook meals, run errands, take patients to appointments, maintain a patient’s home and act as a source of guidance and support. Disability support workers should have at least a GED or high school diploma to qualify for a position. They may also need to complete specific training to cater to patients with disabilities.

3. Rehabilitation specialist

National average salary: $41,609 per year

Primary duties: A rehabilitation specialist helps patients with disabilities to adapt to their new lifestyle. They may refer them to doctors, help arrange work placements and offer encouragement for their situation. To become a rehabilitation specialist, a master’s degree in psychology, counseling or a related area is required. A doctoral degree may also be preferable in some states.

4. Counselor

National average salary: $29,640 per year

Primary duties: A counselor may work as part of a private practice, hospital, school or support center. Counselors can specialize in a number of areas such as mental health, disability and learning impairments. Their goal is to help clients cope with either short- or long-term disabilities to help promote a positive outlook. Most counselors have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in psychology, counseling or social work. They should also obtain state licensure where they want to practice.

Related: How To Become a Mental Health Counselor5. Learning disability nurse

5. Learning disability nurse

National average salary: $39,963 per year

Primary duties: A learning disability nurse, also called a special needs nurse, is a health care professional who specializes in caring for and aiding development efforts for those with conditions like Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy and others. Learning disability nurses should have at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing and should have passed the NCLEX licensure exam.

6. Developmental disability case manager

National average salary: $36,687 per year

Primary duties: A developmental disability case manager provides support to patients newly diagnosed with disabilities. They help them file disability claims, choose health care services, set up appointments and establish a time frame for recovery and returning to their former place of employment (if reasonable). To become a developmental disability case manager, you need to obtain a bachelor’s degree in social work, psychology or a related area.

7. Disability support coordinator

National average salary: $31,638 per year

Primary duties: A disability specialist is someone who works with students or workers with disabilities to establish their needs in a new school or work setting. They may aid in the installation of ramps, prepare distraction-free learning spaces and identify other factors that could present problems to their happiness in their new environment. They may also help establish a route to and from a location as well as proper transportation.

Because their work may span a variety of areas, age groups and circumstances, disability specialists should have a bachelor’s degree in special education, psychology, social work or counseling.

8. Special education teacher

National average salary: $49,847 per year

Primary duties: A special education teacher is responsible for using their love for teaching to aid students with disabilities to achieve learning initiatives. They may be responsible for developing lesson plans for one or more students with various physical and mental disabilities or sensory conditions. Special education teachers should earn a bachelor’s degree in education with a specialty in special education.

9. Mental health case manager

National average salary: $40,804 per year

Primary duties: Mental health case managers can work as part of a hospital or psychiatric facility. Their many responsibilities include meeting with clients to discuss their conditions and establish goals for recovery. They help clients obtain appointments with experienced mental health professionals. To become a mental health case manager, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work or a related area. In some cases, a master’s degree in psychology may be preferred.

10. Speech-language pathologist

National average salary: $80,992 per year

Primary duties: A speech-language pathologist helps children and adults achieve good communication tactics. They do this by meeting with clients to work on exercises for lisps and other conditions like swallowing disorders. Speech-language pathologists help those with hearing disabilities to speak in a comprehensive way. Speech-language pathologists should earn a master’s degree in speech-language pathology in addition to licensure.

11. Prosthetist

National average salary: $73,209 per year

Primary duties: Prosthetists work with occupational and physical therapists to aid in patient recovery from an injury. They are responsible for meeting with the patient and fitting them for braces or prosthetic limbs to aid their mobility. Prosthetists need to earn a master’s degree in orthotics and prosthetics followed by one year of a clinical residency before they can begin work as a prosthetist.

12. Occupational therapist

National average salary: $82,439 per year

Primary duties: Occupational therapists work as part of hospitals or clinical practices to administer treatment and support to patients with injuries or disabilities. Their main responsibilities include assessing a patient’s needs and creating a plan for recovery or increased mobility. They meet with patients to help them perform exercises that will improve their mobility and confidence. To become an occupational therapist, you should earn a master’s degree in occupational therapy. Some universities may offer an occupational therapy program that encompasses both the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels.

13. Physical therapist

National average salary: $82,249 per year

Primary duties: A physical therapist works as part of a hospital or clinic to help patients practice beneficial exercises. Physical therapists typically work with patients who suffer from chronic pain or illness, but they may also work with people with disabilities. Their job is to teach their patients how to exercise and stretch to alleviate pain and promote the longevity of a healthy body. Physical therapists need to earn a doctorate degree in physical therapy and obtain licensure to practice.

14. Psychologist

National average salary: $105,081 per year

Primary duties: Psychologists are health care professionals who can work in a number of settings and specialty areas. Psychologists often help diagnose and provide treatment methods for patients with mental health issues. These may include OCD, anxiety or depression to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. To become a psychologist, you need to obtain a doctorate degree in psychology, pass a state licensure exam and complete several practice hours.

15. Psychiatrist

National average salary: $225,096 per year

Primary duties: Psychiatrists work for hospitals, mental health facilities and private practices. They are responsible for meeting with patients with mental health issues, intellectual disorders and other conditions. They assess the patient and may administer medication to help them overcome their situation. They may also prescribe certain activities or habits to help a patient improve their livelihood. Psychiatrists should earn a doctorate degree in psychiatry before completing a few years of residency and obtaining state licensure.

Frequently asked questions

What are some best practices for working with clients with disabilities?

If you’re pursuing a career helping clients with disabilities, there are some best practices, such as asking the individuals how they prefer you assist them. It’s also vital to interact with them respectfully and with dignity. Additionally, be sure you’re listening to understand their needs, how to support them and what makes them feel comfortable.

What skills or character traits make an ideal disability-support person?

Having excellent communication and customer service skills can benefit you as a disability support person, and so can patience and empathy. Communication and customer service allow you to listen, collaborate and accomplish tasks for your client. Patience and compassion enable you to build a positive rapport with your client while learning new life perspectives.

What should a disability-support person put on their resume?

In addition to the basic content that should be on all resumes, as a disability-support worker you’ll want to make sure to include a personal statement, sometimes also called a professional summary. This section of your resume will display your related work experience and best skills. Writing a personal statement introduces you to the recruiter, catches their attention, and lets them know how long you’ve been in the industry, your accomplishments, and your relevant job skills.

15 Careers Working to Help Clients with Disabilities in the USA
15 Careers Working to Help Clients with Disabilities in the USA

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