There are many career paths that people can pursue in order to provide direct support for individuals with disabilities. One of these, Direct Support Professional careers, is often not talked about but is very important. The following post will introduce you to what it’s like to be a Direct Support Professional and why this career path may be the right one for you.
Table of Contents
1. What is a Direct Support Professional?
A direct support professional (DSP) is someone who provides help to another person to assist them in completing various daily tasks. These professionals are typically the first people to engage with those they serve and work very closely with their clients. Their responsibilities can range from helping people eat and wash themselves to assisting more severely disabled individuals with personal care, like taking a shower or getting dressed. In homes, a DSP may work with as many as ten different people at a time. In clinics or facilities, they can have more select groups of people they support and often live in those places along with the individuals they help.
2. Why Should I Become A Direct Support Professional?
The following list is all of the reasons why you should become a Direct Support professional:
You are able to give back to the community
When you work as a DSP, you are able to give back in invaluable ways. You can help people accomplish so many things that they wouldn’t be able to do without your help.
You’ll always have an opportunity for employment.
When it comes to career paths, DSPs are in high demand. Since people with disabilities will always need assistance, there’s never a shortage of work.
You’ll get to meet so many different kinds of people
When you work as a DSP, you’ll have the opportunity to help all kinds of individuals. You could be working for someone who is deaf or blind. You could be helping an individual with autism or intellectual disabilities, like Down Syndrome. There’s no limit to the kinds of people you could help!
It’s rewarding to work
Let’s face it, when you get to know someone and see them accomplish something amazing, it feels great. When you’re able to help people every day and see the difference you’re making in their lives, it’s a great feeling.
There are so many job opportunities for direct support professionals
An important fact to remember about DSP jobs; they don’t all look alike. There are lots of different places where you can pursue your career as a DSP. Some people work in a home while some work in a facility. Others choose to go out and help individuals who need assistance on the job. Still, others choose to assist people in day programs or workshops.
Direct support professionals are always in demand.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for direct care workers is expected to grow faster than many other occupations through 2022. The responsibilities and salary for this field vary greatly depending on the type of facility you work at, but it can range anywhere from $9/hr at a residential care facility up to $22/hr for a DSP who assists individuals with traumatic brain injuries.
3. What is the Application Process Like for Direct Support Professionals?
Like many other careers, there are a few things you need to do before you can start looking for jobs as a DSP. The first thing you’ll need is an associate’s degree. It’s also beneficial to have experience working in a service capacity, but direct support professionals are hired with or without prior work experience. If you don’t have your degree yet, you can still look for work as an entry-level DSP.
Once you’ve got all the necessary requirements out of the way, it’s time to start applying for jobs. You’ll need to go through the same hiring process as any other job seeker, such as filling out an application or taking a test. The difference is that many places will state in their job postings that they are looking for direct support professionals.
4. What Kind of Education and Training Do I Need?
The best way to get work experience as a direct support professional is to look for an internship. You can find listings of internships online or through your high school’s guidance department. Internships are often unpaid, but they provide lots of opportunities for fulfilling work and great experience.
Most people with degrees in related fields pursue on-the-job training after they graduate. Your training depends on the facility you work at. Some places prefer to train their employees by giving them tasks and allowing them to learn as they go, while others prefer a more structured training program.
When you’re first starting out as a DSP, it’s important that you ask your employer about job duties and expectations if they haven’t been outlined in your job description. Training is crucial for building a successful career as a direct support professional, and it’s best to work with your employer to set goals for success!
5. Direct Support Professional Jobs and Opportunities
Direct Support Professional careers span many different areas of work that relate to disabilities, each requiring slightly different skill sets. However, there are some community living facilities you can find a DSP in almost any department, such as a residential care facility.
Residential Care Facility: Residential care facilities are for individuals who need supervised living arrangements. If they have not been given a “level” of care, an individual or family can request it from the state through a registration process. The level of care is based on the requirements for living in a group home setting, such as supervision and medical needs. This is perhaps the most common of all DSP jobs.
Day Program: Day programs provide training and support for individuals who need assistance with daily living skills and employment information. These can be held at community centers throughout a city or state and often sponsored by the government. A day program might provide information for vocational training, or they can be specifically intended to teach valuable skills that can help the individual gain employment with assistance.
Group Home: A group home is a home-like setting with several individuals living in close proximity, usually 4-6 people who share common interests. This is considered a higher level of care than a residential care facility, and the individuals living here typically require more assistance than a day program can offer. This position often involves extensive training to ensure the safety of all individuals in the home.
Residential Program: These community residences are intended for individuals with developmental disabilities that need assistance learning how to live on their own or with roommates while still maintaining a high level of safety. There are usually several staff members on-call at all times to ensure safety and well-being, as well as assist with daily living skills.
Autism Center: Autism centers provide care and support for individuals who have been diagnosed with autism. They can be found in most major cities throughout the United States and typically offer a high level of training for DSPs. It is not unusual to find staff members with degrees in childhood development or psychology-related fields, as well as extensive experience working directly with people who have autism.
6. What does a Direct Support Professional Do?
There are many different types of disabilities that DSPs could work with within the community. Each job will provide slightly different responsibilities and challenges, but all in all, they focus on meeting the needs of our clients and making sure they live safe and happy lives in a way that is most fulfilling for them.
Direct Support Professionals provide assistance to people with disabilities that limit their daily living abilities or social skills. This can include individuals on the autism spectrum, down syndrome, and intellectual disabilities (to name a few). Many DSPs work with children who need extra care and attention.
7. Skills One Need to Become a Direct Support Professional
DSP job duties may vary depending on the individual they are working with, but for the most part require some of these core skills:
Patience: Our clients cannot learn as quickly as we can. They need us to be patient and understanding, as well as able to offer praise and encouragement throughout the day.
Able to follow directions: Our clients rely on our help for just about everything they do during the day. We must be able to follow specific directions and complete tasks in an efficient manner without wasting time.
Empathy: Our clients may not always be able to let us know what is wrong or how they are feeling. We must understand that just because they cannot communicate effectively does not mean there is nothing bothering them. It takes empathy and experience to learn what behaviors indicate that something is wrong.
Respect for boundaries: Sometimes, working with clients can be challenging because they have trouble understanding their own limits. Working with children means being able to read behavior and know when someone has had too much or when they just need some time alone.
Listening skills: As DSPs, we must listen carefully to our clients during the day in order to understand what they need. We also may be responsible for communicating with families and teachers to ensure that our client is getting the help they need, but this requires us to be able to listen effectively.
Multi-tasking: DSPs must be able to manage many tasks at once, including completing paperwork, preparing meals, overseeing medication administration, or any other task assigned. We may also need to complete outside errands, such as grocery shopping.
Critical thinking: DSPs must be able to think quickly and make solid decisions in order to keep our clients safe. We may need to problem solve on the fly or come up with creative solutions when things get difficult, but we do it all while keeping a sharp focus on safety.
Customer service skills: Part of our job may involve working with various agencies or businesses that require us to have good customer service skills. This means being able to communicate clearly, follow specific guidelines, and meet deadlines.
Stamina: It can be a challenge to keep up with some of the tasks we are responsible for during the day. We must have the stamina to complete our work without losing focus or motivation.
Basic computer skills: Computers are often used for daily documentation, treatment plans, and various other forms of communication. It is important that DSPs know how to navigate the computer system in order to get their job done.
8. Salary of a Direct Support Professional
According to PayScale.com, the average wage for a Direct Support Professional is around $12 an hour. This can vary from state to state and agency to agency, but on average, it falls between $11 and $13 per hour.
Some DSPs make more than $16 per hour, but this is rare and usually reserved for those working in large cities or with clients that require a higher level of care.
The average salary for a Direct Support Professional falls between $11 and $13 per hour, although it can be higher depending on the individual’s experience and location. Many DSPs also receive benefits like health insurance and paid vacation time, which can contribute to earning potential.
9. Top Recruiting Companies for a Direct Support Professional
Some of the top recruiting companies for DSPs include:
- Allegiant Healthcare ( http://www.allegianthealthcare.com )
- AmeriGroup ( https://amerigroupcorp.applicantpro.com/jobs/ )
- Compass Group ( https://www.compassusigenius.com/ )
- Extra Help ( http://www.extrahelp.com )
- Foundation for Enhancing Communities ( http://ffecareers.com/direct-support-professional-jobs )
- HealthCare Support Staffing ( https://www.healthcaresupportstaffing.com/careers/ )
- Mosaic Community Services ( http://www.mosaiccsjobs.org )
- Pinnacle Services Group ( https://pinnacleservicesgroupinc.applytojob.com/ )
- Spherion ( http://www.spherion.com/ )
- Sunrise Community Services ( http://www.sunrisecsinc.org/job-seekers/employment-opportunities )
10. Best Colleges to Study for a Direct Support Professional
Some of the best colleges to study DSP include:
- Catawba Valley Community Community College ( http://www.gcc.mass.edu/additional-information/transfer-guarantee )
- Manchester Community College ( https://www.mccneb.edu/diversity/student_resources/students )
- Greenfield College ( http://www.cvcc.edu/programs-degrees/academics/college-transfer/ )
- Columbia State Community College ( https://www.columbiastate.edu/degree-programs/career-education)
- Winebrenner Theological Seminary ( https://www.wts.edu/ )
- Kettering College of Medical Arts ( http://ketteringcollege.edu/programs-of-study/undergraduate )
- University of Cincinnati ( http://academic-calendars)
The direct support professional career path is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling careers you could choose. The people that are on this journey with us every day, helping children grow into healthy adults, are extraordinary individuals who have a true passion for making a difference in someone’s life. If you enjoy working with people and want to make an impact by giving back to your community through service, then this may be the perfect profession for you!