There was once a time when individuals with autism were considered unemployable due to their disability, but that is certainly no longer the case. This thought process is harmful, outdated, and even discriminatory. People with autism, other developmental impairments, and mental health issues have a variety of abilities and skills that make them successful employees. What some may view as a symptom of autism and weakness, might actually be a strength for that individual; some of these “symptoms” are viewed as advantages in the workplace and beyond. Many people who have been diagnosed with autism have gone on to enjoy great success in a wide range of careers.
Because each individual with autism has different strengths and limitations, it’s important that they choose a career that is in alignment with their natural interests and skills. There are a variety of interest inventories that verbal and non-verbal individuals can take to determine areas of curiosity and strength.
With assistance from a parent, counselor, or mentor, people with autism on all levels and of any age are able to determine what type of career may be best suited for them. No matter the disability, there is always great ability as well.
These are just a few interesting career options for those with autism:
- Animal Science
1. Animal Science
Many people, in general, find great comfort in the company of a furry companion. For individuals with autism, animals can offer not only companionship but therapeutic support. Animals are often used in animal therapy with people with autism in terms of helping with anxiety, depression, behavior, social skills, language development, understanding emotions, and learning to take on responsibility. Sometimes, people with autism prefer less social interaction, and a career in an animal-related field can continue to help them develop necessary skills while also keeping them comfortable and stress-free.
There is much research available on how animals can play a significant role in human development, healing, and learning. Animals can literally transform the lives of people with autism.
When it comes time for an individual with autism to seek out a career, working with animals can be a beneficial choice. For pet lovers, an animal-related career is the best of both worlds––they can earn money while being responsible for a variety of furry (and non-furry) friends! This can make a career devoted to animals an excellent choice for teens and adults with autism.
Possible career options include pet groomer, dog trainer, veterinary technician, zookeeper, pet sitter, livestock caretaker on a farm, or even a veterinarian. Someone can start out working part-time with animals and eventually move on to owning a business. The sky is the limit!
The world of technology is another wonderful career option for people with autism. Some of the most successful and talented software engineers and computer programmers from all around the world have been diagnosed with autism. It can truly be the perfect career choice for those who have a flair for all things related to computers.
An article in Auticon describes why people with autism make great tech employees:
“While many will speculate that autistic technology workers have a natural gift for coding, quality assurance, and robotics; research indicates that autism exhibits softer skills that hold the cognitive benefits valued by employers. Soft skills for people on the autism spectrum may include attention to detail, prolonged concentration, lack of bias, pattern identification, systematic analysis, and a blunt communication style. These soft skills are valued in the technology field where the work is detailed, repetitive, and discussion never ambiguous.”
In most situations, there is little need for social interaction in the field of technology, which can be seen as a benefit for many. This is because the tech employee usually works in his or her own space with just their computer for the majority of the day.
Those on the spectrum are absolutely capable of obtaining careers at large, popular tech companies such as IBM, Microsoft, and Dell. Microsoft, for example, has a program called the Microsoft Autism Hiring Program, in which they make technology careers more available to those around the world with disabilities.
Working with computers and robots as a career can be an excellent choice for someone with autism and who has those interests.
There are multiple career fields that are related to science that individuals on the spectrum can easily get into. Specific career choices may include becoming a scientist, pharmacy technician, medical coding and billing, lab technician, researcher, or research assistant. Individuals can work in a laboratory setting, at a university, in a clinic, or at a hospital. The good thing about the science and medical fields are that they are diverse and include hundreds of options.
Those with autism are often very precise thinkers who are capable of paying complete and careful attention to small details while adhering to strict procedures and practices. This type of personality is critical to the success of many fields related to science and medicine.
Read about the general job requirements for a medical laboratory technician:
- Perform laboratory tests
- Produce reliable and precise data to support scientific investigations
- Carry out routine tasks accurately
- Follow strict methodologies to carry out analyses
- Prepare specimens and samples
- Construct, maintain and operate standard laboratory equipment
- Keep equipment in a clean and serviceable condition
- Ensure the safe removal of waste
- Record, and sometimes interpret, results to present to senior colleagues
- Use computers and perform mathematical calculations for the preparation of graphs
- Ensure the laboratory is well-stocked and resourced and that everything is clearly and correctly labeled
- Keep up to date with technical developments
- Conduct searches on identified topics relevant to the research
- Follow and ensure strict safety procedures and safety checks.
Each of these duties and responsibilities is perfect for someone who is on the spectrum.
4. Journalism and Research
The somewhat unbiased and creative careers that journalism and research can provide are great options for people with autism. Those who are able to leave their own opinions and emotions out of their reports, yet give their readers and audience an easy understanding of the topic can definitely be successful in this field. Those with autism are generally good at stating just the facts with no reflection of their own thoughts on the matter, so print journalism may be an excellent career goal for some. When writing, many editors require the use of specific style guides, which make things predictable and organized.
Thorough attention to detail may also make several types of research careers a good choice, and these may include becoming a statistician, economist, sociologist, textbook writer, research data specialist, political researcher, market research analyst, and many more.
There are thousands of research-type jobs in the United States waiting to be filled right now for universities, government entities, medical companies, laboratories, non-profits, associations, and specific industries.
Overall, the world of journalism and research is boundless with too many opportunities to count.
Lastly, manufacturing-type jobs make a fine career choice for individuals with autism.
Reasons for this are that some individuals on the spectrum do best with repetitive movements within an ordered environment and may find themselves happiest when there are little social demands.
Examples of manufacturing-type jobs include a food packer, warehouse production associate, forklift driver, assembly line worker, quality inspector, machine operator, food handler, manufacturing technician, plant operator, chemical compounder, painter technician––and the list goes on.
A huge benefit of working in this field is that the hours are super flexible and those looking to be hired can choose from a variety of shift times.
Those looking for this type of work may choose an assembly line that tends to involve repetitive motions and predictable patterns. They may also enjoy rebuilding everything from cars to computers, sorting at a recycling plant, or building special-made items.
There are job openings in the world of manufacturing all over the United States––it is a relatively easy career to step into if one possesses the right skills.
Good Career Choices for People With Autism Spectrum Disorder: Conclusion
Regardless of ability or disability, there are career opportunities out there for everyone. Both verbal and nonverbal and those higher or lower on the spectrum can obtain a job that fits their skill level and interest. Some may need some assistance or encouragement, and that is perfectly fine!
There are various organizations that assist individuals with disabilities in finding a job, such as Vocational Rehabilitation, The Spectrum Careers, and Autonomy Works, for example. There are both local and national programs just like this––so if you’re reading this and are interested, do a quick Google search to see what is available in your area. There are also programs that help teenagers with disabilities begin to develop career interests and begin training to develop important skills that will be beneficial to them in the near future.
No one should let an autism diagnosis keep them from living their life to the fullest. Each person out there has skills and unique qualities that they can contribute to society.
Master of Education (M.Ed.) | Northeastern State University
Behavior and Learning Disorders | Georgia State University
Updated December 2021