Individuals with high-functioning autism have different and unique abilities compared to the general population. Some of the characteristics that make them unique can attract them to certain career opportunities. It can be difficult for those with autism to perform well in a workplace that places so much value on extroversion, collaboration, and competition. For example, making small talk by the water cooler and on the elevator ride up to the office can be daunting for those with autism–even those without! Participating and collaborating in meetings can cause anxiety and leading a group or meeting can cause even more.
It is common for those with high-functioning autism to choose occupations that do not require an excessive amount of social interaction or ones in which the daily routine can be sporadic and change on a whim. Some people are more likely to perform best in jobs that require attention to detail, skill mastery, and jobs that either allow the individual to set their own schedule or one that has a conventional and familiar schedule.
Here are seven examples of such jobs that may be attractive to those with high-functioning autism:
- Medical Laboratory Technologist
- Computer Programmer
- Reference Librarian
- Taxi Driver
- Information Technology
1. Medical Laboratory Technologist
Medical laboratory technologists work in hospital laboratories and other clinical locations and are in charge of running a complex array of machines and instruments that analyze blood, urine, tissue, and other substances. The job typically requires a Bachelor’s degree in Medical Technology or Life Sciences. Some states require licensure.
The job requires a vast array of knowledge, such as in the areas of cytotechnology and medical biology. Because laboratory results need to be precise and accurate, technologists must be detail-oriented and have the dexterity to handle medical samples and instruments effectively. The pay for a medical laboratory technologist is about $50,000 per year and the job outlook is excellent, with a growth of 16% in 2014.
Individuals with high-functioning autism would be comfortable in a work environment that focuses on using their technical skills rather than their conversational skills. The duties of this job are quite specific, demand attention to fine details, require a high level of organization and dependability, and require someone who will take the job seriously.
2. Computer Programmer
Computer programming is very suitable for individuals with high-functioning autism, especially those that are visual thinkers. Programming involves “coding,” which is using algorithms to generate executable computer programs. Knowledge of coding languages such as C++, Java, Cobol, Fortran, and Basic are required to create computer software. Programmers may choose to freelance or work for big companies like Google and Facebook. They can work in many fields including software design, industrial automation, or communications and network systems.
While many enter the field through majoring in computer science at a university, formal education is not required. It is possible to self-teach and master the coding language required to become a programmer.
This is a job that will satisfy the intellectual curiosity of individuals with autism. The duties of this career require logical thinking and an ability to analyze data, which comes from the left side of the brain; this side is more dominantly active in those with autism. The job also is quite predictable, which is a wonderful benefit for some.
3. Reference Librarian
The role of the reference librarian is to help library users with research by finding the appropriate books and resources, cataloging an entire library’s books, and checking out books to patrons. Reference librarians need to be knowledgeable on a wide range of topics. They can be employed by colleges, the government, museums, and other information services. Most reference librarian job openings require a Master’s in Library Science and the national median salary for this position is at around $48,000 per year.
Library science can make a fulfilling career for individuals with high-functioning autism who like to learn the details of any and every subject. The ability to be organized and think critically makes this job suitable for those with autism; the job also requires some patience and attention to detail.
Being a reference librarian can be a peaceful and calming job for those with autism. There is not much environmental stimulation to be had and while reference librarians will need to help people, it is not necessary for them to carry on social conversations or to have an extroverted personality.
4. Taxi Driver/Ride Share Driver
Taxi and rideshare driving is a great job for individuals with high-functioning autism who will tend to remember every single street and have above-average visuospatial intelligence. Although modern GPS systems have replaced maps, being a taxi or rideshare driver who has a picture-perfect memory of every street in their memory is always helpful for finding the best route.
Driving is an activity that requires concentration and manual dexterity and is suitable for individuals who like the challenge of bringing people to their destinations in an efficient manner. Riders will also appreciate talking to a driver that is straightforward and knowledgeable about the area. And if the conversation does not go well, it’s okay because the driver is off the hook once they arrive at their destination.
It may seem surprising to recommend telemarketing as a job for individuals with high-functioning autism. After all, telemarketing requires talking to strangers on the phone and selling them a service or assisting with a problem throughout each and every day. However, the good thing for people with autism is that telemarketers often follow a detailed script.
Unlike everyday conversations that happen without a script, these telemarketing conversations are very predictable. Individuals with autism will appreciate having the formula to follow and knowing the direction of every conversation that they will have on the job. Even people with autism can enjoy having these types of interactions, even if they may feel uncomfortable under some circumstances.
Telemarketing allows people with high-functioning autism to practice and use conversation, without having to deal with the conflicts that may arise in face-to-face communication. Many companies hire telemarketers with a wide range of degrees, and much can be learned on the job as well.
Even though it is common for individuals with autism to be extremely logical, organized, and predictable, that does not mean that they lack a creative side. Throughout history and currently, there are artists, digital designers, fashion designers, and musicians who are on the spectrum. These individuals see things from a different perspective and are able to communicate that through their work.
Someone who has high-functioning ASD might enjoy being creative as a means of expressing their emotions, thoughts, and allowing the general population to see things through their eyes. When someone has a career in this field, they can choose whether they want to work solo or work for a company. There are many freelance opportunities out there for artists and designers as well as ways for these individuals to start a business of their own.
7. Information Technology
People who work in information technology (IT) typically work behind the scenes within a business or organization to ensure that everything related to technology is going smoothly. There are also jobs related to web designing, software engineering, and web development that are considered IT jobs. IT jobs are always needed and are in high demand; they also pay quite well. The national median average salary for someone who works in IT is $62,838.
IT specialists work hard to review diagnostics and assess the functionality and efficiency of systems, implement security measures, monitor security certificates and company compliance of requirements, offer technical support to company staff and troubleshoot computer problems, install and update company software and hardware as needed, and anticipate and report the cost of replacing or updating computer items. These are all job responsibilities that someone with high-functioning autism would be great at.
Those who have high-functioning autism pair wonderfully with the duties and responsibilities of an IT job. They generally will work more with equipment and technology rather than people, allowing them to focus on the details of their job and not feel anxious about the possibility of social interaction.
Conclusion to Great Jobs for Individuals with High Functioning Autism
It is obvious that individuals with high-functioning autism can perform well and be successful and content in many different jobs. Simply because someone has autism, does not mean that they will never work or become a successful contributor to society. The opposite is actually true. There are many extremely successful and prominent individuals who are on the spectrum and working and doing great things for our world.
While some positions require more social interaction with people or take the person with autism out of their comfort zone, there are various positions with a greater predictable environment, where the goal of each task and conversation are clear. Some jobs require artistic ability, others require visuospatial intelligence. Whatever their interest may be, high-functioning autistic individuals have a vast array of fields to dedicate their careers to.
Master of Education (M.Ed.) | Northeastern State University
Behavior and Learning Disorders | Georgia State University
Updated September 2021