Become a Disability Advocate: Career Options and Requirements

Disability advocates generally find specialization within other careers and diverse degree paths. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for a few of the major professions in the field.

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Lawyers, social and community service managers, and public relations specialists can all specialize as disability advocates. A bachelor's degree is required to be a public relations specialist or gain an entry-level job as a social and community service manager. A graduate degree is required for advanced positions in social and community service management, and a Juris Doctor degree is needed to become a lawyer.

Essential Information

Becoming a disability advocate implies working for the benefits and rights of persons who may be limited by a lack of equality, opportunity, and independence. Specific career options in the field vary widely, each with their own set of requirements and duties.

For positions in this field, post-secondary education is required, as is a personal passion for the cause being supported.

Career Attorney Social & Community Service Managers Public Relations Specialist
Education Bachelor's Degree
Law Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Advanced Degree (for executive positions)
Bachelor's Degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% 10% 6%
Median Salary (2015)* $115,820 $63,530 $56,770

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

Becoming a disability advocate begins with a personal belief or passion for the cause. This translates into a variety of career options, including work in law, non-profit organizations, as well as public relations. The type of education required, as well as the degree level, vary according to the individual's chosen profession. Listed below are three common and viable ways to work as a disability advocate.


An attorney working for a disability-oriented organization may represent people with disabilities in proceedings. As evidenced by job postings on the National Disability Rights Network, disability advocates may represent the organization in larger legislation pertaining to systemic changes and serve as a voice on boards and other public-facing community forums. Other responsibilities include creating strategies for public advocacy and litigation and providing assistance and advice to clients with disabilities.

Depending on the organization, an attorney may represent particular clients, such as juveniles, or individuals pursuing specific cases, such as claims of housing discrimination or appeals for welfare benefits.


Becoming a lawyer requires a 4-year undergraduate degree and three years of law school. Students looking to work in the area of disability rights should take any pertinent electives during law school and pursue relevant internships and work experience. Lawyers must pass a written exam in order to practice; however, other licensing requirements vary by state. A lawyer should be well versed in relevant legislation when arguing a case and representing a client. Positions may require a significant amount of travel.

Career and Salary Information

Jobs for attorneys are expected to increase 6% from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reported that lawyers earned a median salary of $115,820 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov).

Non-profit Executive

Job postings showed that while top executives at a non-profit are responsible for planning and implementing programs in an administrative role, they often spend time out of the office meeting with donors and clients. Programs may include community outreach to educate the population at large about people with disabilities and to provide greater visibility of the organization as a whole.

Executives often work on issues related to branding and public awareness and serve as spokespeople for their organizations. They collaborate with board members to manage the strategy, mission and vision of the organization. Other responsibilities might include partnering with other non-profits and related organizations in the community and finding ways to create and maintain sustainable funding.


Executives in a social advocacy non-profit should have strong communication skills and a deep belief in the cause of the organization. Executive positions may require an advanced degree, either in organizational administration or in an area related to the goals of the non-profit, such as public health. Administrators should have fundraising and budget management experience in addition to multiple years of leadership. They should be familiar with the legislative process involved in securing government funding for non-profits.

Career and Salary Information

The BLS reported that social and community service managers, including those who work for non-profits, can look forward to 10% job growth from 2014 to 2024. These jobs paid a median salary of $63,530 in May 2015, according to the BLS.

Public Relations Specialist

A public relations (PR) specialist creates and implements an organization's marketing activities and develops ways to measure their success. He or she might maintain relationships with relevant media executives and community partners to ensure appropriate media coverage of the organization. Other responsibilities include preparing press information, responding to media inquiries and managing social media outlets. Public relations specialists might need to manage a budget and be responsible for connecting with potential donors.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, public relations specialists commonly hold at least a bachelor's degree in journalism, communications or a related field (www.bls.gov). They should have excellent communication and project management skills, and they may need to juggle many projects at once with an attention to detail. Other possible desired traits include an extroverted personality and the ability to be assertive and to make independent decisions.

Career and Salary Information

The number of PR specialist jobs is expected to increase 6% from 2014 to 2024, reported the BLS. They also noted that PR specialists earned a median salary of $56,770 in May 2015.

Disability advocates work to protect the rights and meet the needs of individuals with disabilities. Public relations specialists may generate public awareness of issues those with disabilities face, while lawyers may pursue legal action when there has been discrimination against those with disabilities seeking housing or other services. Social and community service managers oversee programs that can inform the public about disabilities.

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