Jobs to Help People with Disabilities

There is a great need for jobs across different fields to help people with all kinds of disabilities. Learn about a few of the job possibilities, as well as their specific education requirements.

Career Options for Jobs that Help People with Disabilities

Disabilities come in a wide variety of forms, including those that are physical, mental, learning and emotional in nature, and often people with these disabilities need special assistance in different areas of their lives. There are many career options for those interested in working with and helping people with disabilities. We have listed a few of the possible career options below.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Recreational Therapists $46,410 12%
Physical Therapists $85,400 34%
Special Education Teachers $59,700 (Secondary School) 6%
Occupational Therapists $81,910 27%
Speech-Language Pathologists $74,680 21%
Orthotists and Prosthetists $65,630 23%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information for Jobs that Help People with Disabilities

Recreational Therapists

Recreational therapists work with individual patients or groups of patients that have disabilities or are recovering from injuries and/or illnesses. They are responsible for planning and coordinating recreational programs that meet the needs and interests of their patients. These activities are meant to help patients stay mentally and physically active, reduce stress, cope with anxiety and more. Activities may include programs in music, drama, art, sports, aquatics, outdoor activities and more. Recreational therapists must have a bachelor's degree and certification to work with patients.

Physical Therapists

Physical therapists work with people recovering from illness or injury, but also with those suffering from chronic conditions, which could involve some form of physical disability or limitation. Their job is to help these patients manage their pain and improve overall movement through exercises, stretching and hands-on therapy techniques. Each treatment plan is individualized for a particular patient, and physical therapists closely monitor a patient's progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed. These professionals have to have a state license and a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.

Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers specialize in working with students with special needs at all levels of education. They may work with students that have learning, physical, emotional or mental disabilities to help them succeed to the next grade level. This involves adjusting lesson plans as needed, providing extra assistance in the classroom and carefully developing, following and updating an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each student. These teachers usually work closely with other teachers, administrators and parents to provide the best service possible for the students. Special education teachers need at least a bachelor's degree, and all public schools require a state license or certification.

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists are similar to recreational therapists in that they work with disabled patients or those who are injured or ill. However, they focus on using everyday activities for therapy to help prepare their patients for everyday living and work. They must evaluate a patient's needs, develop a treatment plan and then begin the process of helping the patient improve, recover or learn the skills needed to live independently and/or work a job. Occupational therapists may make suggestions and recommendations to the patient's family and/or employer about how best to accommodate the patient, as well as suggest any special equipment that may benefit the patient, such as a wheelchair. These therapists need at least a master's degree and license, but some have a doctorate in the field.

Speech-Language Pathologists

Speech-language pathologists specialize in working with patients that have an array of communication or swallowing disorders. Their patients may have these disorders from a disability, such as a brain-injury, stroke, hearing loss and more. They work to diagnose the problem and create an individualized treatment plan to try and improve swallowing and/or speech and communication in the patient. These professionals need a state license and master's degree to practice.

Orthotists and Prosthetists

Orthotists and prosthetists specifically help people that have a physical disability due to the loss of a limb. These professionals create medical supportive devices, like braces and artificial limbs, to help patients gain some more mobility. They must assess the patient's needs, select the proper material for the needed device and then properly fit the device to the patient. They also teach the patient how to use and care for the device, and make any needed adjustments or repairs. Orthotists and prosthetists typically have a master's degree, certification and complete a residency prior to certification.

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