34 Best and 10 Worst Jobs for Adults with Autism

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Dec 3 2013 - 12:50pm
Autism Jobs

Autism should not become a hindrance when it comes to finding and retaining employment as one grows older. The disorder could affect everything from the ability to separate the senses to the onset of meltdowns parents are often faced with. Certain factors like pollution could aggravate the risk of birthing an autistic child while the bright lights and large crowds at malls could make pictures with Santa near impossible and Sensitive Santas necessary.

ALSO SEE: An Autism Breakfast That Changed Mom’s Perspective: How an Unexpected Encounter Helped One Parent To Cope With Autism Stress.

Parents of autistic children are not the only ones who require special provisions in the workplace or jobs flexible enough to manage both the child and the finances. It is hard enough for the average individual to forge a career path for him or herself, but when a disability poses an obstacle life seems to become all that much more difficult. Things that could get in the way include:

  • Sensory overload issues
  • Problems with showing emotions
  • Delayed or inadequate language development
  • Social awkwardness
  • Inability to handle large crowds/agoraphobia
  • Need for certain things to be a certain way
  • Lack of proper mental transition into adulthood

According the the latest research, only about 53% of young people with ASD had ever worked outside of the home in the first 8 years after completing their secondary education, the lowest rate found among minorities suffering from disabilities. 1 in 5 have been found to work for minimum wage or less and currently hold a job or are set on a career. That accounts for only 20.9%.

Of course, those who are older, come from households of higher income and are higher functioning in society are more likely to not only find a job, but also show advance in their positions. Often, the problem lies in the fact that most individuals on the spectrum have a harder time transitioning into adulthood. Half of all ASD young adults have worked outside the home, however, from all levels on the spectrum, which is most definitely cause for hope.

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“Many families tell us it’s like driving off a cliff when their child with autism exits high school because there just are not many options once they enter adulthood,” said Dr. Paul T. Shattuck, an associate professor in the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute and Drexel University School of Public Health. There may not be too many options, but the few that exist might just be the ticket that an autistic young adult needs to succeed in life and pave his or her own path.

With the 2013 version of the DSM-V removing the extra categories and having all forms of the disorder known as autism, society has been thrown into a bit of confusion. How will those diagnosed to be on the spectrum manage to fend for themselves? What jobs should they take on?

Jobs in IT are highly recommended for those on the spectrum. Apparently, it is the perfect niche for autistic individuals to focus on. Forbes mentions a Netherlands study which has pointed out that autistic individuals are six times more like to find and retain a job if they live alone or with a partner, have a household they run and have previously held any job for longer than 6 months. It is not impossible to find a job at all for any individual at level of functioning. Here is what Indiana University recommends:

Best Jobs for Adults with Autism

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Comments

I just wanted to comment to those who have self-dxed themselves. I decided that I had HFA about a decade ago. I had difficulty filtering out background noise, had irritability, trouble reading people's emotions and intentions, and some sensory issues. I would even "disclose" that I had it to people or employers I trusted and appreciated that people become more accommodating. I went through 8+ jobs (mostly retail/office work) usually getting fired or quitting because of interpersonal problems or stress. I finally got a career-type job in graphic design with benefits and a competitive salary. I was so glad that I finally made my autism and my income compatible. Here's the thing though, I didn't have autism at all. I woke up partially paralyzed one morning and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the brain and spine, and can include frontal lobe involvement. I'm just sharing because I could have been partially treated with disease modifying medications this whole time if I had just sought a formal medical diagnosis, and, I was lying to people that I had HFA without knowing it. Also though, my sx started before the ACA, and because of my spotty employment I usually didn't have health insurance.
Thank you for sharing. I really appreciated this.
I feel like telemarketing is one of the most terrible jobs for someone with autism. I was a telemarketer for a duration of time and it requires constant interaction, a very sociable outgoing personality and split moment decision making based on things like the other persons tone of voice. Not to mention there is often a quota involved for these calls so you could be dropped at any time for doing poorly. Terrible for autistic individuals.
I am self diagnosed with Aspergers. (closest guess) - When I was 16, I was the most amazing dishwasher you've ever seen, and I was with another autistic person who was even more. We could just systemize our movements to run a 4 person dishpit with 2 people. - I did a slew of odd jobs, and I got into a long stint in retail. I always was slow to start, but once I internalized all the variables of the sales process, I would decimate all my sales targets.The biggest danger: Promotion. Being promoted to keyholder/ assistant manager positions is a death sentence. I also had troubles adjusting to what management wanted, because I would hyper focus on sales, or hyper focus on stocking. Environment was a really important factor in my success. - Cooking: I did very well in the kitchen, as part of a team. I would excel in almost every part of the job, to the point that they would put me in charge of the kitchen at night. I had a few traumatic times when things got stressful and I internalized and shut down. - Sales: I had mixed results in sales. I would do really well, but had a lot of problems picking up the phone and calling people. While some things I do repetitively, I have a lot of trouble doing things twice. And cold calling, day in day out, got hard. I could sit by my phone for 8 hours thinking about picking up the phone, but just couldn't. The hardest part I think is that in my head I believe that people know whats going on in my head, and are picking up on all these insecurities, and the weight of one mistake carries on to the next client until it's an insurmountable wall. - Photography/Websites/Graphics/Video This. All over this! I have found my passion, what I'm good at, and just am having a ball. I've learned how to do all these thigns, self taught, and I'm makign a decent business at it. I can be particular abotu details/techniques, and since my interactions with people is very on the surface, and I'm not working with the subject for more than 1-2 sessions, I don't have any of the weight of thinking people are critical of me. It seems that when someone doesn't know me, I am very free, open, honest, and I speak my mind (which is why I did well in retail) Photography/Video is all about direction, and communicating with your talent to look good, and while you would think being non empathetic, or not picking up on social cues would be a problem, I find that I can train myself to look for the common issues that happen again and again... while I might miss some subtler ones. I have a wife that is good at telling me when I'm being overbearing, and I think that is VERY important to have. Someone you can trust to be your wingman. I am hard to get along with in a team environment sometimes, because I am very particular about doing things right, and I often dispassionately tell people that a design is wrong, or that something should be improved. My wife often feels that I don't value her opinions, because she gives an idea, and I immediately expand on it. The biggest key to success is to be open about your strengths and weaknesses. If you are like me, you will NOT be successful on your own, even though you might be very independant, while you might think you are doing things more correctly than everyone, you will get better results having someone that understands you, and can keep you from getting hyper focussed away from the task.
Firstly, It's great that you've found your passion! But just be a little careful with self-diagnosis. There's a chance that you might not have Aspergers [plus, I heard they're diagnosing people on the Autistic Spectrum with just 'Asd' instead of things like Aspergers, Hfa, etc... but I might be wrong.] and instead it's something else with a few [or a lot] traits of Aspergers... You might not meet the criteria for it. It's worth getting a diagnosis right away, just so you can get the right support - or even so you just know for sure what you have. [Although I've just realized this comment is from April, so oops.]
@Moody I live in North East England myself and was diagnosed with ASD a few months ago, and told that that is the only type of autism diagnosis they give in my particular area, at least as of a few years ago, but that it might vary in other areas of the country i.e. other areas may offer more specific diagnoses of autism. The person who assessed me advised I could refer to my ASD as Asperger's if I preferred when talking to other people about it. I'm not sure how accurate that is, but perhaps they were hinting that's what category I would have fitted if they still assessed things to that level of specificity. @Michael Pacitto I can appreciate some of the experiences you've had like being unable to pick up the phone to call customers. I worked in retail for a few years and found it very difficult to pick up the phone to call customers. I suppose for me it was always worrying that I had no idea which way the call could go, how the person on the other end might behave, even though it was often just to inform them something of their's was ready to pickup. I much preferred it to go to voicemail and me to leave them a message (although knowing that something I'd said had been recorded and was unable to be changed afterwards also made me a bit worrisome). I find I'm generally quite comfortable with people I've had many previous conversations with, like my colleagues, I think because I already had some kind of idea how they'd react to the things I might say to them, so I could sort of audition the discussion in my head first. I'd be interested to know how you turned your new found self-taught interests into a decent business. I have similar interests in various areas of digital media with good technical ability and an (obsessively) keen eye for detail, but I worry that if I offer my services to anyone and aren't able to 100% fulfil their requirements I'll upset them (however marginally) and that is really overwhelming for me. Thanks for your post anyway; it was useful.
Is this for autistic men only? Personally I follow the apparent aspie woman trend of being good with words and animals. I'm average-to-bad with computers, and I tried to learn programming ONCE... Never again, because I suck at it! I'm actually not agoraphobic so a teaching position in a specialty field (zoo trainer/entertainer/wildlife tour guide/professor?) seems much more suitable. Don't underestimate our ability to talk about the same subject without getting bored, because that can be a boon too. I could be a jeweler or videographer, though. That IT thing just bothers me.
Hi everyone, I'm currently 20 years old, in college. I want to go into health care; specifically occupational therapy. I just found out today that I might have some type of autism. I haven't had it professionally diagnosed yet, but the symptoms have always been there throughout my childhood till now. I'm just debating if this career path will be well fit for me, it's something I've always wanted to do, but I don't want this to hold me back.
Dont worry, honey you will do fine. You are not autistic.You obviously communicate very well and have excellent well organized language skills.You are in college and your desire to go into a field helping others shows a strong empathetic bent.I wish you well and think its an excellent field to go into....sadly, there will always be people in need of occupational therapy. There has been a hyper exaggeration of what it means to be autistic in the last 2 decades and it has become the default diagnoses for anyone feeling shy or uncomfortable or perhaps having a learning difficulty or two. Now my son is 28. He is non verbal and flaps his hands and screams and laughs all day. He can say some phrases but its all non sense, such as "You Like Roasted Flamingo??" which he will repeat several hundred times a day. He cannot read, write or count. He wants nothing to do with people and spends most of his time upstairs in his room laughing at nonsense on you tube. He had a job in a shelter but they closed it cause politicians think he should work in the community, and no one will hire him cause he wets his pants and wont stop talking about Roasted Flamingos.And while there are very high functioning autistic people out there they shouldnt officially be abke to communicate so well. If they are autistic, we need a new name for people like my son. Anyway, THATS autism You sound fine. Go for it.
I find it highly rude of you to tell this person they do not have autism simply because they do not act like your son. There are so many different ways autism affects people, and it certainly affects women differently than it does men. I have been CLINICALLY diagnosed with ASD level one. As you can see, I have no problem communicating my thoughts and feelings in written format. My difficulties are social and sensory, but my language and learning abilities have not been impacted (unless you count the fact that I am TERRIBLE at math). If you don't agree with me, that's fine, but before you tell this person who may have finally found the explanation for why they have always felt "different" that they are wrong simply because they can communicate well on an online message board you should do more research on the milder forms of autism. Temple Grandin is a great place to start. She's a woman with clinically diagnosed autism who has made a huge mark on the agricultural industry and has even worked for Colorado State University as a professor. To the OP, an autism diagnosis can help you understand yourself better, but never let it hold you back. You may have to work harder than everyone else, but you certainly can succeed in whatever interests you. Best wishes to all.
I was surprised to see mathematician listed as 1 of the best jobs for autistic people. I'm not an expert but I believe most people who have autism also have math disability, although not all of them do, so that really does not make sense to me. Also in a broader sense most people with autism have mental disabilities that make intellectual tasks more difficult for them, which is another reason I'd find it hard to believe there are a lot of autistic mathematicians. I have autism and also math disability.
Abilities for autistic adults are quite diverse. My son has perfect pitch and rhythm in music. He is also hyperlexic with strong affinity for the written word. I allowed him to "score" the spelling and punctuation of some of my college freshmen English students and was practically perfect. He does basic 7th grade math without aid of a calculator. He also types 80 words a minute. Surely there is work for him in a sheltered environment. There are many things he can't do, however. Each autistic person has a set of abilities and preferences to be targeted for employment -- just like the rest of us. There is real dangers in overgeneralizing. There was a famous autistic mathematician / physicist: Albert Einstein. The great inventor Thomas Edison also scores in the autism spectrum. We shouldn't limit them. Each is unique.
Hello and thank you for your comments. Your son's profil and abiilities seem to be similar to the one of my son. My son is 23. He obtains an AA degree in Graphic design last year. He wanted to pursue the same degree in a 4-year college and of course struggled with the core requirements courses. We also realized that working as a graphic designer requires a lot of interactions with customers and also the ability to conceive and plan. etc.. The idea now is to find a job in which he can use his abilities and visual acuity. I am not sure where and what. Does your son work for the moment? I need some advice. Thank you.
I think some people are better at math than others. I have pretty bad Asperger's, yet I'm still able to do math fairly well. As a finance major, I'm often working with advanced algebra, logarithms, and statistics. Where I draw the line is calculus and anything theoretical. It's simply beyond what I'm capable of doing. Understanding concepts does not come to me intuitively. Thus, thinking is three dimensions is overbearing. The math in finance does not require three dimensional thought.
I've been driving forklift in warehouses for 6 years and have been first aid for 2yrs now as its the only thing I'm good at. but I've never been able to hold a job for over 6mnth. I'm either laid off or I'm fired because I don't get along with specific people so I'll ignore them. I'll still do my work but just won't say hi to them and I'm usually let go for that. I want to be a policewoman, but I struggle alot with the homework and when I feel uninterested it feels like it physically hurts me to attend school so I start skipping then often drop out. I dont have a support system or parents, am still young and dont want to be stuck in same situation every year. Any suggestions?
Your post speaks to me. I know what you mean about the physical pain. I'm sitting in my car out side of my job instead of going in I'm on the web looking for the magic answer.
What about Astronomy? Is it a good idea or no? I'd love to get a job in this field when I'm older, but I'm still unsure.... Opinions, anybody? c:
Go for it! I think people on the spectrum would be fantastic in astronomy! Get a head start and begin learning immediately! Google is our best friend, and there are always books on astronomy at the library. Good luck! I hope you do it! :D
Honestly this does help somewhat in the department of what people with autism have to go to through on a day to day basis. Refer to the signs part. In part I think working as someone who use to have a developmental disability it's hard to work for a place more than a year as I get uninterested with the people I work with and honestly there isn't any chemistry so I move on because the work environment is terrible and isn't inspiring to me. So I think it's in the end the success rate would be higher if the working world would change but I don't see it.
I wish all these types of articles didn't always seem to be directed at PARENTS of people with autism. Since I'M the one doing this research and looking for help, not my parents, it comes across as condescending, in a way, when articles are always saying "your child" as though I'll never be considered "adult" enough; or worse, that my parents are supposed to automatically get the credit for research. My parents don't care. This is my problem. I dropped out of university and have been unemployed for eight months. I even moved to a bigger city looking for a job. I feel like all I'm ever doing is mooching off of one of my parents, and I can't find a job I know I can handle, and nearly every normal aspect of adult life makes me anxious. I don't know what I can do. I don't have any goals. And everyone in my family just thinks I'm "lazy" and "unwilling to work." I was professionally diagnosed with anxiety and ASD and basically every relative I told just responded, "Well I don't believe that." SO here I am reading articles that don't actually help get me anywhere. Why am I leaving this comment? Guess I felt like ranting. Sorry.
Whether the person saying it is a relative, friend, or total stranger, I try to dial down the smugness while also making it crystal clear that unless that person has extensive knowledge and experience with the topic--in this case, ASD or Asperger's--that I will take the conclusions of experts and peer-reviewed research over the layman's view every single time. That may or may not be a tactic you feel comfortable using, but it's been effective. In a pinch, I might also defer to Sir Isaac Asimov, who denounced anti-intellectualism for essentially proclaiming the equal validity of all beliefs, informed or not, in this quote: "There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.' "
Consider this (everyone gives advice, but defer to your own judgement): find a job you might tolerate even if it doesn't pay much. Maybe the goal will be to build your confidence and allow you to be successful. Take it slow. Don;t worry if you are not at the top of the pecking order. Since 'every aspect of adult life makes you anxious" maybe the first goal is to find situations in which you are not anxious, and then expand your horizons from there. You probably want to avoid positions with a lot of direct contact with people. Maybe there is a non-customer job in a bank where you can work with numbers Maybe there is a non-customer job in the back part of a retail establishment. Maybe work with animals (an SPCA or a vet's office). Animals give unconditional love. Look for something easy that will have a pleasant environment that will help you feel good and confident. Give yourself time at each "step" of your progress toward more confidence. Progress is measured in months and years, not days and weeks. Good luck.
Of course! I'm a HFA who has a college degree in a foreign language and now Im a Barista at Starbucks, which had a few of the worst job elements (Cashier, Receptionist, and Cook elements). I'm so stressed out that I am diagnosed with anxiety and depression...and developed ocd tendancies. Sometimes I end up having meltdowns at work. Don't get me wrong, It's a great company and they're compassionate, but the line of work is a beast of its own. I am trying to find different fields but I have no idea where to begin. I tried the veterinary assisting thing but like with other healthcare fields it's a lot of grueling work, even patients can be dangerous, and co-workers can be frustrated with you or mad at you if there's any bit of miscommunication. I honestly dream of just being a fiction writer but I can't sustain myself doing that alone, especially for paying of school loans.
Everyone, don't take this article to heart, I'm autistic and I've done most of the jobs in the worst list, and wouldn't dream of doing anything on the best jobs list! Im actually applying to a nursing degree currently, yeah I'm relatively quiet at work but I fit in and do my job very well
Is it telling that some of my 'dream' jobs*, much as I can say I have a 'dream job', (graphic designer, cartoonist, jeweler, librarian) are on the Best Jobs list? And my only real job so far as well as the only ones I've been applying for (cashier, waitress, receptionist) is on the Worst Jobs list. The problem is that with my functionally useless Criminology degree, no driving licence, and very little work experience, I'm not qualified for much else. * My other dream jobs are character designer for video games and cartoons, cartoonist/comic artist, published author (this is more like a 'hobby job'), or a story-boarder for an animation company.
Hi, I'm a 22 year old senior in college and I will be graduating in May. I'm majoring in finance, but I feel as if it may not be a good fit for me. Finance involves a lot of networking and I see very few (if any) other ASD people in the field, leading me to believe that I am inferior. I have considered careers in investment management and trading, but the above list says that trading is one of the worst jobs. Why is that? Should I get my degree and pursue something else? Not many of the listed jobs require degrees, which to me means that they don't pay well (money was a large factor in my selection of finance as a major). What might any of you recommend for a plausible career?
As a 55 year old woman who was finally diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome just three years ago, I feel qualified to offer career advice. I bashed my head against a career wall for the majority of my life and changed and/or retrained and re-qualified myself through over 40 various career pathways ... to the point of a complete melt down of no return and now not being able to put myself knowingly into a harmful work situation one more time. I'm done. My advice is to find a way to be self employed from home. There is nothing more soul destroying for an Aspie female than to work where there will be a management structure that micro-manages you with never-ending meetings and key performance indicators and everything else that makes you record and report on your workload rather than allow you to get on with actually doing the work. Add on the expected social interaction to prove you are part of team when all you want to do after a sensory overload day is to go home to your cave or de-stress eating your lunch without conversation. Which obviously means that no matter how dedicated and exceptional you are doing your job, you are not a team player if you don't want to interact with your work mates after already spending the bulk of your day with them. I can not stress enough, that your soul and mind will be destroyed if you pursue a career path that is not self employment from home. Now I know what I need to do, I am far too destroyed and worn out from 40 years of trying to fit in an unsuitable workplace to start one more time career. Do NOT do this to yourself.
I was DX with high intelligence, high functioning aspergers in 1993 , 24 years ago. I work blue collar jobs. I don't do people at all. I hate people. But I'm a lineman I work with 2-3 others it never changes so we meld fine. I think it's wrong that like education, schools, they point out degree based employment for higher intelligence. We are all people so do what we enjoy. Based on the given suggestions I should be in computers or similar. Putting me in a different group due to choices I made.
I am also autistic, between the ages of 2 and 4 I would get down on all fours and rock like a rocking horse to go to sleep. After that I’d lay on my side and rock myself to sleep. I am pushing 50 years of age now. When I was 14 I was sent to a physiologist, who administered an IQ test, Fox IQ test I think it was called, I got a 164. I hit in the genius level. I’m not smart but I can do things others can’t. For instance, I didn’t really learn advanced mathematics until college, I took one prerequisite algebra class and then jumped into college algebra, I took that class 5 times before I got a passing grade. I never got mad or frustrated. Now, 30 plus years later I can do complex mathematics and applied math formulas better than most professors. I have problems with people when they are wrong and it effects my work or if someone else steps in and tries to take control when they haven’t shown enough intelligence to earn my respect. I ignite and become livid. I can’t control it, it irks every cell in my body every fiber of my being. I’m not a control freak by any means but I do have issues. I like people, all people, they are all unique and that uniqueness brings beauty to my world. Everyone has and absolute advantage at something and that is what I look for in everybody. I am also becoming extremely wise the older I get my ability to transpose ethics over top of someone’s values and understand their ideas is almost omnipotent. I have learned to be charismatic to others ideas no matter how wrong or off kilter they are. It takes all kinds. I have had a hard go of it in the construction management field but I keep trying. Being in business for myself was great but people lie and when it comes to money they take full advantage. My most success has come in the form of Commercial Construction Superintendent. Every day I do precision guess work based on unreliable data, provided by those of questionable knowledge. Of course, I have worked my way up to Project Manager on ground up Hospitals and Construction Manger over a 14-state region but Superintendent is the best for this Autistic adult. You’re the Builder everything inside the fence is yours. A straight up Dictator, your attention to detail and your exceptional ability to make sure it is done absolutely perfect are considered strengths. The fact that you can and will flip out and go off the deep end at the smallest of issues make all personnel think through it three and four times before they ever approach you with and issues and they will definitely have some answers in hand and not just drop problems in your lap. Most of the time you walk around like you’re Darth Vader, that’s what it feels like sometimes! It’s even therapeutic. It pays well too! Being autistic is hard because people instantly assume you’re wrong or your beneath them because you have a mental issue that makes you different. They don’t realize that the things that I am good at I am really good at and I wouldn’t even dare open my mouth if I wasn’t 100% sure I was positively correct. Thank you for allowing me to read about others that are autistic. For those that are caring for someone that is severely autistic or sever Asperger. I worked in a manufacturing plant and a mentally disabled person flipped out no one knew why, it was because the kits that he was packaging where missing the smallest little ferrule he knew it. It got past college educated quality control professionals. It takes all kinds, people are beautiful!

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