Career Development

What Does a Direct Support Professional Do?

Find out what a direct support professional does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a direct support professional.

Direct support professionals are the frontline workers in the disability services industry. They provide hands-on assistance to individuals with disabilities, helping them live as full a life as possible. Direct support professionals may work with people of all ages and abilities—from infants who require round-the-clock care to elderly adults who need help with daily activities but still want to live independently.

Direct Support Professional Job Duties

Direct support professionals have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Providing emotional support to clients by providing encouragement, empathy, and compassion
  • Providing personal care such as bathing, grooming, dressing, toileting, and other hygiene tasks
  • Teaching life skills such as toilet training, bathing, brushing teeth, and combing hair
  • Maintaining a safe environment for all clients by following safety rules and procedures
  • Supporting the development of clients by encouraging participation in activities
  • Helping clients with their daily schedules by assisting with meal preparation, cleaning, and other chores
  • Supporting clients with disabilities by helping them with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, eating, or getting around the home
  • Helping clients manage their finances by assisting with bill payments, filing taxes, managing bank accounts, and making purchases with funds from trusts or guardianships
  • Supporting clients in their social interactions with others by helping them make friends and feel welcome in social settings

Direct Support Professional Salary & Outlook

The salary of a direct support professional can vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of services they provide.

  • Median Annual Salary: $27,500 ($13.22/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $54,500 ($26.2/hour)

The employment of direct support professionals is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

Demand for these workers will increase as states seek to reduce costs by providing services to people with disabilities in their homes or communities rather than in institutions. In addition, demand will continue to come from aging baby boomers, who are more likely than previous generations to have a disability.

Direct Support Professional Job Requirements

There are a number of qualifications required to become a direct support professional. They include:

Education: Direct support professionals are typically required to have a high school diploma or GED. Some facilities may require an associate’s degree in social work, psychology or nursing. These degrees provide direct support professionals with the knowledge and skills they need to work with clients.

Training & Experience: Most direct support professionals receive on-the-job training when they start a new position. This training is usually part of the orientation process and is intended to help the direct support professional learn about the organization’s policies and procedures. The training may also include a brief overview of the clients the direct support professional will be working with.

Certifications & Licenses: Certifications allow you to prove your skills and qualifications to current and potential employers. Direct support professionals can earn certifications to gain more practical knowledge of their daily responsibilities, test their skills and advance their careers.

Direct Support Professional Skills

Direct support professionals need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication skills: Communication skills are necessary for direct support professionals, as they often work with people who have varying degrees of ability to communicate. This includes people with disabilities, children, seniors and people from other countries. You may also need to communicate with parents, guardians and other professionals. Effective communication skills can help you to convey information, answer questions and solve problems.

Empathy and compassion: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. This is an important skill for support professionals, as they often work with individuals who have experienced trauma or other difficult life experiences. Empathy can help you connect with your clients and help them feel safe and supported.

Time management: Time management is the ability to plan and execute tasks in a timely manner. This is an important skill for support professionals, as they often have many duties to complete in a day. For example, they may be responsible for preparing and serving meals, cleaning and maintaining the living space of their clients and monitoring the behavior of their clients. Being able to manage your time well can help you complete all of your tasks in a timely manner.

Teamwork: Teamwork is the ability to work with others to achieve a common goal. As a support professional, you may work with other staff members to ensure the needs of your clients are met. For example, you may work with a caretaker to ensure a client gets to their medical appointment on time.

Technological skills: Technology skills can help you support your clients and colleagues. Knowing how to use computers, software and other devices can help you communicate with others and complete your work. You can also use technology to help your clients learn new skills, like using a computer.

Direct Support Professional Work Environment

Direct support professionals work in a variety of settings, including group homes, day programs, and residential facilities. They may also work in clients’ homes, schools, or in the community. They typically work a 40-hour week, but their hours may vary depending on the needs of the people they support. They may work evenings, weekends, and holidays. Overtime is often required, and direct support professionals may be on call 24 hours a day. The work can be physically and emotionally demanding, and direct support professionals must be able to handle stress and difficult situations. They must be able to lift and transfer clients, and they must have a valid driver’s license.

Direct Support Professional Trends

Here are three trends influencing how direct support professionals work. Direct support professionals will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Support Professionals

The need for more support professionals is a trend that is being driven by the increasing demand for services. As businesses become more reliant on technology, they are also becoming increasingly dependent on the support of professionals who can help them to utilize these technologies in the most effective way possible.

This trend means that there is an increased demand for support professionals who can provide the expertise needed to help businesses get the most out of their technology investments. Direct support professionals are well-positioned to take advantage of this trend, as they have the skills and experience necessary to provide the kind of support that businesses are looking for.

More Focus on Quality Assurance

As the economy continues to improve, businesses are placing greater emphasis on quality assurance. This means that direct support professionals will need to focus on ensuring that the services they provide meet or exceed customer expectations.

To do this, direct support professionals will need to be familiar with quality assurance standards and how to measure them. They will also need to be able to identify potential problems before they become too big to fix. In addition, direct support professionals will need to be able to communicate effectively with customers in order to understand what they expect from the services they receive.

Greater Emphasis on Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is becoming increasingly important for businesses in today’s economy. This is because customers are more likely to switch to a competitor if they are not happy with the service they are receiving.

Direct support professionals can capitalize on this trend by developing strong customer service skills. They should also be willing to go the extra mile to ensure that customers are satisfied with the service they are receiving.

How to Become a Direct Support Professional

A career as a direct support professional can be incredibly rewarding. It offers the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities, and to help them live full and independent lives.

To become a direct support professional, you will need to complete an accredited training program. There are many programs available that offer both online and on-site training. You can also choose to specialize in working with people with specific disabilities, such as autism or mental illness.

Once you have completed your training, you can begin looking for jobs in your area. Many organizations hire direct support professionals on a part-time or contract basis, so you may need to be flexible about your hours.

Related: How to Write a Direct Support Professional Resume

Advancement Prospects

DSPs who are interested in advancing their careers can do so by pursuing additional education and training. DSPs with a high school diploma or GED can enroll in college courses to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in human services or a related field. DSPs who have an associate or bachelor’s degree can pursue a master’s degree in human services or a related field. DSPs who have a master’s degree can pursue a doctorate in human services or a related field. DSPs who have a doctorate can pursue a career in research or academia. DSPs who are interested in advancing their careers can also pursue certification from the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals.

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