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What Does a Direct Support Professional (DSP) Do?

DSPs make a difference in a person’s life. They play an important role in their communities by helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities live fulfilling lives in their communities. A large part of being a DSP is being a facilitator of a meaningful life for an individual, including being a connection between an individual and their community. A DSP may serve as a job coach or provide employment support, assist with activities of daily living such as mobility assistance or medication administration, advocate for an individual’s rights and services such as accessing resources and opportunities in the community, and much more. Everyone has a different set of goals and dreams; the DSP assists and guides them along their unique path to success. In so doing, DSPs help the world see past the disability and get a glimpse of the unique gifts and abilities of everyone.

Education Requirements

There are no formal education requirements to become a DSP. Most employers require a high school diploma at the minimum. Although continuing your education is not necessary, earning a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as social work, counseling, psychology, or sociology can give you a competitive advantage when applying for jobs and provide a pathway to career advancement.

Professional Certifications

Certification is not a national requirement; however, certification may increase your chances of being hired. In many cases, employers provide all the training new hires need. But experience and education are invaluable when you're trying to find a job in this field.

The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) offers a national certification program for DSPs. This certification program provides national recognition for the contributions and competence of DSPs who meet the certification standards. Depending on the employer, CPR and first aid certifications may be required. Certifications through NADSP.

Professional Skills & Competencies

DSPs work closely with people of all ages who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Being able to assist individuals with sensitivity and compassion requires strong interpersonal skills, such as empathy, patience and understanding. The following is an overview of the type of skills that are key for a successful career as a direct support professional:

•  Verbal and nonverbal communication
•  Emotional intelligence
•  Administrative skills
•  Organization

•  Detail-oriented
•  Observant and attentive
•  Reliable
•  Adaptable


For more information, sample job description, and more, check out ANCOR 

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