Just because someone has a developmental disability doesn’t mean he can’t hold a job. In fact, people with special needs are productive members of the community. But many of them need assistance and ongoing support to work. That's where the job coach steps in, providing on-the-job training to their clients and helping them to better understand job responsibilities. Job requirements for this type of position are often minimal.
Though employers seek a variety of backgrounds in candidates, it isn’t uncommon for them to require some experience working with people with disabilities. Look at working for a group home for a year or two to gain practical experience serving this community. Another option is employment as a developmental disabilities service coordinator at a human services organization or even volunteering at a community center that offers classes and activities for people with special needs. It also may be beneficial to your career to work as a supervisor or trainer. Not that you need to supervise or train people with developmental disabilities, per se, but holding this type of position demonstrates that you can work in this capacity.
Consider looking into a certificate program in development disabilities. These programs often come with a minimal time commitment, but can improve your skills and background working with people with developmental disabilities. Rutgers University, for example, offers a series of workshops over 12 days on community services, ethical issues, disability policies and managing problem behaviors that lead to a certification in the field. Check with your local college or university to find a certificate program near you, as certification could improve your employability as a job coach.
Look into an associate in applied science degree at a vocational school or technical college. While not necessarily a prerequisite for becoming a job coach, these programs can prepare you to work with people with special needs, notes the College of DuPage. You’ll take general classes to introduce you to human services, counseling, practice models and communication, while focusing on working with this population. Like a certificate program, a degree can make you a much more desirable candidate in the eyes of an employer.
Finding a Job
There are a number of organizations that serve people with developmental disabilities. This is often a good place to start looking for a job as a job coach. For example, The Arc is a national organization with chapters nationwide, but you can also find other private and government-run agencies in most communities. Obviously, larger cities will have more opportunities available for job coaches in this field. If you’re still unable to find something, contact your local or state government. They should be able to direct you to organizations that provide services to people with developmental disabilities.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Social and Human Services Assistants
- Eastbay Innovations: Welcome to the Realistic Job Preview for the Job Coach Position
- The Arc: Supported Employment Job Coach Job Description
- Rutgers: Certificate Program in Developmental Disabilities
- College of DuPage: Developmental Disabilities
- College of DuPage: Human Services | Associate in Applied Science
- Photo Credit Maxine Lawson/iStock/Getty Images
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