Autistic people have unique strengths well suited for a wide range of careers. With support, autistic teens and adults can obtain gainful employment.
If you’re autistic or support someone who is, finding autism-friendly jobs can seem daunting, especially if you don’t know where to begin or aren’t sure what career path will align with you or your loved one’s unique talents and skills.
These challenges may make it seem like finding a rewarding job is out of reach. But this couldn’t be further from the truth — being autistic isn’t a barrier to finding professional success.
Many successful people are autistic, including entrepreneur and business magnate Elon Musk, scientist and noted autism spokesperson Temple Grandin, actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd, and even Nobel Prize winner Dr. Vernon Smith.
But you or your autistic loved one doesn’t have to be a world-class scientist or a celebrity to enjoy a rewarding career.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) isn’t a one-size-fits-all diagnosis, and no two autistic people are alike. Also, people with ASD have a wide range of interests and skills — just like everyone else.
Still, some autistic folks have distinct strengths that may help them excel in specific careers. According to 2021 research, characteristics often associated with autism and translate well into the work environment may include:
- creative and innovative thinking
- attention to detail
- logical and systematic thought processes
- enhanced pattern recognition
- superior memory
- sustained and intense focus
- ability to work independently
- enhanced productivity and dedication
- ability to find practical and effective solutions
- honesty and trustworthiness
- reduced concern with social pressure
- a strong sense of social justice and affective empathy
- intense interests in specific things
- enjoyment of tasks non-autistic people might find challenging
Still, autistic folks may experience challenges in the workplace due to differing abilities with social interactions, sensory processing issues, and learning styles. In addition, difficulties with processing speed and receptive and expressive language may create challenges in the work environment.
Managing these challenges is possible with the proper support. These supports might include job coaches, individualized training programs, and ensuring the employer has a comprehensive understanding of autism.
Whether you’re autistic or nonautistic, career options are nearly unlimited. Still, for individuals with ASD, some genres of employment can be a better fit than others. Career paths to consider include:
1. Computer coding, data analyst, cybersecurity, and IT careers
Many autistic teens and adults have a strong liking for computer science. This career path can be ideal for tech-savvy people who have enhanced attention to detail and enjoy working with computer systems.
For autistic people who love to write, journalism or related fields can be a rewarding career choice. This profession allows creativity while offering structure, routine, and opportunities to work from home.
3. Animal science, pet grooming, and animal care
Some autistic people enjoy interacting with animals, more so than people. Therefore, a job working with dogs, cats, or horses can be a rewarding experience. It can also provide therapeutic benefits.
4. Filmmaking, computer-generated special effects, photography
The unique perspectives that a person with ASD possesses can be an asset in the visual arts field. This career path also allows creative expression not easily obtained in other jobs.
5. Archivist, librarian, or historian
Some autistic people have a keen ability to remember things like dates, times, and places. These skills can be a perfect fit for jobs that require superior memory, intense focus, and attention to detail.
6. Science and Technology research
Because logical thinking and superior pattern recognition can be a strength in autistic individuals, careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields may be a good fit.
Some people with ASD excel in the structured environment the armed forces provide. Also, some specialties within the military focus on technology and science, which can be beneficial for someone interested in those subjects.
Assembly, shipping and receiving, and robotics are aspects of the manufacturing industry that may appeal to some autistic people. Especially those who like predictability and consistency.
For autistic folks who enjoy mathematics and crunching numbers, jobs like forensic accounting or bookkeeping might align with their passions and skills.
10. Auto technician
Working on vehicles can be a fulfilling career choice for autistic people who like to understand how things work and enjoy detailed or complex projects.
Of course, any career choice can be a good fit if it’s something you or the autistic person you support is interested in. Still, depending on the job, workplace accommodations may be required to address specific needs.
First and foremost, you know yourself best. You most likely have a deep understanding of your strengths and the things you’d rather not deal with.
When deciding which career path is best for you, don’t hesitate to let others know if certain types of work are outside your limitations.
Also, finding a job you love may involve identifying your passions and interests. For example, suppose you’ve always found history and dates fascinating. In that case, you may consider looking for job openings at a historical society or museum.
Still, you may need assistance with your job search, and that’s ok. Many people need help navigating the employment process.
If you’re in high school or under the age of 21, some schools have job experience programs or transition programs that can help build on the skills needed for employment. You or your support person can inquire at your school to find out what they offer.
You can also contact the Rehabilitation Services Administration for information and help with finding a job or career that’s right for you.
If you’re an autistic young adult or are supporting an autistic young person in their journey through transitioning into adulthood, resources to consider include:
- Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence Disabilities (OCALI): Employment-Transition to Adulthood
- College Autism Network
- Hire Autism
You can also investigate companies that employ autistic people to learn more about employers that foster an inclusive work environment.
The journey into employment involves the autistic person and the employer. If you’re considering adding an autistic employee to your team, there are things you can do to help ensure success for everyone involved.
Research from 2019 suggests a comprehensive approach that includes learning as much as you can about the symptoms and behaviors associated with autism and why they occur.
It also involves finding the best ways to support your autistic worker’s needs and ensuring they’re matched to a job that aligns with their interests and skills.
If you’re looking to hire an autistic employee, here’s a list of resources that may help you build an inclusive work environment:
- Job Accommodation Network (JAN) and the JAN Toolkit for building an inclusive workplace
- Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN)
- Organization for Autism Research (OAR): Understanding Autism: An Employer’s Guide
- Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence Disabilities (OCALI): Employing Individuals with Autism
Although having ASD can sometimes create employment challenges, any difficulties you encounter can be overcome with the appropriate help and guidance.
If you’re autistic or support an autistic person, finding a career path that aligns with your or your loved one’s strengths while accommodating autism-related needs may involve reaching out for help.
This assistance can come from job coaches, transitions programs, and organizations dedicated to helping autistic people obtain the gainful employment they deserve.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to employ an autistic individual, think about learning as much as you can about symptoms and behaviors associated with ASD.
Also, consider reaching out to organizations that support inclusion in the workplace to help create a successful professional experience for all involved.