This post is the third in the series related to employment for people with disabilities. All too many of the students I represent have unrealistic career goals. Students who have never been on a Little League baseball team think they are going to play in the major leagues, and students obsessed with their electronics blithely think they will be video game designers although they have no idea of how competitive and challenging the field is. No one wants to torpedo a child’s hopes, but we need to help them develop realistic and attainable goals that will lead to a meaningful life and hopefully self sufficiency. But what are the jobs that will help them achieve these goals?
We’ve already established in other blogs that persons with disabilities are either frequently unemployed or underemployed. We also know that disabled workers earn less money than their non-disabled counterparts. (According to the 2006 American Community Survey the median income for persons with disabilities was $17,000 versus $28,000 for workers without disabilities.) The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has identified the 10 largest occupations in which 21% of the labor force work as well as the mean incomes in these fields:
- Retail salespersons--$25,760
- Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food--$19,110
- Office clerks, general--$30,820
- Registered nurses--$69,790
- Customer service representatives--$33,890
- Waiters and waitresses--$21,640
- Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand--$27,180
- Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical, and executive--$34,500
- Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners--$25,460
Excluding registered nurses, the mean annual wage for these occupations ranges from $19,110 for combined food preparation and serving workers to $34,500 for secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal, medical and executive. Compare this average salary to the mean average salary for all occupations of $47,230.
We don’t actually know what percentage of workers in these particular 10 job areas is disabled. But we do know from other BLS data that persons with disabilities are more likely to work in production, transportation, and material moving occupations than workers without disabilities (15% compared with 12%). Workers with disabilities are less likely to work in management, professional, and related occupations than workers without disabilities (31% compared with 39%).
So which career paths will help our family members achieve economic security and independence? Tony Lee, who publishes the online job listing and advice site CareerCast, did the research for us and provided a list of well paid jobs with strong growth outlooks that would be appropriate for employees with disabilities. Mr. Lee started by scrutinizing the top 200 of the most populated jobs as compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. From there, these jobs were examined for not only for income and growth potential, but also for other factors that could represent either positives or negatives for job seekers with disabilities. For instance, how competitive the job or field is, the degree of physical demands required by the position, or other such stressors as amount of required travel, deadlines, physical risks, or degree of social contact were all considered from the perspective a disabled job seeker.
In no particular order, Mr. Lee arrived at the following list of Best Jobs for Persons with Disabilities along with their average salaries, which were published in Forbes and on CareerCastDisability (Best Jobs for Candidates with Physical Disabilities) (the lists and salaries are slightly different in the two publications):
Management consultant $78,600
Market research analyst $60,300
Pharmaceutical sales $56,620
Vocational counselor $53,610
Pharmacy technician $29,300
Physician assistant $90,930
Software engineer $85,430
Wholesale sales rep $74,970
Financial analyst $76,950
Pharmacy technician $29,300
Computer support specialist $49,000
According to Mr. Lee, some of these jobs may be appropriate for disabled workers because they may place few demands on social skills, such as software engineers. Other positions may benefit greatly when filled by an employee with a disability. For instance, a vocational counselor with a disability may be uniquely qualified to counsel other clients with disabilities. This list, though clearly not encompassing of all potential careers, provides guidance for vocational planning for students with disabilities.
Now that we have identified a number of well-paying positions that may be appropriate for persons with disabilities, we need to discuss next what skills are needed for persons with disabilities who are looking at these positions, which will be a subject of a different blog. It is not enough to possess technical competence to get a job. Unfortunately many qualified workers with special needs find that their disabilities interfere with both their job searches and ability to keep a job despite their qualifications. Thus, we need to create a different game plan.