How You Can Become a Direct Support Professional 

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”

If you are looking for a career that has purpose and helps others, you’ve come to the right place! Direct support professionals (DSPs) play a crucial role in helping individuals live life to the fullest. Becoming a direct support professional is not only a great opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of others, but it is also a viable career option that is in high demand today. Learn more about what a career as a DSP could look like by reading below! 

What is a Direct Support Professional (DSP)? 

A direct support professional provides one-on-one support for people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. By providing direct services and assistance, a DSP helps individuals reach their full potential. DSPs perform their duties in such a way that pushes these individuals to live more independently and achieve their goals. Some responsibilities of a DSP include but are not limited to: teaching life skills, supporting job exploration, providing hygiene assistance, helping with transportation, meal preparation, and more! 

Job Outlook for Direct Support Professionals

Direct support professionals are highly valued and needed. You can be sure this career isn’t going anywhere, in fact, it’s projected to grow over the next few years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts that between 2020 and 2030, employment for home health and personal care employees will grow by 33%!1 This growth is significantly higher than that of other occupations. The Covid-19 pandemic also revealed just how much we need direct support professionals. DSPs help individuals with disabilities obtain the services, opportunities, and connections they need to thrive and live a more independent lifestyle. When people were sick or couldn’t work during the pandemic, many disabled individuals were left without the support and assistance they needed, seriously impacting their quality of life. In a tweet shared during the pandemic, the Governor of New Jersey exclaimed that DPSs are essential workers and a crucial part of the emergency response team to the Covid-19 crisis.2

A Highly Rewarding Career 

You may not hear a DSP say that their job is easy, but many will share that helping individuals with disabilities can be very rewarding and meaningful work. A former DSP from The Arc of Caroll County shared, “A day at work was like a day at home with your best friend. You become close to your client and help in every way possible to make them happy and comfortable. The hardest part is seeing them sick or in pain, but I loved making them smile.” When you become a DSP, you make a direct deposit into someone else’s life. Being shown a little love and kindness can go an extraordinarily long way.

What are the Skills of a Direct Support Professional?  

The Arc requires that a potential DSP employee has a high school diploma or GED in order to be considered for the job, but there is no formal education necessary. The Arc provides on-the-job training that will equip you with everything you need to succeed and support the individuals you serve. Our employees can get certified through the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP), an organization committed to partnering with, supporting, and empowering people with disabilities to lead a life of their choosing.3 

Below are just a few of the many skills you can expect to learn through the NADSP training! 

  • How to navigate ethical dilemmas using the NADSP Code of Ethics 
  • Strategies for effectively communicating with your client 
  • How to empower your client to be assertive and make decisions 
  • How to assess and respond to the needs of your client 
  • Ways to assist your client in connecting with the community 
  • How to help your client pursue educational and vocational resources/opportunities 
  • How to prevent and monitor crisis situations 
  • Ways to support your client in building and maintaining healthy relationships with others 
  • How to assist your client in completing personal care activities 

To learn more about what you can expect from NADSP training and certification, visit

Now you may be reading this and thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot to learn. I don’t know if I can do it.” The truth is, if you have a desire to help those in need and are willing to use the talents you already possess to make a difference, you are well on your way to becoming a successful direct support professional. The rest of the skills come with learning and practice, which you are more than capable of! 

If you think that becoming a DSP could be the right career for you, click here to apply for a position at The Arc of Carrol County! If you are in need of more information or have questions about what it looks like to work as a DSP, feel free to contact us at We look forward to hearing from you!