How can students with disabilities choose a career?

DO-IT Factsheet #254
http://www.washington.edu/doit/Stem/articles?254

Making wise choices of what to study in high school and college is one of the important considerations for all students. Having a disability simply adds extra considerations to decisions. Below are a few of the many resources to help students with disabilities prepare for careers.

Guidance from high school and college career counselors can be helpful. Most can guide students to information on many aspects of a career choice, from the nature of the work involved to required skills and education to forecasts of job availability and salary expectations.

Assessing aptitude and interest can help students narrow their list of careers for consideration. Most students have a limited awareness of the range of careers available that build on their interests and aptitudes. Career counseling centers may have access to aptitude and interest assessments, and students can also find a number of such tests online, such as those at Skills Profiler [1].

Forecasting job availability in careers can help students choose postsecondary education options that lead to careers that are in demand. Although trends cannot always be accurately predicted, tools such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook [2] provide a good general forecast of occupational demand in the next decade.

Students should take advantage of opportunities for internships, job shadowing, and work-study offered at their schools in order to submerge themselves in the "everyday" environment of a job in a career field of interest. Such practice can help students identify careers most compatible with their academic strengths and job skills, as well as the limitations imposed by their disabilities.

Finding an appropriate career mentor can be especially useful for a student with a disability. If the mentor has the same disability as the student, he or she can help a student assess the impact of a disability on the typical tasks of a given career, as well as help the student find assistive tools and strategies to overcome barriers. Organizations such as the American Foundation for the Blind [3] have programs to match professionals with disabilities with students interested in pursuing a particular career.

Students should also visit the websites of professional organizations in the field they are interested in pursuing. Often, these organizations provide useful information for someone new to or considering entering a career. Students interested in careers in science, for example, should visit Science Careers [4], a website published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The website has an archive of thousands of articles on career options in science and applying for jobs as well as a series of webinars on similar topics.

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