Direct support specialists provide proper care and assistance to people with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities. They work in various types of healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities, but may also provide home health care.

The responsibilities of a direct support specialist revolve around helping patients meet their basic needs, including bathing, eating, dressing, and moving around. However, providing care often involves so much more than that. Hence, direct support specialists are also responsible for doing light housekeeping, planning meals, accompanying patients to appointments, and encouraging self-help activities. Furthermore, they are also responsible for coordinating with patients' other providers to ensure proper care and service.

When hiring for this role, employers require a high school diploma and a valid driver's license. Some may also require related work experience, but this is not always the case. Moreover, employers look for candidates that are compassionate, patient, highly communicable, and have a basic understanding of patient care. A good level of physical fitness is also a common prerequisite for this job, as it requires a lot of pushing, lifting, bending, and doing housework.

What Does a Direct Support Specialist Do

There are certain skills that many direct support specialists have in order to accomplish their responsibilities. By taking a look through resumes, we were able to narrow down the most common skills for a person in this position. We discovered that a lot of resumes listed detail oriented, integrity and physical stamina.

Learn more about what a Direct Support Specialist does

How To Become a Direct Support Specialist

If you're interested in becoming a direct support specialist, one of the first things to consider is how much education you need. We've determined that 43.8% of direct support specialists have a bachelor's degree. In terms of higher education levels, we found that 3.8% of direct support specialists have master's degrees. Even though some direct support specialists have a college degree, it's possible to become one with only a high school degree or GED.

Direct Support Specialist Career Paths

Average Salary for a Direct Support Specialist

Direct Support Specialists in America make an average salary of $37,771 per year or $18 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $54,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $26,000 per year.
Average Direct Support Specialist Salary
$37,771 Yearly
$18.16 hourly

What Am I Worth?


Roles and Types of Direct Support Specialist

There are several types of direct support specialist, including:

Direct Support Professional


A direct support professional is a trained professional responsible for providing support to people with learning and other developmental disabilities with the goal of achieving more stability and independence as well as creating and maintaining a safe and healthy environment for them to do so. Their duties mainly center around the residents of the facility they work in and thus include administering medication and other forms of therapy and treatment, assisting with everyday tasks and processes, including basic personal hygiene, and monitoring and documenting patient developments and status.

  • Average Salary: $32,077
  • Degree: High School Diploma

Direct Care Worker


Direct care workers are specialists in caregiving. Direct care specialists' role is known as a noble cause as it takes serving other people. You will be assisting patients who have certain disabilities or illnesses with their hygiene and personal care. Hence you will need to be present by the patient's side for hours. Similarly, you will observe the patient's state while ensuring that they recover from their illness soon. As a result, you will meet with the family of the patients to discuss the condition with them.

You tend to play a critical role in serving society. Hence, you will enjoy a respectable position in society. You will need to possess interpersonal skills which work well with different kinds of people. Being compassionate and having the physical stamina to help patients is also required. Another skill required is the ability to communicate clearly and effectively. Direct care worker exhibits the ability to think quickly and act calmly in an emergency. They earn an average of $24,090 yearly.

  • Average Salary: $29,343
  • Degree: High School Diploma

Direct Care Staffer


Direct care workers give care and assistance to people that are physically disabled or old people. You will help the patient run errands when needed. Also, you will assist the elderly or physically challenged move around the house. Furthermore, you will ensure you cook for the patient and make sure they eat the special dietary considerations and take prescribed medications. You will meet with the family to discuss the needs and improvement of the patients while you serve as the companion for elders who live alone.

Direct care staffers must have great knowledge of proper first aid and emergency response procedures. They must be compassionate and have patience. Similarly, you need the ability to think quickly and act calmly in an emergency case. You need physical stamina to be able to run errands and help move patients around in the house. Another required skill is a strong listening ability. You will earn an average of $12.96 an hour or $26,954 yearly.

  • Average Salary: $30,480
  • Degree: Bachelor's Degree

States With The Most Direct Support Specialist Jobs

Mouse over a state to see the number of active direct support specialist jobs in each state. The darker areas on the map show where direct support specialists earn the highest salaries across all 50 states.

Average Salary: Job Openings:

Number Of Direct Support Specialist Jobs By State

RankStateNumber of JobsAverage Salary
2New York3,543$39,805
10New Jersey1,266$42,476
13North Carolina1,104$30,804
19South Carolina718$30,537
35New Mexico353$41,147
40New Hampshire214$39,751
41South Dakota205$41,908
42West Virginia203$36,289
44North Dakota170$35,558
45Rhode Island168$37,061

Direct Support Specialist Education

Direct Support Specialist Majors

14.4 %

Direct Support Specialist Degrees


43.8 %


23.8 %

High School Diploma

17.5 %

Top Skills For a Direct Support Specialist

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 14.7% of direct support specialists listed direct support on their resume, but soft skills such as detail oriented and integrity are important as well.

Choose From 10+ Customizable Direct Support Specialist Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Direct Support Specialist templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Direct Support Specialist resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

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Direct Support Specialist diversity

Direct Support Specialist Gender Distribution


After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among direct support specialists, 72.3% of them are women, while 27.7% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among direct support specialists is White, which makes up 59.8% of all direct support specialists.

  • The most common foreign language among direct support specialists is Spanish at 65.5%.

Online Courses For Direct Support Specialist That You May Like

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1. Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability: Circles of Care and Education


This course is about caring for and educating children (and youth) with severe to profound intellectual disability. We use the idea of 'circles' to position the child at the center of the many levels of support needed. Around the child are circles of care and education - such as the parents, family, friends, caregivers, educators, health care workers and others such as neighbors, business owners and community members. Each one has an important role to play in the life of a person with an...

2. Essentials of Palliative Care


This course starts you on your journey of integrating primary palliative care into your daily lives. You will learn what palliative care is, how to communicate with patients, show empathy, and practice difficult conversations. You will learn how to screen for distress and provide psychosocial support. You will learn about goals of care and advance care planning and how to improve your success with having these conversations with patients. Finally, you will explore important cultural...

3. Complete IT Support Specialist Course: IT Foundations


IT Support Foundations: Learn the skills equivalent to an associates in this series and qualify for an entry level job...

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Best States For a Direct Support Specialist

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a direct support specialist. The best states for people in this position are California, Hawaii, Alaska, and Washington. Direct support specialists make the most in California with an average salary of $56,455. Whereas in Hawaii and Alaska, they would average $55,392 and $52,006, respectively. While direct support specialists would only make an average of $50,089 in Washington, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Nevada

Total Direct Support Specialist Jobs: 428
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:

2. California

Total Direct Support Specialist Jobs: 5,304
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:

3. Alaska

Total Direct Support Specialist Jobs: 128
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Full List Of Best States For Direct Support Specialists

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Top Direct Support Specialist Employers

Most Common Employers For Direct Support Specialist

RankCompanyAverage SalaryHourly RateJob Openings
1Minnesota State Fair$48,705$23.4224
2Willows Way$37,321$17.9412
3Lincoln Financial Group$37,263$17.9122
4The Mosaic Company$36,444$17.5233
5United Cerebral Palsy of Georgia$34,844$16.7511
7Keystone Human Services$34,350$16.5111
8Pediatric Partners, now a member of the Sevita family$33,896$16.3011
9RHA Health Services$33,677$16.199

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