Worst Jobs for People with Autism (7 terrible jobs)

In this blog post, we list out what the worst jobs for people with autism are. We will also touch upon good job options for people on the spectrum. Additionally, we will look at what makes it challenging to choose a career and understand the reality of employment for them.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a disorder in which people face difficulties in social skills and behaviors. Autism can be diagnosed at any age, but the symptoms typically appear within two years after birth, making it a developmental disorder. 

People with ASD have difficulties with short-term memory (STM) but are better at long-term memory (LTM) than most neurotypical individuals. Therefore, responsibilities revolving around short-term memory could be challenging.

Worst Jobs for People with Autism

Following is a list of the worst jobs for people with autism, including those with high functioning autism (also known as Asperger’s syndrome). Some of these jobs typically require short-term memory or working memory and may cause high levels of stress or information overload. 

Some jobs may even require theory of mind (ability to understand mental states like beliefs, desires of oneself, and others) or executive functioning (cognitive skills needed to regulate behaviors like planning, paying attention, and emotional management).

Here are the worst jobs for people with autism:

  • Food Server
  • Air Traffic Controller
  • Receptionist
  • Social Service Agent
  • Professional Poker Player
  • Salesperson
  • Politician
  • Sex Worker

Food Server

This job requires people to take care of many customers at once. It banks on the short-term memory to keep track of orders and requests from several tables simultaneously. People with autism may find this challenging and could even cause sensory overload.

Airt Traffic Controller 

The primary downside of this job for people with ASD is information overload and stress. This job involves extended working hours, emergencies, unpredictable weather conditions, and high traffic levels. These factors make this job highly unsuitable. 

Receptionist

Being a receptionist involves incredible organization and multi-tasking skills. They have fast-paced environments, and the massive pile of paperwork can take a toll on people with autism.

Social Service Agent

This job is described to be one of the worst for people with autism. There are high levels of interaction and excessive paperwork, both of which make the job challenging.

Professional Poker Player

Poker involves deciphering other people’s emotional states and decoding the difference between what they are emoting and what they feel. It entails a great deal of attention to detail in expressions to tell if the person is bluffing or not. 

Salesperson

Sales involve high levels of interaction, engaging in small talk, and potential customers from diverse backgrounds. The salesperson must know when to be persuasive and when to withdraw, and learn to sell the product authentically. They can expect a lot of internal politics as well. These factors make this job a lousy fit.

Politician 

Politics, in general, involves being able to decode many conflicting and sometimes hidden motives. It requires high levels of emotional intelligence, theory of mind, and juggling irrational concepts and ideas. All of these requisites make this an unideal option for people on the spectrum.

Sex Worker

Unsurprisingly, being a sex worker, is an unsuitable option for people with ASD. Firstly, there is sensory overload. Additionally, lust is a state of mind, and people on the spectrum have trouble with theory of mind.

Executive functioning is required for planning (e.g., for birth control) and decision-making (e.g., is it safe to go with a particular client?). This skill is usually lacking in people with autism. Finally, central coherence is needed to see the large picture, such as who was where and when, and is often difficult for people with autism. 

What to Look for while Choosing a Career for People with Autism?

Being on the spectrum could be challenging in many ways. It is difficult for neurotypical individuals to find a promising career. Therefore, an individual with a disability like autism could experience even more problems. 

Several things could prove to be obstacles while choosing a career, including:

  • Sensory overload;
  • Inadequate development of language;
  • Need for order;
  • Inadequate social skills;
  • Difficulty expressing emotions;
  • Problem managing in large crowds or even agoraphobia (fear of open spaces); and
  • Improper mental transition into adulthood

People on the higher end of the spectrum have better social skills and more likely to find a job and grow in one. Generally, problems surround most of them, not having transitioned into adulthood properly. However, there is good news; half of all young adults across the spectrum have worked outside of the home.

Most parents of people with autism report feeling terrible when their children exit high school due to a lack of opportunities as they enter adulthood. Despite there not being many options, the few existing ones could be the gateway for people on the spectrum to succeed in their professional and, consequently, personal lives.

Some tips for people with autism:

  • Make a work portfolio to sell their work even if they have challenges selling their personality;
  • Find a job that has well-defined goals; and
  • Ensure that the boss recognizes and is considerate toward their social limitations
  • People on the more functional end of the spectrum should choose to major in an area which makes finding a job easier (e.g., computer programming, engineering, accounting)

Alternative Job Options for People with Autism

Here are some alternative job options for people with autism.

For Visual Thinkers

  • Commercial Art 
  • Animal Trainer 
  • Laboratory Technician
  • Building or Factory Maintenance 
  • A Webpage or Video Game Designer

For Non-Visual Thinkers

  • Accountant
  • Taxi Driver
  • Journalist
  • Engineer
  • Computer Programmer
  • Mathematician or Statistician

For Nonverbal People with Autism 

  • Library Clerk
  • Gardener
  • Data Entry Assistant
  • Warehouse Clerk
  • Janitor

Difficulties of Employment for People with Autism

According to Autism Speaks, more than 50% of young adults on the spectrum are unemployed in the two years upon completing high school. Nearly 50% of the 25-year-olds with ASD have never been employed in a paying job.  

People on the spectrum typically have difficulties with social skills. For them, even getting past the interview stage could be challenging. This issue shows how problematic it would be for them to manage the daily life of working corporate jobs. 

Workplaces usually lean toward hiring extroverts and strong communicators, as suggested by James Mahoney, head of Autism at Work, JPMorgan Chase. He says companies look for particular behaviors and interaction styles commonly lacking in people on the spectrum. 

However, not all hope is lost. Some of those supposedly unemployable owing to their inadequate social skills begin their companies. They are typically satisfied managing small capitals or outsourcing tasks related to raising funds to those more socially capable. 

Current Trends in Employment

Certain employers have realized the return on investment that comes with hiring people on the spectrum. The payoffs are higher than those spent on traditional training. Therefore, they have started to seek out autistic workers specifically. This pattern of recrutiment is trending in various industries, especially those involving tight labor.

For example, Mahoney also reported that when they started Autism at Work, they hired people with ASD for software quality assurance. This job entails a lot of work, has clear rules (an area for individuals with autism with black-and-white thinking excel).  

According to him, people with autism fared and were faster after six months of training than neurotypical individuals with more than five years of experience. They then expanded their horizons and hired people with ASD for jobs receiving requests from a system queue in which they performed even better. 

It is common for people with autism to have other psychological conditions like anxiety disorders or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Mahoney spoke of a candidate whose stutter got worse the more anxious they got. When the candidate expressed this, the recruiter attempted to switch to ask questions via instant messaging. 

Once the conversation moved online, their answers were accurate, concise, and indicating deep thinking. Therefore, had the recruiter not done the required modification, they would have lost an asset to the company. 

Silberman maintains that companies could hugely benefit from hiring people on the spectrum, including the ones on the more severe end of the continuum. SAP’s Autism at Work has been a success story and shows how people with severely disabling autism could do various jobs. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Conclusion

In this blog post, we learned what the worst jobs for people with autism are. We also saw good job options for people on the spectrum. Further, we understood what people with autism must look for while choosing a career and understood employment difficulties for people with autism.

Finally, we understood the current trends in employment for them. Companies need to recognize their abilities and allow them to carry forward their interests. People must not discourage them by being closed off to the idea of their working. People must try to build working environments that are conducive to even people with more profound autism.  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Worst Jobs for People with Autism

What are the ideal jobs for people with high functioning autism?

Following is a list of eight career options that people on the spectrum can consider:

Engineering 
Arts and Design
Accounting
Manufacturing
Shipping and Logistics
Research
Information Technology (IT)

What is the severest form of autism?

Level 3 is the severest form of autism among the three levels of autism (Level 1, 2, and 3) based on symptom severity regarding social skills and repetitive behaviors. Individuals with Level 3 ASD require profound or “very substantial support.” They have profound difficulties with social skills and repetitive behaviors, which get in the way of day-to-day independent functioning.

Can a person with Asperger’s syndrome be in a romantic relationship?

Yes, a person with Asperger’s syndrome can be in a romantic relationship. Although they do experience challenges in social functioning, some adults can make progress in the relationship continuum. They can experience romantic and intimate relationships and subsequently even have a lifelong partner.

Do people with autism feel the emotion of love?

Yes, people with autism do feel love and even can fall in love. It is important to note that individuals with ASD feel emotions just the way neurotypical individuals do. They experience even empathy for others, and the difficulty they have (which is often misconstrued as the absence of emotions) is identifying these emotions. 

Can people with autism live independently?

Yes, some people with autism can live independently without any help. Some may need to learn through experience or learn some specific skills before moving out. However, some individuals with autism may perenially need support and can never live on their own.   

Does Asperger’s syndrome worsen as people grow older?

Yes, Asperger’s syndrome worsens as people grow older to an extent. Older people with Asperger’s syndrome may have challenges in working memory, attention, and oral skills. Other cognitive areas are usually intact. 

In an interview, Dr. Attwood mentioned that older adults with autism do not care how their behaviors impact others. The progress and control formed in adulthood are lost, and their problems go back to the childhood level of severity. Moreover, there is a lack of research and knowledge among professionals regarding elderly autism, exacerbating this issue.

References:

https://www.emaxhealth.com/11406/34-best-and-10-worst-jobs-adults-autism

https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca/articles/choosing-the-right-job-for-people-with-autism-or-aspergers-syndrome.html

https://www.institutionalinvestor.com/article/b1gq9tqwk8z108/They-Get-Fired-All-the-Time-And-They-Have-No-Idea-Why

 

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Sara Quitlag is an Applied Psychologist, with a deep interest in psychopathology and neuropsychology and how psychology impacts and permeates every aspect of our environment. She has worked in Clinical settings (as Special Ed. Counselor, CBT Therapist) and has contributed at local Universities as a Faculty member from time to time. She has a graduate degree in English Literature and feels very connected to how literature and psychology interact. She feels accountable and passionate about making a "QUALITY" contribution to the overall global reform and well-being. She actively seeks out opportunities where she can spread awareness and make a positive difference across the globe for the welfare of our global society.