Learn What it Takes to Become a Direct Support Professional


As a Direct Support Professional (DSP), you’re responsible for assisting and connecting with those who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities with their everyday tasks. This may mean housekeeping, meal preparation, driving to appointments, or running errands. While the description of the duties is similar to that of a home health aide, the responsibilities and education required are different. Depending upon your patient’s condition, DSPs may also administer medication, develop and execute behavioral management plans.

Direct Support Professional Education and Training 

Before being hired by an agency, most will require a minimum of a high school education. For the most part, continuing education is not necessary, but if you hold an associate or bachelor’s degree, it can make you a more attractive candidate.  Employers will ensure you are CPR and first aid certified and will complete a training course.

In some instances, this will also require certification, which we’ll discuss below. Also, criminal background checks and health screenings will be required to work with the disabled population. Many employers value those who come with proficient computer skills. Since the position requires some driving, you’ll need a valid driver’s license, your reliable vehicle, and a good driving record.

You will receive on-the-job training, including occupational safety and behavior management. Depending upon your state of residence, you may be required to complete a direct support professional training program or be capable of passing a challenge test. For instance, California requires two training segments of 35 hours or the ability to pass a challenge test to get out of one or both of those segments. The Illinois Department of Human Resources requires a 120-hour training program. Each state has different requirements, and your employment agency will help you through the process.

Certification for Direct Support Professionals

To date, certification is not a national requirement, but candidates who are certified are more attractive. The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) has developed a three-level certification program. A Registered credential is helpful if you’re entering the profession and can begin training in different areas. Certification is earned by completing coursework and providing proof of experience. A DSP-Specialist is the highest available level once you have completed training and gone through the NADSP Registered and Certified levels of certification. The organization has found those who complete their credentialing program remain in positions longer and have provided a higher quality of support to their patients.

Do You Have the Skills to Be A Direct Support Professional?

DSPs utilize strong people skills to work with individuals who have a variety of disabilities. This often requires patience, attention to detail, and compassion, as well as strong organizational skills to maintain detailed records, medications, and activities. In the role of a DSP, you must have strong communication skills to build rapport with patients and communicate with other healthcare professionals.

Keen observation skills help you to assist your patients in achieving their health goals and behavioral development. Your role is crucial for patient care, so you must be dependable and have compassion and kindness for the people you work with. In some cases, you’re presented with behavioral challenges, so it’s important to maintain composure under pressure and approach crises with a calm demeanor that helps to diffuse the situation.

Would You Like to Take the Next Step?

Direct Support Professionals are critical to the care and well-being of those who experience intellectual or developmental disabilities. The care you provide often is the difference between someone enjoying their life or suffering through it. Contact our professional recruiters today at Capital Healthcare Solutions – we can help you determine if this is the path for you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.