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The Mentra Publication

Top 10 Careers for Autistic Individuals

Oftentimes, autistic people are seen as a liability by our society. With an 85% unemployment rate, we are perceived as a minority that needs to be "fixed" in order to fit into the larger community. But, with the right accommodations and support, autistic people have unique gifts that can sometimes even allow us to outcompete neurotypicals in many different types of roles. Given the right role and environment, neurodivergents are an untapped talent group in today's economy. If you or a loved one is struggling to launch a career as an autistic individual, here are ten roles to consider where your autistic traits might not need  to be "masked", but rather recognized and utilized as a splendid asset.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing roles involve creating commodities by hand or machine that a business then sells to customers. Oftentimes, this involves repetition, as tools or assembly lines have strict procedures to be used repeatedly to create the product. The atmosphere in a manufacturing company is usually quite strict, as the execution of the company is frequently governed by a "manufacturing schedule".

 
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This schedule dictates what activities are to be performed in what time frame by the workers. Additionally, working in manufacturing requires strong attention to detail, as the machines, product, and materials have to be accounted for and assured for quality. Being overly social can distract from the task at hand. Many neurotypical people would find such an environment stressful, but many autistic individuals thrive in manufacturing. Autistic people tend to love clearly defined rules and dislike ambiguity, something that a manufacturing schedule can easily provide. Attention to detail and the need for alone time is also found in many autistic people, as is a visual acuity that lends itself perfectly to a career of creating goods for consumers. Many autistic people make proud and loyal employees, and are eager to help people in such a tangible way. Manufacturing is a perfect fit for many autistic people!

Researcher or Research Scientist

Researchers and research scientists can be found in many industries, where they help gather information, write, and come up with new theories. Oftentimes, they need to become highly specialized, as they are to become the "go to" experts in a topic by their company or entity. For example, a microbiology researcher might be expected to know everything there is to know about bacteria to help fight an infection, while a market or UX researcher is highly valuable if they become experts on psychology and the needs of their company. This career also takes strong writing skills to document findings, and the creativity to find connections and offer new ideas based on findings.

 
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Many autistic people discover they have a love of research from a very young age. One of the symptoms of autism is "restrictive and repetitive interests", so while neurotypical people might find a wide variety of things "pretty interesting", autistic people often have only a few things that they instead find insanely interesting.

With a love of information, many autistics find themselves "accidentally" researching and retaining information on their topic for hours on end. Obviously, this is exactly what a researcher does! An autistic researcher gives a gift to society by fully engrossing themselves in a topic, which many neurotypical people simply cannot do. With divergent and creative minds, many autistics can connect this information and make breakthroughs that others can't. Many autistics also love to share what they learn through writing or speaking. The famous researchers Alfred Kinsey, Barbara McClintock, and Isaac Newton have displayed marked signs of autism.

Agriculture or Animal Care

 
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Agriculture and animal care refers to when animals or plants are raised and bred, often in order to sell them or what they produce. Examples include crop farming, fish farming, or animal breeding. It also involves taking care of other farms as a worker, or taking care of other people's pets as a pet sitter. These jobs require an affinity and connection to nature, physical fitness, and a strong knowledge base.

The connection many autistic people feel towards nature and animals is so profound that many autistic therapies revolve around this special love affair, such as equine therapy. In fact, most modern livestock-handling facilities are based on the designs of Dr. Temple Grandin, an autistic self-advocate. She claims that, "Verbal language is not required for communication with animals. Many nonverbal children with autism really understand animals. Parents have told me that their nonverbal child has an almost telepathic ability to communicate with their dog."

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One group of anthropologists decided to study autism in different cultures. They found an amazing Siberian autistic who memorized all the names, eating habits, and preferences of his thousands of reindeer, and was well respected by this social group. Neurodivergents in our society will probably grant similar devotion to whatever crop, animal, or terrain they choose to work with. Thus, many autistic people will easily find a home in agriculture and animal care.

Accountant or Financial Advisor 

Accountants and financial analysts keep records and crunch numbers on the business transactions of a company or individual in any given year to help them make wise decisions. They usually conduct research on spending options and law to keep themselves and their clients informed. They have to be very organized, as losing information or documents can be detrimental to the companies they serve. Lastly, accountants and financial analysts need to be interested in communication, as they are expected to share their insights with their employer or other stakeholders.

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With the detail-oriented mind of autistic people, this is often a perfect fit. In other industries, being overly literal might be seen as a liability, but to an accountant or financial analyst, it's critical, as they are dealing with black and white information to make sure their company is on the correct financial track. Many of us love organizing things, as it can be a form of stimming, which is repetitive action to relieve anxiety. Additionally, autistic people tend to love becoming experts on a topic and sharing that information with others, making many autistic people a natural fit for accounting or financial advisoring, while many neurotypical people wouldn't be able to succeed.

Retail

 

Retail is the sale of items to the public for their use or consumption. It includes everything from CVS to JCPenny.  Retail often involves helping customers find and get what they need, manning the cash register, taking inventory, and stocking items. Although perhaps it wouldn't appear so at first blush, many autistics thrive in retail, and retail giants, such as Walgreens, go out of their way to hire neurodivergent individuals.

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Often stims, or repetitive behaviors we perform to soothe ourselves, are conducted by autistic individuals. Believe it or not, many of these stims are actually activities that retail workers are expected to do! For example, counting (taking inventory) is a common stim, as is putting different items on top of one another (stocking shelves). A manager wouldn't have to ask for a job to be done more accurately or neatly, as many autistics naturally find it relaxing to stock or count with utmost precision.

The same thing goes for the cash register, where many of us love touching buttons or performing calculations. Lastly, with our love of gathering and providing information, many autistics are eager to help a customer find exactly what they're looking for.

Information Technology

 
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Information technology is a computer-oriented profession that includes creating a company's communications networks, ensuring data and information security, creating and maintaining databases, and helping a company's employees troubleshoot their computers.

As computers are highly literal and detail-oriented, this naturally fits the mind of neurodivergents, often better than neurotypicals.

This job requires strong persistence to figure out why something isn't working, which our “repetitive interests” give us in abundance. It requires the willingness to specialize and gain a strong knowledge base, both in general about IT and specific to the company we are working for. Not only do autistics frequently love research, but they make more loyal employees on average, meaning having an autistic IT worker onboard means that there is always a "go to" expert for the entire team.

Mathematician or Engineer

Mathematicians and engineers use math and background knowledge to solve problems, whether that's a new proof or formula, or a new bridge to overcome. This requires pattern recognition, attention to detail when solving mathematical problems, visual acuity, and an interest in logic. Studies show that ALL of these traits are found in autistics more frequently than average!

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In fact, the reverse is also accurate. Psychologists created a test called the autistic quotient (AQ) test to help identify people on the spectrum. Not only was the questionnaire a success in helping psychiatrists, but the researchers also discovered that workers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) tend to have a higher AQ score on average, regardless of whether or not they meet full criteria for a diagnosis.

Visual Artists

 

Visual artists include everything from illustrators to sculptors, to cartoonists, to car designers. It takes strong creativity and visual acuity. Many famous artists are or were autistic, such as Andy Warhol, Mikaela Sheldt, and Anna Berry.

 
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Many autistic people have comorbidities, such as ADHD and dyslexia, related to poor working memory. In fact, 50-75% of autistic people have ADHD, where poor working memory is a chief symptom. Working memory is the ability to remember and work with new information given all at once, such as the ability to quickly remember a spoken set of numbers.

Although, for a long time, many psychologists thought this was only an example of pathology, they're now discovering that people with poor working memory are more creative on average.


Maybe this is the secret as to why genius artists are often neurodivergent, including those who have historically been considered “artistic savants”.

Skilled Trades

 

Trades are careers that need specialized skills and knowledge acquired through experience and vocational schools. Usually, they require the ability to work with your hands. They include jobs like plumbing, welding, culinary arts, and many more.

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Many autistic people absolutely adore understanding and working with systems, due to their love of logic, information, and pattern recognition abilities. This makes the trades a perfect option for us. Additionally, the opportunity to specialize and become experts in a specific topic entices many of us, while the ability to work with our hands on a familiar task is something that we enjoy that neurotypicals don't always understand.

Teacher

Many people think that autistic people are less sensitive than average, but the opposite is actually the case. Our emotions are so strong, in fact, we have trouble expressing them to others. Who else often struggles with knowing how to express their strong and confusing emotions? 

 

Children!

 
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Teaching is the perfect career for many autistic people. With a love of learning and sharing this passion of information with others, teaching is a natural outlet, where autistics can give a real gift to society. Also, many autistic people often are better at understanding people who are different. It goes the other way; many autistics feel they understand children, including their interests, better than other adults can.

Finding Fulfilling Work as an Autistic Job Seeker

 

From being a teacher to a manufacturer, there is a career waiting for you specific to you, your interests, and your unique skill sets. Once you decide what that career looks like for you, all you have to do is find that job.

Unfortunately, as you might already be aware, finding that job might not be that easy. Half the battle in becoming a star employee is finding an inclusive employer that understands how to provide the proper accommodations to value your skills properly. You might be in the right field, but without the proper support, your skills may once again be underutilized. Luckily, Mentra has a solution to make that easier.

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To find fulfilling work as an autistic job seeker, you can use Mentra’s digital platform to match with a variety of industries; all you have to do is apply to Mentra, fill out a digital application showcasing who you are, what you love to do, and what you’re looking for! The tool is harkened to a reverse job fair, where inclusive employers find you! Mentra understands the needs of the neurodivergent community to help you portray who you truly are to a host of employers ranging across all fields and disciplines from technology to psychology. The Mentra tool is live and ready to help you launch your career!

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About the Author

Mikaela Marinis is a “quirky” #actuallyautistic professional writer for the technology industry, with backgrounds in neuroscience and computer science. She’s always loved to learn, from world religions to animals, and to share what she learns with others. Mikaela frequently volunteers to help neurodiverse people in their work life, as she is neurodiverse herself and hopes to use her successes and failures to help others. 

 Autistic individuals who have excelled in their careers:

  • Alfred Kinsey (famous biologist and sexologist, including early LGBT advocate) 

  • Barbara McClintock (Nobel prize winning biologist and botanist) 

  • Isaac Newton (famous physicist and mathematician) 

  • Andy Warhol (famous popular/graphic artist)

  • Mikaela Sheldt (famous modern facial artist) 

  • Anna Berry (famous modern photographer) 

 

Most common skills that autistic individuals have:

  • Special interests 

  • Memory for information

  • Persistence

  • Loyalty

  • Love of logic

  • Literal thinking 

  • Visual acuity 

  • Connecting with animals and children

  • Pattern-recognition 

  • Attention to detail

  • Working with one’s hands

  • Creativity and/or savantism 

  • Systems thinking

  • Rule/structure orientation

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If you're looking for a group of professionals that can help you along the journey, you can join Mentra's neurodiversity employment network.

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