8 Worst Jobs for Autistic Adults
Updated: Nov 7
By Patty Laushman
If you have autism, finding a job can be difficult. Just the interview process can be a hurdle that is not designed to enable autistic adults to demonstrate their strengths.
Then when you get the job, the company’s culture, work environment, or your direct supervisor may not accommodate what you need to be successful.
And while there are some job types that are better suited for autistic adults than others, unfortunately, few workplaces are truly "autism-friendly."
So, what are the worst jobs for autistic adults? Here are a few of them - and a few tips on what sorts of jobs to look for instead.
What Are Some Red Flags That a Job Might Not Be Right For You?
When you're looking for a job as an autistic adult, it's important to be aware of some of the red flags that might indicate a job isn't right for you. There are a lot of opportunities out there, but not all of them will be a good fit. Here are a few red flags to watch out for.
1. The Job Description Has a LOT Going On
If a job description seems overwhelming, it's likely that the job itself will be poorly defined and chaotic. Make sure you read the job description carefully and make sure to clarify anything you don’t understand related to duties and responsibilities before accepting the job.
2. The Job Requires Excellent Communication Skills - and You Feel Uncomfortable or Anxious in Social Situations
If a job requires excellent communication skills and you feel uncomfortable or anxious in social situations, it's probably not the right job for you. It's important to remember that there are many different types of jobs and not all of them require excellent communication skills. There are plenty of jobs that are more solitary in nature or that involve minimal contact with other people.
Do some research and explore different job options to find one that's a better fit for you.
3. The Job Requires a Lot of Flexibility and You Prefer Consistency and Structure
If the job requires a lot of flexibility and you prefer consistency and structure, it's probably not the right job for you. It's important to remember that there are many different types of jobs and not all of them require flexibility. There are plenty of jobs that are more structured in nature or that involve minimal change from day to day.
When researching a potential employer, pay attention to whether they seem inclusive and supportive of employees with disabilities. If you can't find any information about their policies on accommodations or inclusion, you can ask before or during the interview process if they are open to accommodating your needs.
Many autistic adults worry that asking about this hurts their chances of getting the job. What I tell clients to consider before making this decision about whether to disclose their need for accommodations is how much they want to work for a company that is turned off by this.
5. You Feel Isolated or Misunderstood at Work
If you feel isolated or misunderstood at work, it's probably not the right job for you. It's important to remember that there are many different types of jobs and not all of them will make you feel isolated or misunderstood. Do some research and explore different job options to find one that's a better fit for you.
8 Worst Jobs for Autistic Adults
While there is no such thing as a perfect job, there are some jobs that tend to be better - or worse - fits for people with autism. I will qualify this by saying that there are autistic adults working successfully in each of these roles, and these are just generalities. Here are the jobs that tend to fall into the “worst” category.
1. Sales Associate
Sales associate positions are often very high-pressure with bosses and customers alike expecting employees to meet unrealistic quotas.
For an autistic adult, this type of work environment can be overwhelming and intolerable. What's more, many sales jobs require significant amounts of social interaction, which can be very difficult for autistic adults who prefer quieter, less social endeavors.
Receptionist jobs can also be quite challenging for autistic adults. These positions usually involve working in close proximity to other people, which can be overstimulating for those on the autism spectrum. Additionally, receptionists are often expected to juggle multiple tasks at once, which can be difficult for anyone but is often especially challenging for those with autism.
3. Classroom Teacher
Classroom teaching is a demanding profession that requires the ability to handle a wide range of personalities and situations.
Unfortunately, due to the intensity of social interaction required, teaching is often not a good fit for autistic adults. In addition, the traditional classroom setting can often be sensorily overwhelming for those on the autism spectrum.
4. Customer Service Representative
Customer service representatives must deal with angry or dissatisfied customers on a daily basis—something that can be extremely stressful for someone with autism.
What's more, many customer service jobs require employees to work in close proximity to others, which can quickly become overstimulating for those on the autism spectrum.
Additionally, many customer service jobs involve shift work, which can be disruptive for anyone but is especially challenging for those with autism who prefer a set daily routine.
5. Food Server
Working as a food server can be particularly stressful for autistic adults. Autism spectrum disorder can make it difficult to pick up on social cues, which can make it hard to gauge what customers want.
Additionally, having to constantly interact with customers can be exhausting for people with autism.
6. Military Service
Military service is another job that can be difficult for autistic adults if they have trouble socializing and working within groups. Additionally, the military requires individuals to complete tasks that may be challenging from a sensory perspective such as going into combat zones.
The military is starting to recognize, however, that some people on the spectrum are highly skilled at tasks that are critical, such as operating technology and reading satellite images and noticing differences.
7. Healthcare Worker
Healthcare workers must often deal with patients who are in pain or who are experiencing other difficult emotions. This can be tough for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for people with autism who may have difficulty decoding emotions or communicating emotions, especially when flooded with their own empathetic feelings.
Politicians must frequently interact with the public, give speeches, and handle complex negotiations. This can be extremely difficult for people with autism who often have trouble communicating and find socializing exhausting.
In addition, many politicians are required to travel frequently, which can also be tough for people on the autism spectrum who often prefer routines, schedules, and food choices that are predictable and familiar.
How to Find a Great Job as an Autistic Adult
For autistic adults, finding the right employer and direct supervisor is as important as finding the right type of work. Many companies are not familiar with autism and don't know how to accommodate employees in a way that lets their strengths shine.
Because autism can make social interactions difficult, the interview process itself can be daunting, but there are steps you can take to increase your chances of finding employment that is both meaningful and fulfilling.
Here's what you need to know.
The first step is to understand your own strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what you're good at and where you need accommodations can help you identify the types of jobs that might be a good fit for you.
Once you have a general idea of the kinds of jobs you're interested in, it's time to start your search. The best place to look is on websites that focus on jobs for people with disabilities. These websites post job openings from a variety of employers who have committed to being inclusive of workers with all types of disabilities.
Applying for Jobs
When you find a job listing that interests you, the next step is to submit an application. When completing your application, be sure to highlight any skills or experience you have that are relevant to the position.
If you need accommodations to complete the application, you can ask for this.
Interviewing for Jobs
The interview process can be one of the most challenging parts of the job search process for autistic adults. But there are ways to prepare so that you can make a great impression and land the job you want.
First, practice answering common interview questions out loud so that you're comfortable with what you'll say when the time comes. It's also a good idea to role-play different types of interviews with a friend or family member so that you're prepared for anything that might come up.
You can even video-record yourself answering questions to see how you present yourself. Make sure to watch your body language and listen to the tone of your voice to make sure you are presenting confidence.
Finally, don't forget to follow up after your interview by sending a thank-you note or email to show your interest in the position.
The most important thing to remember when looking for a job is that there are no jobs that are truly “off the table” for people with autism.
While one autistic adult may find success in one type of role, another might thrive in a completely different setting. Therefore, it’s important to consider your own unique strengths, weaknesses, and preferences as you’re planning for an exciting, lucrative, and rewarding career.
While finding employment can be difficult for anyone, it's important to remember that there are resources and organizations out there that can help. If you're struggling to find work, don't give up hope—there's help available. Your state’s vocational rehabilitation office has many resources that can help.
Finding a job as an autistic adult doesn't have to be difficult if you know where to look and what steps to take throughout the process. By focusing on job sites that cater specifically to people with disabilities, highlighting your relevant skills and experience on your applications, and preparing for interviews in advance, you can increase your chances of finding employment that meets your needs and helps you thrive.
Now read up on the 10 Best Jobs for People With Autism!