Direct Support Professional Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: June 22, 2022

A Direct Support Professional, or Direct Support Care Professional, cares for individuals experiencing developmental or intellectual disabilities or illnesses. Their main duties include helping patients complete basic housekeeping tasks, transporting patients to appointments or other social outings and keeping patients safe from potential health hazards in their surrounding environment.

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Direct Support Professional duties and responsibilities 

Direct Support Professionals work with individuals with mental or developmental disabilities by creating behavior plans, teaching self-care skills, cooking meals and doing laundry. Additional duties may include: 

  • Assisting clients with daily personal tasks, including bathing and dressing
  • Completing housekeeping tasks such as vacuuming, washing dishes and tidying
  • Helping plan client appointments and organize a schedule
  • Organizing with transportation arrangements to appointments
  • Shopping for groceries and preparing meals that meet specific client dietary needs
  • Encouraging client engagement in social networks and communities
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What does a Direct Support Professional do? 

Direct Support Professionals typically work in healthcare facilities, helping patients with disabilities complete tasks and stay safe in their environment. They usually work with the patient and their Physician to better understand their challenges, needs and health status, and perform tasks to support this condition and tend to their needs. Direct Support Professionals perform basic housekeeping duties the patient is unable to complete, like cleaning and meal preparation. 

The Direct Support Professional is also responsible for creating a safe, positive and encouraging atmosphere for the patient. They work closely with the patient to enhance their decision-making skills and encourage them to engage in more activities that will help strengthen their physical and mental health. Direct Support Professionals often teach patients how to complete certain tasks on their own to promote a more independent and satisfying lifestyle.

Direct Support Professional skills and qualifications 

Direct Support Professionals demonstrate a variety of professional skills and qualifications, which can include: 

  • Attention to detail, especially when adhering to specific protocols and rules while carefully following instructions to care for the needs of the client
  • Integrity to ensure clients feel safe and comfortable when tending to personal activities such as helping them bathe
  • Trustworthiness and dependability so clients and their families feel comfortable relying on them
  • Interpersonal skills when working with clients, including having compassion and being sensitive to their emotional needs when they are in extreme distress or pain 
  • Physical stamina when performing tasks such as lifting or turning their clients

Direct Support Professional salary expectations 

A Direct Support Professional makes an average of $12.29 per hour. Pay rate may depend on a candidate’s education, experience level or geographical location. 

Direct Support Professional education and training requirements 

While not all employers require it, a Direct Support Professional usually needs a high school diploma or equivalent. Vocational schools and community colleges also offer postsecondary non-degree award programs. A Direct Support Professional may be trained in housekeeping tasks or learn basic safety techniques, including how to respond to emergencies. If state certification is required, specific training may be needed.

Training on basic nutrition, infection control, reading and recording vital signs and personal hygiene can be completed on-the-job or via specialized programs. In addition, clients may have individualized preferences that require Direct Support Professionals to take time to become comfortable before working with them. 

Direct Support Professional experience requirements 

Direct Support Professionals who work for agencies receiving Medicaid or Medicare reimbursement must receive a minimal level of training in addition to passing a competency evaluation to become certified. Some states allow a Direct Support Professional to complete a competency exam instead of participating in training to become certified. Most employers will require Direct Support Professionals to be CPR certified. 

Additional certification requirements vary from state to state with some only requiring on-the-job training that employers usually provide. Other states require formal training available from home health care agencies, elder care programs, vocational schools and community colleges. Most states conduct background checks on all prospective Direct Support Professionals.

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Frequently asked questions about Direct Support Professionals


What makes a good Direct Support Professional?

Since Direct Support Professionals spend a large majority of their time interacting with patients, strong communication, interpersonal and listening abilities are needed to be successful in their role. They should be empathetic and dedicated to finding ways to improve the health and wellbeing of their patients. 

Direct Support Professionals must regularly take and store detailed reports on their patients’ progress to later report to their Physician, so strong organizational skills are important for an impressive candidate to have. They should also work well under pressure and calmly handle high-stress emergency situations, as patients’ health may drastically and unexpectedly change.  


Do Direct Support Professionals have different jobs in different industries?

Direct Support Professionals typically hold the same duties of caring for patients with disabilities wherever they work. Some may serve in retirement homes, working with several elderly patients to improve their physical health and complete basic house chores. 

Others travel to patients’ homes and may spend the whole day with them, taking them to and from social outings, performing basic housekeeping tasks and teaching them how to be more independent. There are also some Direct Support Professionals who work with children to help improve their physical health and teach them ways to more efficiently function in their everyday life with their disabilities. 


What's the difference between a Direct Support Professional and a Caregiver?

Caregivers primarily complete basic tasks for patients, like housekeeping and transporting them to and from outings. Direct Support Professionals not only complete these same tasks, but also teach and encourage the patient to complete these tasks independently. They also regularly educate the patient on how to adjust to a lifestyle with a disability. Direct Support Professionals typically receive additional training and experience to help them complete these additional tasks, while Caregivers have enough training to only complete basic chores and duties for patients. 


Who do Direct Support Professionals usually report to?

Direct Support Professionals typically report to the patient’s Physician. They’ll work with the Physician to establish the health status and needs of the patient. The Physician will educate the Direct Support Professional on how to properly assist and care for the patient. 

Direct Support Professionals take notes of the patients’ progress and report these results to the Physician, who may then adjust the patients’ health care and treatment plans accordingly. If the Direct Support Professional has any concerns or questions about their patients’ health, they’ll receive guidance and advice from the Physician.

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