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Career Pathways

Direct Support Professional (DSP)

DSP- PDF Download

Description of a DSP 

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) support people with intellectual or developmental disabilities who need personal care and other assistance in order to be as independent as possible. DSPs provides personal supervision and therapeutic support, helping individuals to develop and maintain the daily living skills necessary to remain oriented, healthy, and safe. They may provide community support or work support. DSPs provide assistance with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs). 

DSP Work Settings and Populations Served 

  • Works with people with intellectual or developmental disabilities or autism, brain injury, or other related conditions 
  • Can work in a residential setting, in a person’s home, or on the job or in the community with the person being served


Hiring Requirements 

The provider must conduct a background check and certain types of criminal convictions may prohibit employment as a DSP.   

A person may not work as a DSP if the Certified Nursing Assistant and Direct Care Worker Registry shows they have a substantiated finding of abuse or neglect or misappropriation of property of a client, patient, or resident. 

The provider must contact child and adult protective services units within DHHS to obtain any record of substantiated allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation against an employment applicant before hiring.  


  • Be at least 18 years old  
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent competency 
  • Complete the DHHS-approved Direct Support Professional training program 
  • Additional trainings required by some employers may include behavioral health interventions or CRMA. 
  • CPR and First Aid is required 


A person who is certified as a DSP can move into the following positions with additional training. Some career pathways include

  • MHRT-1 
  • CIPSS 
  • MHRT‐C 
  • PSS 
  • CRMA 
  • Home Health Aide 
  • CNA 
  • CNA‐M 
  • LPN 
  • Medical Assistant 
  • Nursing Degree