A Guide to Special Needs Careers

Why work in special needs?

Working in special needs, or the developmental services sector, provides a career where individuals really do make a difference in the lives of others. Most individuals working in the sector say that they get more back from their work – in terms of satisfaction and personal reward -- than they give in terms of the support they provide to those with developmental disabilities. Through your close relationships with individuals with special needs, you directly assist with and take on shared responsibility for their activities of daily living, ongoing development, and overall well being.

What does the work involve?

Making a difference in the lives of others is achieved on a day-to-day basis in a variety of situations, and requires a high level of responsibility. Our agencies support people of all ages in work environments such as residential group homes, an independent living situation, a workplace, or a family home. The developmental disabilities you might encounter include Autism, Down Syndrome, Prader-Willi Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, or dual diagnosis (developmental disability in conjunction with mental illness). Tasks involve keeping the supported person active; teaching them or helping with a daily chore such as cooking, banking or housekeeping; administering medications; or documenting your work as a case manager.

What are the opportunities?

In the coming years there will be an increasing number of job openings in this sector. In fact, graduates of the Niagara College Educational Assistant-Special Needs Support (EA-SNS) Program have a job placement rate in their field of over 80%. Rewarding positions as support staff workers are readily available – positions such as Support Worker, Support Coordinator and Intervenor. Although remuneration varies between agencies, full-time positions generally offer entry-level salaries in the range of $30-40K per annum, along with competitive benefit packages. Opportunities are available province wide – one of the biggest benefits of working in this sector is that your job skills are transferable. Almost every municipality and region provides developmental services.

How do I get started?

Minimum qualifications are agency/employer specific, but generally you will need a two-year post secondary diploma in a related field, such as an Educational Assistant - Special Needs Support Diploma (EA-SNS) or a Social Service Worker Diploma (SSW). Alternatively, a post secondary degree in a related field such as Physical Education with a Disabilities specialization will also meet educational requirements for many agencies.

What are employers looking for?

In addition to the necessary educational requirements, employers look for candidates with the following skills and characteristics:


If working in special needs sounds like the career for you, you can find out more information by contacting the agencies listed in this book – all of which offer positions in developmental services in the Niagara Region.

General information about the sector can be found at www.oasisonline.ca, www.communitylivingontario.ca/index2.html, or by talking to professionals who work at developmental service agencies. Many of these agencies welcome students seeking a volunteer placement or completing their community service hours.

Agencies of Niagara


For more information on each agency, download the Directory (Adobe PDF).

Agencies of Brant


For more information on each agency, download the Directory (Adobe PDF).

Agencies of London