“It's Not Just About a Paycheck”: Perspectives on Employment Preparation of Students With Intellectual Disability in Federally Funded Higher Education Programs

Document Type


Publication Date

July 2020


Students with intellectual disability (ID) are increasingly attending postsecondary education institutions and acquiring work experiences while completing their studies. One of the main motivations for students with ID to seek higher education is to broaden and increase their chance for finding fulfilling, paid employment in their communities. Findings from a qualitative study on staff perspectives regarding career development and employment supports and services provided to students attending Transition and Postsecondary Education Programs for Students With Intellectual Disability (TPSID) model demonstration programs in the United States are presented. Results reflect consensus across program staff regarding the goals and expectations for employment of TPSID students. Programs vary considerably in their institutional context, their partnership with other entities, and the structure of employment services, as well as the emphasis placed on paid versus unpaid employment. Some of the key strategies shared by staff regarding successful student employment practices involved outreach and engagement, visibility on campus, improving access to career services, and cultivating partnerships. As higher education continues to expand its offerings to students with ID, postsecondary education programs need to continue to emphasize and honor the importance of paid employment, and continue to seek the best methods to achieve this outcome for students with ID.