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Direct Support Professional (Certificate)

Since July 2017, 27,626 jobs were posted by companies in our region for professionals in this field. The median salary for a personal care aide is $24,732 per year. (Source: EMSI Career Coach)

Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) need people in their lives who provide them with assistance and instruction on completing tasks that most people take for granted. Professionals who provide this help and training are known as direct support professionals (DSPs).

The Direct Support Professional certificate is designed to provide a solid foundation in communication, behavior management, and critical thinking skills necessary to provide basic services in a variety of settings such as acute, long-term care, personal care, or independent living facilities. Students have the option of becoming a helping professional within a position where a degree is not required, but interpersonal skills and knowledge of human development will be a strong asset. Students may bring varied levels of understanding and experiences; therefore, an emphasis is placed on basic principles of behavior modification, basic medical terminology, ethics in the helping profession, and cultural sensitivity to encourage self-reflection as a competent helper.

This program provides the foundational information and knowledge to function confidently as an assistant in the area of direct client/patient care. It can also serve as professional development for those currently working in the field as a direct support professional. This certificate consists of stackable credits within the Social Service Assistant (A.A.S.) degree program.

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Program Objectives

  1. Demonstrate the ability to work with diverse populations within acute, long-term care, personal care, or independent living facilities.
  2. Demonstrate a working knowledge of basic behavioral analytic principles and procedures.
  3. Demonstrate a basic set of helping skills for entry level employment in the field of addictions counseling (i.e. interviewing skills, monitor/record client progress).
  4. Collaborate with other multidisciplinary helping professionals to assist in planning/coordinating treatment.
  5. Demonstrate cultural sensitivity, critical thinking, and ethical characteristics of a helping professional.

Requirements & Course Sequence

All course requirements and the recommended sequence of courses for this program can be found through the College’s Online Academic Catalog. Click here to access the catalog for details on our Direct Support Professional program.

Program Availability

Direct Support Professional is available at the following locations:

Career Coach Bar per program.


1.888.385.7325 (PEAK)
admissions@pennhighlands.edu