Explore Your Options and Start Planning Now!

As you begin to understand yourself better and start taking care of all of these new responsibilities that come with adulthood, you also have to start thinking about how to develop a career. Here we’ll briefly introduce a few options and refer you to other articles on DB101 that explore them in greater detail. There is also a brief introduction to how work or school can impact disability benefits.

Higher Education

Once you’ve finished high school, education goes from being something that is required of you to being something that you have to desire and work for. There are great aspects of higher education, like the joy of learning, making new friends, and more work opportunities once you graduate.

First steps for an education plan

Set Goals

There are many options for continuing your education after high school, including community colleges, technical schools, four-year colleges and universities, and graduate schools. Think about why you want to continue going to school and that can help you figure out what type of education to do. For example, if you know what type of work you’d like to do when you finish school, that will help you figure out what type of school you should attend.

Develop a Plan

Once you know what your goal is for the future, you can learn what you need to do right now in order to make that goal become a reality. For example, if you know that you would like to become a veterinary technician, you can go to a technical school and get training. Likewise, if you know that you want to become a teacher, you’ll have to go to college. Your goals can change! Just explore your options and adjust your plan as needed.

Once you have thought about what sort of school you’d like to go to, you’ll also need to prepare yourself for the entire application process, including writing essays, doing interviews, and submitting other paperwork.

Be Prepared for Costs

Figuring out what type of education you want to get and applying isn’t all you have to plan for. You also need to think about how much different educational options cost and what strategies exist in order to help you be able to pay for school.

If you receive public benefits like SSI, one thing to keep in mind is the Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE). The SEIE allows you to make up to $1,870 monthly without having those wages counted as income when calculating any public benefits. So if you get a job and make less than $1,870 a month, you’ll still be eligible for cash assistance or even health care coverage through AHCCCS.

Read DB101’s Getting a Higher Education Article

You can read more about the SEIE and other ways to combine school and work in the DB101 Getting a Higher Education article. It discusses whether you want to get more education and what types of education to consider. If you have been accepted into a school or are already attending one, it also has information about how to pay for your education and your rights.

Work

Many people with disabilities have meaningful jobs that they enjoy and are successful at doing. You too can get a job. With the right training, preparation, and workplace accommodations, you can have a successful career that will let you earn your own money and give you independence from public benefits. A job will also help you meet new people and make new friends.

First steps for a work plan

Set Goals

As you think about getting a job, try to set a long-term goal. Your goal should be a career that will help you make money, that you can do well, and that you'll find satisfying. Most people don't start off with a job that meets all of these standards, but by having a long-term goal in mind, you can figure out what steps you need to take right now to eventually get there. There are lots of good jobs out there, the important thing to keep in mind that any job should make you enough money to support your goals and become more independent.

Develop a Plan

Before you reach your long-term goal, you will have to get training and gain experience. You will also probably have several jobs. You will need to make a plan that ensures that you get the training and experience you need to advance in your career.

Get Started!

You’ll have to start by getting a lower level job. However, even getting an entry-level job is not easy. It requires a lot of preparation and work. You need to think about what sort of job will give you the experience you need, pay you enough to cover your expenses, and that you are qualified to do. You’ll also have to figure out if (or how) it will impact your benefits.

Then, once you’ve found some jobs that interest you, you have to apply for them. You’ll need to have a resume, practice interviewing skills, and more. And, once you get a job, you have to make sure it goes well.

Read DB101's Articles about Young People and Working

As you start thinking about all of these things, read the DB101 article, Finding a Job. It includes information that can help you decide what type of work you might like, how to get training, and how to find a job. Also read the follow-up article Working. It also has information about important issues once you get a job, including how to conduct yourself at work, getting accommodations, programs that provide support, and your right to be treated equally.

Other Options

Not everybody wants to immediately get a job or continue with higher education. Volunteering and joining the armed forces are a couple of options you may wish to consider.

Volunteering

If you volunteer at an organization, it basically means that you work there, but aren't paid for your work. There are some really good reasons to volunteer: it helps you get experience, you meet new people, you do something that is beneficial for society, and you may be able to arrange a flexible schedule. There's more information about volunteering and how to find it in DB101’s Finding a Job article.

Joining the Military

Another option for young people is joining the military. For some people this is a good option — it can help you pay for your education and gives you the satisfaction of performing a public duty. However, it can be a difficult option for many people with disabilities. Some disabilities can disqualify you from serving in the Armed Forces. For other disabilities, like learning disabilities, you will not be allowed accommodations during exams. This may result in you not being placed in a position that matches your skills. If you are interested in joining the military, Military.com has a webpage, Steps to Joining the Military that will walk you through the enlistment process, including eligibility, reasons to join, and the physical examination. The more information you have, the better choices you can make!

Keep in mind that if you are male, you must register with Selective Service when you turn 18, even if you have a disability that you think would disqualify you for service.

Benefits, Work, and School: How Does It All Fit Together?

It’s important that you know what benefits you are currently getting and what they really provide. If your parents or others have managed your benefits in the past, talk with them and learn more about your benefits and how they help you.

Once you know what benefits you are getting, you can start to examine how they will change if you get a job or go to school. Depending on your situation, your benefits may decrease, or even increase. Your benefits could also change as you get older.

If you already have a lot of information about the benefits you receive and the amount of money you might make if you get a job, you can try DB101’s School and Work Estimator. This tool, designed for young people with disabilities, takes all of the information you input and produces an estimate of what benefits you will qualify for after you get a job, get older, or go to school.

DB101’s article Benefits for Young People includes clear descriptions of the most common public benefits that young people get and how they change as you get older. It explains Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a very important cash assistance program, and also explains several different types of health coverage, including Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), AHCCCS Freedom to Work, individual health coverage, and employer-sponsored health coverage. It also tells about different incentives that can help you go to school or get a job without losing these benefits.