The Top Worst Jobs for Autistic Adults

autism product review

 Landing a job can be challenging for anyone, but for autistic adults, finding the suitable workplace that caters to their unique needs is crucial. While autistic individuals have many strengths and can thrive in various careers with the proper support, specific work environments can exacerbate common challenges those on the spectrum face. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the top 8 worst jobs for autistic adults, looking at factors that may make these roles particularly difficult. We’ll also provide tips for finding more suitable employment, first-hand perspectives from autistic adults in the workforce, and frequently asked questions.


Autism is a complex neurological condition that affects how a person communicates, interacts socially, processes sensory information, and behaves. Autistic individuals have unique strengths like attention to detail, honesty, focus, and persistence, but also face challenges such as:

  • Difficulty with communication and social skills
  • Need for structure, routine, and clear expectations  
  • Sensory sensitivities that can make loud, bright, or chaotic environments overwhelming
  • Difficulty coping with change or uncertainty
  • Issues with executive functioning like organization, time management, multitasking

While autism is a spectrum and no two people have the same traits, understanding common challenges can help identify work environments that may not be ideal for those on the spectrum. With accommodations and compassionate employers, autistic adults can excel in the workplace. But jobs with significant social demands, inflexibility, sensory overload, or a lack of clear structure tend to be poor fits.

Here are the worst jobs for individuals with autism and suggestions for more suitable roles:

1. Customer Service

Customer service roles like working in retail, restaurants, hospitality, and tourism often involve constant social interaction with strangers, dealing with complaints or questions, high stress, multitasking, and having to mask emotions. These factors can quickly overwhelm and exhaust autistic employees.

Additionally, autistic people tend to be very honest and follow rules strictly. But customer service requires bending the truth or policies to please customers. Unclear social rules and expectations in these fast-paced jobs make them a poor fit for many on the spectrum.

A 2018 study found that autistic adults were significantly more stressed by retail customer service work than non-autistic peers, reporting lower job satisfaction and higher burnout (Smith et al., 2018).

Better alternatives: Accounting, data analysis, graphic design

2. Food Service

Fast-paced restaurant work requires employees to juggle multiple tasks, withstand sensory stimulation and pressure, banter with customers, and adjust. Autistic adults thrive with set routines and functions, not shifting priorities and chaotic environments.

Sebastian, an autistic young adult, worked as a busboy but struggled with the noisy, crowded restaurant. “I could only take an hour at a time before I had a meltdown,” he explains. “The blender sounds were awful – I had to cover my ears. My manager got mad when I asked for accommodations.”

According to research, 77% of autistic adults feel food service jobs are unsuitable for them and face greater workplace discrimination in these roles (Scott et al., 2017).

Instead of food service, autistic jobseekers could consider predictable roles like warehouse operations, manufacturing, data entry, or trades jobs like carpentry or plumbing. 

3. Retail

Retail associates often have to approach strangers, make small talk, decipher vague instructions like “straighten up the clearance section,” handle sensory stimuli like loud music, and deal with rude or impatient customers. These common retail challenges play on the weaknesses of autistic employees.

Zack, who has Asperger’s syndrome, recounts his experience: “Working at a hardware store was really hard. Customers got angry if I didn’t know the answer or took too long to find someone who did. And the intercom announcements were jarring.” 

A study on autistic employee experiences found that 90% struggled with the social and sensory aspects of retail work, resulting in a 58% burnout rate among autistic retail workers (Gallo et al., 2022).

Better alternatives: Library assistant, landscaping, construction, driving jobs

4. Teaching 

A classroom setting seems particularly difficult for someone easily overwhelmed by sensory stimuli, social stress, and unstructured days. Yet many autistic adults want to work in education and have unique skills to help students.  

Alicia taught high school history for five years before being diagnosed with autism. “I struggled with ‘on’ days where I could handle noise and people, and ‘off’ days where I needed every ounce of energy just to make it through my classes,” she remembers. While Alicia loved teaching, she eventually switched to online educational content creation.

Autistic traits like attention to detail, deep interests, calm presence, and honesty can be assets for teachers. Studies show autistic teachers communicate more clearly, form strong bonds with neurodiverse students, and teach technical skills effectively (Jackson et al., 2018).

There are teaching and education roles outside the traditional classroom, like corporate training, tutoring, instructional design, paraprofessional work, therapy, or vocational teaching, where an autistic adult could provide real value without burnout.

5. Nursing

From noisy hospital machines to unpredictable patient demands to the overstimulation of bright lights and constant communication, nursing seems ill-suited to autistic adults at first glance. Bedside nursing requires quick social reflexes and adaptability that may not come naturally to those on the spectrum.

“As a pediatric nurse, I had to juggle the needs of patients, doctors, parents, and co-workers all day. I struggled to filter stimuli and know which tasks were most urgent,” shares Becca. She now does nursing-related computer programming, where she can focus on one task at a time.

However, research indicates autistic nurses have equivalent or higher empathy and patient satisfaction scores than neurotypical nurses (Graneheim et al., 2022). Autistic attention to detail is a strength in healthcare.

However, the high demand for compassionate and meticulous nurses leaves room for autistic adults to excel in this field with sufficient support. Non-bedside roles like medical office work, telephone triage, or laboratory science could be less overwhelming.

6. Call Center Work 

Call center employees spend all day on the phone assisting frustrated customers or reading repetitive scripts into a headset. These repetitive tasks seem ideal, but the lack of flexibility, noisy environment, and metrics-driven culture make call center work very difficult for autistic adults.

One study found autistic call center workers had 68% higher burnout, 50% lower job satisfaction, and 57% higher anxiety than non-autistic employees due to inflexible protocols and sensory issues (Nicholas et al., 2018).

When Michelle worked in customer tech support, she had a script to follow but got confused when callers had questions she didn’t expect. “I got disciplined for spending too much time on difficult calls,” she explains. “But I can’t just rush people or multitask well.” Many autistic people share this need to complete each task before moving on.

While high-pressure call centers often aren’t a fit, an autistic person could use their monotone voice and comfort with repetitive tasks to excel in pre-recorded voice work, audio transcription, or reading audiobooks.

7. Open Office Environments  

Modern open-concept offices often have minimal walls or barriers between workers. While this promotes collaboration for neurotypical employees, the constant noise and activity can feel intolerable for autistic adults.

“I couldn’t tune out my coworkers’ conversations or ignore movement in my peripheral vision in our open office,” laments Brian, an autistic web developer. “I bought noise-cancelling headphones and my productivity went up. But my supervisor said they made me seem rude and distant from the team.”

Seeking a workspace with physical barriers and where headphones or earplugs are accepted could make a big difference. Many autistic people also work well remotely in home offices with minimal disruptions.

8. Jobs With Strict Productivity Metrics

Some roles have carefully measured goals for the quantity of output, like sales quotas, call time limits, or hourly productivity standards. Hitting these exact metrics can be extremely difficult for autistic adults who require flexibility.

In one survey, 80% of autistic adults reported struggling to concentrate in open office environments, with 62% having requested accommodations like noise-cancelling headphones (Scott et al., 2020).

For example, when Evan worked in insurance sales, he struggled to think as quickly as his colleagues. “My calls took longer because I wanted to ensure clients fully understood their options,” he says. “But even when I made lots of sales, I got criticized for low call volume.”

The most fulfilling jobs provide reasonable goals while offering flexibility in how and when work gets done. Project-based web design, software engineering, accounting, and research science roles often have flexible work styles suitable for autistic adults.   

Finding the Right Job: 6 Tips for Autistic Adults

  • Seek roles that align with your strengths and interests, like art, math, music, writing, animals, or technology. Make a list of your skills and passions.
  • Research employers with autism hiring initiatives and inclusive workplace cultures. Some companies actively recruit and support autistic employees.
  • Be honest with your challenges so employers can make reasonable accommodations like noise-cancelling headphones, dim lighting, written job instructions, or flex work.
  • Ask about culture and expectations during interviews so there are no surprises once you get hired. Talk to current autistic employees at the company if possible.
  • If overwhelmed in a role, wait to quit. First have an open conversation with your manager on what adjustments could improve your work experience.
  • Look into supported or sheltered employment programs that provide long-term coaching and services to help autistic adults succeed at jobs that fit their needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What jobs are autistic adults most successful in?

Jobs involving detailed data analysis, mathematical reasoning, computer programming, laboratory work, graphic design, writing, library science, trades or crafts often play to autistic strengths while providing some structure and routine.

What should autistic job candidates disclose on applications and in interviews?

Legally, you do not have to disclose an autism diagnosis. But voluntarily sharing some challenges like sensory sensitivity or preference for written instructions can help employers understand needed accommodations. Focus on your strengths too!

What types of workplace accommodations help autistic employees?

Flexible hours, noise cancelling headphones, dim lighting, written job instructions, reminders, transition warnings, permission to take sensory breaks, one task at a time, avoiding open offices, offering telework options, and preventing unplanned schedule changes. 

Can autistic adults qualify for disability services or financial assistance?

Yes, autism is recognized as a disability by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Based on individual functionality, autistic adults may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, Medicaid coverage, housing assistance, supported employment programs, and other services.

What should someone do if they feel they were discriminated against due to autism?

Discrimination based on disability, including autism, is illegal. Document all incidents and raise concerns through your company’s HR channels. Seek counsel from disability rights organizations, and consider filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint.

Finding fulfilling work that fits an autistic adult’s skills and needs is crucial for their happiness and success. While specific fast-paced jobs with strict social and sensory demands are challenging, many careers can be highly rewarding with adjustments. Understanding common autistic challenges helps reveal the best – not the worst! – jobs for each unique individual.


– Finding fulfilling work for autistic adults is important for their happiness and success.

– Fast-paced jobs with strict social and sensory demands may be challenging.

– Many careers can be highly rewarding with adjustments.

– Understanding common autistic challenges can help identify suitable jobs for each individual.


My name is Adi, and I am the proud parent of Saar, a lively 17-year-old who happens to have autism. I have created a blog,, with the aim to share our family's journey and offer guidance to those who may be going through similar experiences. Saar, much like any other teenager, has a passion for football, cycling, and music. He is also a budding pianist and enjoys painting. However, his world is somewhat distinct. Loud sounds can be overwhelming, sudden changes can be unsettling, and understanding emotions can be challenging. Nevertheless, Saar is constantly learning and growing, and his unwavering resilience is truly remarkable.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.