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Sheltered Workshop Specialist Career

How to Become a Sheltered Workshop Specialist

A sheltered workshop is an organization dedicated to employing people with disabilities. Traditionally, these environments separate people with disabilities from the rest of the workforce. This provides a stable, safe workplace where accommodations and camaraderie otherwise may not be possible.

Sheltered workshop specialists are responsible for coordinating this type of employment. Although the landscape is changing to become more inclusive, the goal will remain the same—to provide a safe work environment in which people with disabilities can feel comfortable, learn, and support themselves. If you are interested in advocating for this population and making a difference, a job as a sheltered workshop specialist may be right for you. 

Business women converse together in a staff meeting.

What Is a Sheltered Workshop Specialist?

A sheltered workshop specialist typically works with a staffing company to place people with disabilities in workplace environments. This includes a combination of assessments and continued collaboration with the person seeking employment. The corporation is generally a state-funded or nonprofit organization that develops relationships with companies that offer sheltered workshops or other disability accommodations. 

To become a sheltered workshop specialist, you must have a specialized background and prior experience. Similar jobs in the employment-advocacy sector require at least a master’s degree. If you are looking to become a specialist, coordinator, or manager, it is advised to look into a specialized path in addition to a bachelor’s degree in education. A master's degree program in education leadership may prepare you more adequately to lead this sort of advocacy.

What Does a Sheltered Workshop Specialist Do?

The day-to-day responsibilities of a sheltered workshop specialist may vary greatly. The end goal is always to make persons with disabilities feel comfortable and ready to tackle any employment goals they may have. This looks different for every unique individual. 

Some examples of sheltered workshop specialist activities include: 

  • Assessments. Identifying needs and work-related functional abilities to move forward with training and placement.
  • Plan Design. Creating individualized training plans dependent on needs and timeframe.
  • Training — educating and administering job skills lessons to persons with disabilities to prepare them adequately for entering the workforce.
  • Resource development. Compiling resources and tools necessary for individuals to thrive during their employment journey.
  • Community coordination. Setting up community access for the individuals to find employment and discuss accommodations.
  • Accommodation. Providing access to benefits information, the facets of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other developmental resources.
  • Employer communication. Identifying sheltered and supportive workshops for individuals dependent on skill sets and needs.
  • Follow-up and monitoring. Staying in constant contact with prospective, current, and past employers of individuals with disabilities to ensure proper accommodation, job development, treatment, and more.

The responsibilities of a sheltered workshop specialist are cyclical. Constant communication surrounding the needs of employers and persons with disabilities is crucial. 

What Education Does a Sheltered Workshop Specialist Need?

Prior experience working with populations with disabilities is preferable. A bachelor's degree in educational studies can also be a good foundation. To become a sheltered workshop specialist—or any other title revolving around community vocational rehabilitation—you should look into acquiring a Master of Science in Educational Leadership.

Experience working with people with disabilities is a must, and you should be passionate about advocating for this specific population. You may find opportunities volunteering at local, nonprofit organizations that focus on disability advocacy, or you may want to shadow a special education professional. A master’s degree in educational leadership will benefit you by equipping you with the tools you need to take charge in advocating for exceptional education across all demographics.

Best Degree for a Sheltered Workshop Specialist

Educational Studies – B.A.

These online, non-licensure educational studies degrees prepare...

These online, non-licensure educational studies...

These online, non-licensure educational studies degrees prepare you to make a difference in a field that interests you.

Based on your career goals and interests, you can choose an educational studies program in one of 10 content areas that meets your needs while working toward employment in school settings, corporate training, or instructional design. These programs do not lead to a teaching license.

  • Time: Completion time varies depending on the specialty track you choose.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,825 per 6-month term.

Candidates for this special education degree program often include:

  • Elementary Education
  • Elementary and Special Education
  • Mild to Moderate Special Education
  • Secondary Biology Science Education
  • Secondary Chemistry Science Education
  • Secondary Earth Science Education
  • Secondary Physics Education
  • Middle Grades Science Education
  • Secondary Mathematics Education
  • Middle Grade Mathematics Education

Students in this program will be prepared for careers including:

  • Instructional support
  • Community outreach
  • Training
  • Education staff (museums, learning centers, etc.) 
  • K-12 opportunities that do not require a teaching license

Special Education (Mild to Moderate) – B.A.

An online teaching degree and teacher certification program for...

An online teaching degree and teacher...

An online teaching degree and teacher certification program for aspiring K–12 special education teacher. Leads to your teaching license in states that offer a single teaching license in K–12 special education.

This special education bachelor's degree program will help you prepare for an exciting future helping exceptional students. If your state requires—or if you're interested in—dual licensure in both elementary education and K–12 special education, consider the B.A. Special Education (K–12) program.

  • Time: 62% of grads finish similar online teaching degree programs within 3½ years.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,825 per 6-month term.

Candidates for this special education degree program often include:

  • Aspiring special ed teachers who currently lack a teaching license.
  • Substitute teachers.
  • Career-changers.
  • School paraprofessionals.
  • Others who feel the call to teach.

This online degree program includes coursework and assessments tailor-made for future teachers who are committed to working with students who have mild to moderate learning exceptionalities. It offers deep engagement in serving special education students and leads to your K–12 special education license in states that do not require dual elementary-ed and special-ed licensure. It also includes a preclinical experience with face-to-face observation hours and a Student Teaching component hosted by an experienced teacher and directed by a clinical supervisor.

Compare B.A. Special Education (K–12)

Special Education and Elementary Education (Dual Licensure) – B.A.

An online teaching degree and teacher certification program for...

An online teaching degree and teacher...

An online teaching degree and teacher certification program for aspiring K–12 special education teachers. Leads to dual licensure—elementary education teaching license and special education teaching license.

(Specific grade levels will vary depending on licensure in your state.) If your state offers a single K–12 special education teaching license and you are interested in focusing on teaching students with mild to moderate exceptionalities, consider the B.A. Special Education (Mild to Moderate) online teaching degree. 

  • Time: 62% of grads earned this degree within 3½ years.
  • Tuition: $3,825 per 6-month term.

Candidates for this online teaching degree often include:

  • Aspiring special ed teachers who currently lack a teaching license
  • Substitute teachers
  • Career-changers
  • School paraprofessionals
  • Others who feel the call to teach

This special education teaching online degree program prepares you to teach students with mild-to-moderate disabilities, with courses in the foundations of teaching, instructional planning and presentation, assessment, and classroom management. Core elementary and special education courses focus on diversity, disciplinary literacy, elementary education methods, and special education topics such as law, assessment, and behavioral management. This program requires in-classroom observation and a term of full-time student teaching. Compare B.A. Special Education (Mild to Moderate)


Educational Leadership – M.S.

An online master's degree for current teachers looking to move...

An online master's degree for current teachers...

An online master's degree for current teachers looking to move into a school or district leadership position, like principal, vice principal, or administrator.

  • Time: 73% of grads earned this degree within 24 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,975 per 6-month term.

Coursework in this program includes:

  • Process management
  • Strategic planning
  • Performance excellence
  • Governance, finance, law, and leadership
  • Measurement, analysis, and knowledge management
  • Workforce focus
  • Other courses, including a capstone project and a series of performance tasks to take place under the leadership of a practicing state licensed school principal or assistant principal in a practicum school site (K–12). 

Put your leadership skills to good use—in the service of America's children—with this education master's degree. 

States that do not accept this program: Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, and Minnesota.

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A language therapist works in a special education classroom with a young student.

What Skills Does a Sheltered Workshop Specialist Need?

A sheltered workshop specialist needs to wear many hats to provide people with disabilities with the support they need. Additionally, these specialists must act as a liaison between their clients and organizations within the community. Some examples of crucial skills needed for this position and others like it include:

  • Leadership. To manage a highly specialized program with many moving parts and professionals involved for assessments, employment, and more.
  • Career training. To prepare individuals for any part of the workforce journey, from benefits explanation to core job skills.
  • Disability advocacy. To ensure proper accommodations and advocate for disabilities dependent on the level of functioning and severity.
  • Interpersonal and professional communication. To express the needs and concerns of persons with disabilities, serving as their voice and responding to them and other organizations in a professional, personable way.

How Much Does a Sheltered Workshop Specialist Make?


A sheltered workshop specialist's income may vary depending on a variety of factors. The job level, location, organization, background, and more can contribute to this disparity in annual salary. If you accept a position as a disability rehabilitation counselor, for example, your salary may average around $37,530 per year, or $18.50 an hour. This type of position typically requires a master’s degree at entry-level. The average salary for a training and development specialist, however, is around $62,700 per year, or $30.14 per hour. This job title describes a variety of different positions that involve training job skills across a variety of fields.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?


The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that training and development careers will increase in demand by 9% within the next 10 years. That’s 5% higher than the average career trajectory. Moreover, rehabilitation counselor positions are predicted to increase in demand by 10% over the next 10 years. Both sectors are rapidly experiencing growth due to the changing landscape of disability advocacy. There is some controversy surrounding the efficacy of sheltered workshops for communities with disabilities, and this has led to the closure of several of these workshops across the country. For example, Goodwill transitioned their sheltered workshops to integrated workforce environments in 2017.  

Where Do Sheltered Workshop Specialists Work?


Often, sheltered workshop specialists will work in conjunction with a nonprofit corporation or government entity. This may include: 

-Nonprofit and social services organizations — such as the Helen Keller National Center for DeafBlind Youths and Adults.

-Governmental disability organizations — typically federally run, such as the Pennsylvania Vocational Rehabilitation Services center. 

Whether government-funded or run by a nonprofit corporation, these entities exist to propel and rehabilitate individuals that are looking to enter or reenter the workforce. They provide resources for many of the sheltered specialist’s job responsibilities, such as disability assessment services and medical equipment. 

Interested in Becoming a Sheltered Workshop Specialist?

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