Employment After Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

After an SCI, you may wonder if you’ll be able to find a job or work again. In fact, people with spinal cord injuries can and do return to work. You may be able to keep the job you had before. Or you may need to consider other options. This includes changing fields, getting more education or job training, or learning new skills. No matter what your situation is, there are options for you. Read on to learn more.

Man in wheelchair at desk with co worker.

Consider your options

When thinking about your job options, consider doing the following:

  • If you currently have a job, meet with your employer

    • Are there minor changes that can help you return to work?

    • Are there other positions in your company that are a good match for your skills and experience?

  • Reevaluate your strengths

    • Previous work experience

    • Education

    • Skills and abilities

  • Research education and training opportunities

    • College

    • Trade school

  • Look at alternatives

    • Changing careers

    • Volunteer work

  • Get support

    • Vocational rehabilitation counselor

    • Employment counselor

    • Peer counselor

    • Friends and family

    • Religious, social or community groups

Use vocational rehabilitation programs

Vocational rehabilitation programs are designed to help people with SCI or other disabilities find work. A trained counselor can:

  • Assess your skills, interests, and pabilities

  • Help you set realistic job goals

  • Help you with job training, education, job placement, and changes at your workplace

Ask your healthcare team to help you learn more about the services in your area. Or, contact local or state services. Look online or in a phone book to find a program near you.

Other ways to find work

You can also try other ways to find a job. These include:

  • Telling family and friends that you’re looking for a job

  • Looking at job listings in the newspaper or on the Internet

  • Getting help through local job agencies

  • Using resources at your public library

Disability benefits

If you can’t work, you may qualify for disability benefits. Even if you start working, you may be eligible for some benefits. Assistance from other federal or state programs may also be options. Ask your healthcare team to tell you more about this.

Know your rights: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA is a law that helps protect your job rights. It makes it illegal for an employer to deny you a job based on your disability. It also allows you to ask for reasonable changes to be made in your workplace to support you in doing your job. To learn more about the ADA, visit the website www.ada.gov.


Visit these websites to learn more about finding a job after SCI:

  • VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program  www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab

  • Benefits for People with Disabilities, Social Security Administration  www.ssa.gov/disability

  • Alternatives Unlimited  alternativesnet.org

For more general information about SCI, go to:

  • United Spinal Association  www.spinalcord.org

  • Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation  www.christopherreeve.org

  • Paralyzed Veterans of America  www.pva.org