Those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have many challenges when it comes to working in many traditional office settings. Among other challenges, those who suffer with OCD may have challenges meeting certain expectations at work, dealing with coworkers or working in certain environments. With this in mind, it's important to consider OCD suffers' unique needs when choosing careers that capitalize on their strengths while minimizing their exposure to triggers.
What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that affects roughly 1-2% of the population. It is characterized by uncontrollable, unwanted thoughts and repetitive, ritualized behaviors that a person feels compelled to perform. Many — though not all — OCD sufferers realize how irrational their thoughts and beliefs are, but are powerless to stop them.
Most people with OCD fall into one of a few major categories:
Washers: fear contamination and consequently have hand-washing or cleaning compulsions
Checkers: constantly check things like doors are locked to avoid harm or danger
Doubters and sinners: fear that something terrible will happen unless everything is done perfectly
Counters and arrangers: may have superstitions around certain numbers, arrangements or colors
Hoarders: compulsively keep things they don't need out of the fear that something terrible will happen if they throw something away
Why is it challenging to work with OCD?
OCD can give rise to a number of challenges that make it difficult to hold down a full-time job. Among these challenges are tardiness due to having to complete time-consuming rituals when leaving the house; difficulties traveling on public transportation due to intrusive thoughts about harm or contamination fears related to sitting on public seats; difficulty being around other people; and difficulty sharing a workplace, among other challenges.
OCD can also create misunderstandings between coworkers, employees and supervisors. When a person with OCD needs to check and recheck their files before entering a meeting, they may be incorrectly viewed and disorganized or late. Similarly, when a person with OCD feels compelled to recheck their work, their progress on tasks may be impeded, giving the (again incorrect) impression that they're putting work off or unmotivated.
In many cases, there are reasonable workplace accommodations that can be made to accommodate OCD-related challenges. Flexible working hours, working from home, allowing an employee with OCD to have their own designated desk and allowing time off for therapy are all reasonable accommodations for most employers.
What types of jobs are well-suited to people with OCD?
Certain career options may create better environments for those with OCD than others. Generally speaking, the best career choices for those with OCD will capitalize on their attention to detail and ability to work away from the public without feeling lonely. Good career choices for OCD sufferers may also have clear expectations and rules that must be followed and provide repetition and double-checking. To be a good job for an OCD sufferer, a job must also not make employees come into contact with anything that might be considered a contaminant and can't involve peril or otherwise distressing situations.
With this in mind, joining the military, working in a manufacturing setting with definitive steps that must be followed in the production process or working as as a computer programmer who doesn't have to interact with customers are all great jobs for OCD sufferers. For more career options for OCD sufferers, read on.
What are the best jobs for people with OCD?
2018 Median Pay: $105,590 per year or $50.77 per hour
Software programmers create, develop, apply and test codes to establish web, mobile and computer applications and programs. Their jobs are independent, systematic, attention-oriented and highly contingent upon perfection. Because of these characteristics, software programming jobs are great fits for OCD sufferers.
2. Quality control inspector
2018 Median Pay: $38,250 per year or $18.39 per hour
QC inspectors examine products and materials after they’re manufactured to check for defects or other manufacturing imperfections. Because they are highly detail-oriented and fairly repetitive, QC jobs are well-suited for those with OCD.
3. Medical coder
2018 Median Pay: $40,350 per year or $19.40 per hour
Medical records and health information technicians manage health information data to maintain accurate, complete and accessible medical records. Their work is used for insurance reimbursement purposes, included in databases and registries and to used to maintain patients’ medical and treatment histories. The detail-oriented, repetitive nature of this work — along with the fact that it can be done from home — makes it a good fit for those with OCD.
4. Virtual IT tech / computer support specialist
2018 Median Pay: $53,470 per year or $25.70 per hour
Computer support specialists provide help and advice to computer users and organizations. The nature of their work is often solitary, and their work schedules tend to be fairly flexible. If working virtually, these types of jobs can be completed from the employee's home, making them a good choice for OCD suffers for whom leaving the house is a challenge.
5. Web developer
2018 Median Pay: $69,430 per year or $33.38 per hour
Web developers help design, code and modify websites according to specifications. Their ultimate goal is to create visually-appealing sites with user-friendly design and clear navigation. This work demands a high level of attention to detail, especially when clients have very specific requests — and is therefore good for detail-oriented OCD sufferers.
6. Social media consultant
2018 Median Pay: $56,770
Social media consultants help companies develop online media campaigns using video, blogs, forums and other applicable digital media on social networking sites to sell a product or service. Their work often involves juggling multiple projects at the same time, which is a good role for someone with OCD who will take the time to double-check that everything is on track with multiple campaigns at the same time.
7. Online course instructor
Salary range: $1,500-$2,500 per semester-long course
If an OCD sufferer has an area of expertise in which they can teach courses, being an online course instructor is potentially a fantastic career fit. Online course instructors can teach any one of a number of subjects, depending on their expertise and online course providers' needs, and are able to work entirely from home.
8. Survey taker
Average salary: $16,000 or $8.00 per hour
This is fairly self-explanatory: survey takers take online surveys to help companies collect information about customers. While these jobs don't necessarily pay much, they're a good choice for OCD sufferers for whom leaving the house isn't possible.
9. Police officer or corrections officer
2018 Median Salary (Police Officer): $63,380 per year or $30.47 per hour
2018 Median Salary (Corrections Officer): $44,400 per year or $21.35 per hour
The strict schedule in either of these careers, along with the need to adhere to strict rules and guidelines, work well for people with OCD.
May 2017 Median Hourly Wage: $10.99
Since OCD sufferers are often perfectionist about cleaning and like to get rid of germs, jobs that require cleanliness and order offer an opportunity to express this need and get paid for doing so. Thus, housekeeping is perfect for those whose OCD manifests in cleanliness.
2018 Median Pay: $34,000 per year or $16.35 per hour
Detail-oriented, perfectionist tendencies help people get ahead as photographers; thus, OCD personalities may find that photography is a great career that rewards their particular strengths. Since many photographers work alone, this is also a good career choice for those who OCD manifests in social anxiety.
Since the military requires adherence to strict guidelines and rules, a military career could be a good fit for those with OCD tendencies (excepting, of course, military careers involving being in mortal danger, which are likely poor fits for those with OCD tendencies, whose anxieties would likely be exacerbated by dangerous situations).
13. Accountant or bookkeeper
2018 Median Pay (Accountants): $70,500 per year or $33.89 per hour
2018 Median Pay (Bookkeepers): $40,240 per year or $19.35 per hour
These jobs involve producing financial records for organizations by recording financial transactions, updating statements and checking financial records for accuracy. The detail-oriented nature of these jobs makes them great for attentive OCD personalities.
14. Editor, writer or proofreader
2018 Median Pay (Editors): $59,480 per year or $26.60 per hour
2018 Median Pay (Writers): $62,170 per year or $29.89 per hour
2018 Median Pay (Proofreaders): $37,550 per year or $18.05 per hour
Word-savvy OCD personalities may find that writing, editing or proofreading are good career choices for them. Many jobs in these fields offer flexible hours, remote work options and reasonable ability to accommodate employees' needs. Additionally, the nature of the world rewards attention to detail and the ability to self-correct — which are generally strengths of OCD personalities.
15. Travel agent
2018 Median Pay: $38,700 per year or $18.61 per hour
Given all the moving parts — travel, accommodations and activities — involved in planning vacations, travel agents must be attentive to detail and able to keep track of the minutiae. This is the type of work that someone tend OCD tendencies would shine in. Since many travel agent jobs are work-from-home, this career is also a good choice for OCD personalities for whom getting out of the house may be a challenge.