Frontline Initiative Credentialing

Elements of Professional Portfolios


Kathy Pitrat is the Director of Workforce Development and Support Strategies at The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region.

Artists. Designers. Architects… What do these professions have in common with Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) in community human services? Portfolios! Professionals such as artists and architects have long used portfolios to show their best work to others. For example, before hiring an architect to design your house, you would want to see some of the homes she has designed. And of course she will show you the homes of which she is most proud. You will get a sense of her style, abilities, values, and beliefs. The same is true for the DSP portfolio. It shows how the DSP’s skills, abilities, and values support people with disabilities to achieve their outcomes.

Tips for Creating Your Professional Portfolio and Ideas about What to Include

Title Page.

This should be one page that gives the reader basic information, such as your name, employer, and department (or other specifics about your employer), plus the date you completed the portfolio.

Table of Contents.

This is a listing that includes every document or item in the portfolio with a page number to help the reader locate each item easily and quickly. Professional Commitment Statement. This is a letter of intended professional commitment from the DSP describing his/her values, commitment to, and purpose for entering the profession of direct support.

Authentic Work Samples.

Work samples are evidence of your competence in supporting people with disabilities to achieve their outcomes.

A work sample does not have to be a written document. It can be pictures, videos, audiotapes, and almost anything else that demonstrates your skills and beliefs as a DSP. Be creative! For example, a DSP might choose to make a photo essay of the steps he took to support someone to attend an ADAPT rally as an example of his ability to empower a person he supports. Or he may include a list of neighborhood groups and clubs he uses to help the people he supports explore their interests as evidence of his ability to support people to access community resources. The possibilities are endless.

Each work sample should include a summary statement that explains the sample and how it relates to the competency area. It should show the reader the process used to address a situation, problem, or goal. The reader looking at the picture of the ADAPT rally may not know anything about ADAPT or what support the DSP provided. The summary helps the reader understand the work sample and how it relates to and impacts the desired outcomes of the person being supported.

For the DSP-Certified level, you are required submit work samples from 8 of the 15 identified competency areas. For the DSP-Specialized level, you are required to submit a work sample for each specialization area.


This document is usually no more than two pages in length and should include a summary of your work history. This gives the reader a picture of your experience and knowledge in the field.

Training/Education Records.

This includes any transcripts from relevant college courses and related training records or certificates. This helps the reader see that the DSP desires to increase his/her knowledge and skills in the field and shows that the DSP has met the educational requirements of the credentialing program.

At the DSP-Certified level, you must submit portfolio work samples that show competence and skill in 8 of the 15 areas of the approved DSP job analysis. You are also required to submit proof that you have completed an approved educational or training program (200 instructional hours and 3,000 on-the-job hours). At the DSP-Specialist level, you are required to submit portfolio work samples that demonstrate competence in the specialization area and proof of completion of an approved continuing education program in your specialization area (40 hours).

Letter(s) of Support.

All professional portfolios need testimonies from satisfied customers! For DSPs, this means that there should be at least one letter of support from a person you support, their family member, or, if a person is unable to verbally communicate and does not have family members, a member of his/her support network.

Signed Code of Ethics Statement.

A copy of the NADSP Code of Ethics with the DSP’s signature shows you value the profession and are committed to ethical behavior standards in your daily work.


Be sure to get a signed release of information from the people you support or anyone else included in the portfolio if you use their name or likeness in the portfolio. If there is a legal guardian, remember to seek his/her permission as well. If the person does not agree, you should not include any identifying information in the portfolio, including but not limited to, pictures. This shows that you value the people you support, their families, co-workers, and the Code of Ethics in your work.

While these elements will be included in most DSP’s portfolios, use the experience of assembling your portfolio to really let your unique personality and style shine through! Individualize it and make it a reflection of who you are. Nobody provides supports quite the way you do!