Being tattooed has not hurt my careers as novelist, poet, and online writer.
Despite the fact that tattoos are becoming more and more commonplace, there remains a stigma in many workplaces towards people who sport them. For those who have tattoos on their backs, arms, stomachs, and legs, this stigma is inconsequential. With the appropriate attire, their bosses and colleagues need never know about their ink.
But what about those of us who made body art decisions that are visible for all to see? What about those of us who are perhaps a little bit stubborn and insist on wearing our ink proudly? What jobs are available to us?
Since my first tattoo (a large ship’s helm on the side of my neck when I was 18), I have kept tabs on job opportunities where eyebrows and objections won’t be raised about my appearance. I have the great pleasure of sharing with you the substantial fruits of that search.
Below are lists of over 100 career opportunities for the heavily-inked and proud, including...
- Business owner
- Forest ranger
- Stage manager
- Tattoo artist (of course!)
Scroll down to see more than 95 other options.
Factors That Might Influence a Tattooed Person's Employability
But before we get to the lists, I must admit I am making some assumptions here.
- I am assuming that your visible tattoos are not obscene. Any tattoos that involve nudity, sexual acts, curse words or offensive language, or anything particularly gruesome or violent, sometimes even skulls, would have to be covered up in most work environments, even those listed below.
- This list is also dependent on the city and country you live in. I live in Vancouver, BC, Canada, which is a very tattoo-friendly environment. I have been able to hold down jobs that are not mentioned on the lists below because the culture here is relatively accepting. Although in Canada it’s illegal to discriminate against someone who has a tattoo, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, and it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen often. (There are even companies that get away with cover-it-up policies.) But in the United States and many other countries, people don't have that protection.
Jobs You Can Get With Visible Tattoos A–C
animal breeder, groomer, or trainer
call center operator
customer service (in specialty stores)
Tattoo-Friendly Jobs D–I
driver (truck, taxi, delivery, bus, race car)
Careers That Allow Tattoos J–Q
online company/remote employee
Professions Where Tattoos Are Acceptable R–Z
substance abuse counselor
security or bodyguard
sheet metal worker
video game designer
What High-Paying Jobs Allow Tattoos and Piercings
Of course, how much you're paid depends on several factors, including how much skill or education is required, how much risk is involved, and where you live, among others. If I had to generalize about which of the jobs on this list pay the highest, I'd guess astronaut or crane operator, but it's hard to say. Jobs like business owner and tattoo artist might fall anywhere on the spectrum, as well as vague professions like "dancer". I've heard of exotic dancers at top clubs making upwards of $100,000 a year.
What Kinds of Tattoos Make Finding a Job Difficult?
The more visible a tattoo is, the more likely it is to cause an HR representative to think twice about hiring you. Ink on your face, neck, sleeve, or hand is harder to hide, and any visible tattoo that is sexy, obscene, or gruesome and depicts nudity, sexual acts, blood, death, violence, gang affiliations, racist imagery, curse words, or offensive language might also prevent them from offering you the job.
Statistics About How Tattoos Affect Employment
According to Annie Singer in her article Tattoos in the Workplace: The Research Forbes Was Too Lazy to Do, attitudes about ink are rapidly changing, but some negative preconceptions still exist. The takeaways from the most recent and reputable studies indicate
- Grooming and professional clothing were more important to HR decision-makers than tattoos and piercings.
- Visible tattoos had a negative effect on hiring, mostly due to managers' concern about customers' perceptions.
- Customers continue to show a preference for non-tattooed front-line staff.
So although the cultural perception is slowly shifting, visible tattoos may still have a negative impact on employment, particularly in customer-facing positions.
According to STAPAW (which admittedly did not disclose any information about methodology, sources, or references),
- The military has the highest percentage of tattooed staff; agriculture comes next.
- Although the government has the most lenient tattoo and piercing policies, only 8% of those employees have ink or piercings.
Is It Legal for Companies to Discriminate Against Someone Because They Have a Tattoo?
In the US, tattoos in the workplace are protected by the Constitution, but not federally. Employers can't discriminate for things like gender, age, disability, national origin, or pregnancy, but the truth is that hiring managers do discriminate and they are within their rights to do so. There are no laws that prevent them from not hiring people with visible tattoos, piercings, uncommon hairstyles, and other things. If they believe your appearance would be offensive to their customers or inappropriate in their work environment, it is legal for them not to hire you. Many jobs have dress codes and rules against visible tattoos at work.
Which Professions Don't Allow Visible Tattoos?
Although it varies from site to site, city to city, these are the professions that are the least tattoo-friendly, either because they are customer-facing or because their policies have not been updated.
- Banks and financial institutions
- Customer service
- Healthcare professions
- Law firms
- Reception and front desk
Which Cities and States Are the Most Tattoo-Friendly?
Most friendly: A few local governments (Washington D.C., Madison Wisconsin, Santa Cruz California, and Urbana Illinois) currently prohibit discrimination for personal appearance, including visible body art, and according to STAPAW (which didn't disclose any information about sources or references), the states where public opinion is most welcoming to body art are California, Colorado, and Montana.
Least friendly: According to STAPAW, the states with the "highest percentage of tattoo discrimination statistics" are Florida, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.
Leave a Comment
If I missed any jobs that allow you to show tattoos, please comment below!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Mikal Smith
Ash on August 21, 2019:
What about a collarbone tatoo would that be fine?
Ritesh on August 14, 2019:
Is tattoo allowed for sports presenter
manak on September 01, 2018:
I hate that guy. The man who hates tattoos
Swati on August 02, 2018:
What about forensic scientists??
Micaela on July 09, 2018:
do you think is possible for tourist guides?
Loco gangbanger mexi 1337 on July 07, 2018:
Jackson on February 25, 2018:
I love Tattøös
Surbhi on December 18, 2016:
Hey I just read your article and I would like to know that I have a tattoo on my neck quite small one but visible so I want to purse magazine editor so is it going to be a task for me to get internships?
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on October 10, 2013:
Paola that would depend largely on the type of journalism. Music journalism? Fashion journalism? War journalism? No problem. International journalism? Politics? Investigative? Make sure you can cover up that ink. Ask yourself: will I ever have a door closed in my face because of my tattoo? Will it gain or lose the trust of a source? See yourself through the eyes of people you will be interacting with on a daily basis and answer your own question.
Paola on September 24, 2013:
what about journalism? i want to do a tatto on my wrist and i want to be a journalist, please help.
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on July 05, 2013:
Most employers wouldn't mind but as always refer to the disclaimer.
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on June 08, 2013:
In most cases but there are exceptions to every rule. I would suggest contacting the companies in your area to get a better idea of expectations. Or, if you are considering/are self-employed think about your demographic and how they would respond to your tattoos.
Lewis on June 03, 2013:
Hey man. Are you positive a graphic designer would be able to have neck or hand/knuckle tattoos ?
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on November 30, 2012:
Cooper, I'm with you! I think that the world has become more accepting of tattoos as tattoos themselves have changed so drastically. Once having a tattoo meant you were a criminal or a sailor and they were often scary or offensive. Today tattoos are all about self-expression, art and individuality.
"My body is a temple, why not decorate the walls?"
cooper cook on November 09, 2012:
I think it's awesome that companies are more accepting of tattoos. Because when I got my first one I was 18 and I wasn't really thinking to well. And I had to worry of where I could get a job that would hire me with a lot of tattoos. But after seeing how many jobs are out their i'm glad that I don't have to worry so much about it anymore.
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on August 07, 2012:
Hi Ruth, I have definitely heard of techs with visible ink but I don't know if it's acceptable across the board. It really depends on how loberal and area you're in. I would suggest asking techs in your area.
Good luck! I hope it turns out to be no problem!
Ruth on August 05, 2012:
Hi there! Great article, thank you! I was wondering if I could make it as an Ultrasound Technician and have two words tattooed on my hairline/neck area. I really want the tattoo but I also don't want to jeopardize my future. Thanks in advance!
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on July 30, 2012:
Hello Ian, I would say that Winnipeg tends to be pretty open but even in the most liberal areas there will be companies that require you to cover up your ink. I would send inquiries to companies you may be working for (anonymoulsy perhaps) to get a clear idea. The last thing you want is for your tattoo to get in the way of your career.
Ian on July 23, 2012:
Hi Ms. Colton, I'm from Philippines and will be actually migrating to Canada next year... in Manitoba to be exact. Would you know their rules there too in regards to body art? I'm a Travel Consultant. Planning to have tattoo here. :) thanks!
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on June 22, 2012:
In some places they can but I would contact vet clinics in your area to be sure.
Tabitha Dillon on June 17, 2012:
can a vet tech have tatoos on their hands?
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on April 23, 2012:
Thanks for stopping by anton,
That really depends on where you live. For a well-known example, Starbucks does not allow their barista to have visible tattoos but in Vancouver I worked at multiple cafes with visible tattoos on my neck and forearm and often see barista's with visible work. I would check around, next time you buy a coffee ask the barista if they know what their company's policy is.
anton dones philippines on April 19, 2012:
ms.colton what do you think about being a barista having visible tattoos?
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on November 06, 2011:
Thanks Tiffany, that's a great one!
Tiffany Green on September 30, 2011:
This article is very informative. Please add lifeguard to the list...
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on August 02, 2011:
fashion on August 02, 2011:
Great hub.Well done
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on July 29, 2011:
Great question Katie. I'm going to guess Astronaut and Crane Operator are among the highest paid jobs on the list. But it's hard to say.
Jobs like Business Owner and Tattoo Artist can fall anywhere in a broad spectrum. As well as vague proffessions like "dancer".
I've heard of exotic dancers at top clubs making upwards of 100,000$ a year. Of course, my opinions are based mostly on anecdotal evidence. To be safe I'm sticking with my above choices. High risk = high pay.
Katie on July 29, 2011:
What are the 3 highest paying jobs on this list? Great article by the way, thanks for posting. (:
Lee on July 18, 2011:
this is great!
currently i live in mexico (i am canadian), and talk about discrimination against tattoos!
i plan on moving back to canada next year to attend UBC for physical therapy - with all my tattoos!
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on June 25, 2011:
There certainly are cities and hospitals or clinics where tattoos are considered unnacceptable. I do know that there are a number of medical establishments that don't have a problem with tattoos though. For most of these careers there are going to be places where tattoos are not allowed, hence the disclaimer.
Thank you very much for your 2 cents. :)
Savannah Fischbach on June 25, 2011:
For doctor and nursing that may be untrue, when I was doing clinical they told people that had tattoos they had to cover them up, and there was people that wore long sleeves everyday. I'm not sure if it was just the place or where I live, but that's just my 2 cents. Very informative though(:
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on June 04, 2011:
Physical trainers and physical therapists definitely. A number of them, in fact. But I live in very liberal Vancouver.
Vet's again are an "in some cases" kind of situation. It would depend on where you lived, and who was running the practise you were working at.
matt16 on May 30, 2011:
have you ever seen a veterinarian, or physical trainer/therapist with tattoos on there neck and hands because i have one on my neck and these are the proffesions i am intrested in?
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on May 17, 2011:
It seems to me that a forensic anthropologist would be allowed the tattoos, however I would understand if they asked you to remove your piercings. However, this is just conjecture. I would advice you to contact the police departments in your area for a more precise response.
Cassie on May 14, 2011:
how about a forensic antropoligest (studing bones)its been my lifelong dream to be one for a really long time and i have snake bites, purple hair, and 4 tattos
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on March 15, 2011:
John O, I'm sure that many offices employing physical therapists will be fine with visible tattoos however you may want to call around to the places in your area. Like I said at the top of the article everything on this list is subject to the contingency "most of the time". If you live in a very conservative area you may want to do a little research to make sure.
Nikki, I'm not sure about criminology. I would think if you're going to be spending a lot of time in court rooms you probably want to look as clean cut as possible, but honestly that's just conjecture.
Boogie, I've known some teachers with visible tattoos but I think at least 80% of the time it's going to pose a problem. Parents don't have to be open-minded about who's teaching their kids. Once you get up to university level though it should be okay.
Thanks a lot Crysto and everyone else. Glad you enjoyed the hub!
Boogie on March 13, 2011:
love this article!! I am thinking about getting a full sleeve and becoming a teacher... im not sure if the two mix...
Emma from Houston TX on March 11, 2011:
Nice hub with very strong question that i really love to hear the answer.thanks for sharing this.
Nikki on March 10, 2011:
What about criminiology? I have 7 tattoos that are semi-easy to cover right now... I want a quote under my collar bone, which is covered by normal t-shirts but shows in most clothing, and I also want sleeves...so if I had to cover them I would need to wear high-cut shirts/suits and long sleeves... Just wondering if you think the criminolgy field would be strict with covering tattoos and/or piercings(just a monroe)...?
John O on March 10, 2011:
Are you sure about the physical therapist job? I want to get a sleeve and i dont want to be prohibited by that.
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on March 09, 2011:
I only have two so far. So many ideas but I like to let them simmer for a few years before committing to them. How about you?
mythbuster from Utopia, Oz, You Decide on March 06, 2011:
ar.colton, how many tattoos do you have?
TattoGuy on January 05, 2011:
I realised that after I reread it, I am an idiot lol ; )
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on January 03, 2011:
It's the long alphabetized list after the introduction TattoGuy.
TattoGuy on January 02, 2011:
Can you point out to ne where you detailed where to work and show your tattoos or did I miss it ?
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on November 14, 2010:
Well I got circus preformer and clown. But you're right I should add Juggler. It can be a paid gig, but you have to be really good. When I was a clown I used my crappy juggling skills as part of my act. A lot easier than hours of practise :)
Julie2 from New York City on November 09, 2010:
You forgot Juggler for J. LOL. Is that a paying job?
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on September 14, 2010:
I can't imagine why not Helena. Most writers have the good fortune of being able to look however thay want. Plus, in the music industry individual expression is generally counted upon as a good thing. Generally. If you're interviewing a lot of classists, however, it might be a problem.
Helena on August 30, 2010:
Would a person with visible tattoos be able to be a music journalist who writes for magazines?
Mikal Smith (author) from Vancouver, B.C. on August 26, 2010:
I suppose that would depend on the environment they are educating in. I would think however, that they would encounter some of the same problems that social workers do since they would be working with what would most likely be considered "sensitive" education. People would likely want them to look as repectable as possible.
Do you have any info on the topic?
Christy on August 13, 2010:
What do you think about a health or sex educator having visible tattoos?