Tattoos in the workplace: Still taboo?

These days, does having a tattoo make a difference in getting a job and how much you can potentially earn? One career adviser says absolutely yes.

A recent Pew research study found that 4-in-10 people between the ages of 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo. But will those tattoos mean problems when it comes to employment?

Meredith Haberfeld is an executive career coach who works with clients around the nation looking to work in a variety of industries. And while many more people these days may have tattoos, it is safe to say that image still matters in getting and keeping a job -- perhaps more than ever.

"A study conducted by CareerBuilder.com found that 37 percent of HR managers cite tattoos as the third physical attribute most likely to limit career potential," says Haberfeld. (Obvious, non-ear piercings topped the list, followed by bad breath.)

The key to succeeding is getting a feel for the culture of a workplace. When it comes to the issue of whether ink will affect your livelihood, Haberfeld says it really depends on where you hope to get work.

She cites some sectors where tattoos are acceptable: auto, military, construction, design, film, music, digital media, styling, athletics. Haberfeld says there are many realms where having an individual, artistic expression on your body is common -- even expected.

But there are still many offices where body art isn't so acceptable. If you are looking to work in business, government, education, medicine, law -- Haberfeld says that ink can often send the wrong message to employers and clients: that you are trying to rebel.

"Each employer is going to vary from conservative to liberal when it comes to tolerance for their body art, so a good rule is to keep it covered in your interviews and even during your first few weeks in your job until you get a sense for the culture of the workplace," she says. If you can't cover up with regular professional attire, makeup is an option.

Haberfeld says the cost of an average tattoo -- which depends on size, color, artist -- ranges between $100-300. The cost of removing a tattoo is where expenses can add up. The most common type of tattoo removal is done by laser, which can cost $200-500 per sessions (and it usually takes between 5-10 sessions).

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.
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A few close friends of mine died in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have all of their names tattooed on my left arm along with my grandfathers name and I was refused a job because I have that tattoo, along with Semper Fi on my right wrist (I also have USMC tattooed on my upper back and 2 more tats) people judge me negatively all the time, it doesn't matter that I served the United States all that matters is that i have tattoos and it just isn't right

I myself am a 17 year old male tatted teen. i can see being tatted a problem in the work place but I have a job at a elderly home care facility. i have one tattoo on my inner wrist 2 by 1 inch of a music note. a treble clef to be exact. people that dont have tattoos will never under stand what its like to have one. If someone ever called me a scum of the earth because i had a tat. i would no doubt think i would cry sounds bad but my tat has meaning to me. it is for things i dealt with when i was a sophomore in highschool. i believe that tats should be something to be shared and thought of as creative. not hated bad marks on your skin. if you love it make it yours and live your life how you feel it needs to be lived.

I have multiple tattoos, many of them large pieces, and they show while I am at work. To say that those with tattoos are "scum of the Earth" or "inked slobs", is not only disrespectful, but it is also the response of an uneducated fool. I graduated high school and university with a 4.0 GPA and now work for a pharmaceutical company. I was hired with my tattoos showing, and no one said anything about them. Tattoos don't make you a bad person, your attitude does. Just because you have tattoos (or piercings) doesn't mean you are a disease carrier, going to rob someone, or have poor judgement. Anyone, tattooed or not, can do or be anything, good or bad. Before you go judging people with tattoos, just remember that many of those who fight for your freedom, whether you deserve it or not, have tattoos. Plenty of doctors, lawyers, etc., have tattoos. If you shunned everyone with tattoos, you would find that your life would not be the same. So instead of letting your fear of something different turn into hatred, why don't you get to know someone with tattoos. You might just learn that you have something in common. :-)

Tattoos are considered one of the oldest forms of self-decoration.After all permanent make-up is a polite term for tats. Think about it. All those WWII guys who got tats didn't seem to be rebeling. Risky - only to those who live in states where tatoo salons don't have to meet hygiene standards, etc. Some tat salons don't allow requests for tats on the neck, head, and hands as they recognize the cultural stigma against tats.

It signals, whether correct or not, a person who will engage in "risky" activities.

I work in New York City at one of the world's top architecture firms. I have two small tattoos, and they are both visible. I was hired with the tattoos and I am not treated disrespectfully because of them. I love my job and I love my tattoos. These things are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Of course it has a negative impact, it telegraphs poor judgement and low self esteem.
Case in point US Marine Corps "if it shows your out"

I'm not tattooed or pierced, doubt my son will choose to be either, but I surprised that anyone thinks it even matters. I doubt anyone seriously feels as strongly about it as weenie pretends to be in these comments, but it is clearly still a consideration for employers. I can't imagine why. If I'm hiring a lawyer, I want that person to analyze my situation correctly & make strong logical arguments. A surgeon must have steady hands and very detailed medical knowledge. And so on. I can't think of a single occupation where the appearance of the worker matters. Hygiene, yes, but not appearance.

Our clinic in St Louis provides laser tattoo removal. We see people from all walks of life, socio-economic groups, very young and older. Most branches of the military now have restrictions on visible tattooes (above the tshirt neck, below short sleeve and shorts on legs). Many fire/police departments now have restrictions also. As mentioned on the show employers are also requesting tattoes be covered and for many people they then feel it is time to remove it. We see youngster marched in by parents, those that come in a few days after application showing regret, mistakes in the tattoo application or some who just want to remodel their tattooes. Removal is a long process of multiple treatments and can be quite expensive. A lot more costly than tattoo art application. There is no magic erase for these. Removal should be done in a clinical setting with state-of-the-art lasers to maximise removal and reduce risk of complications such as scarring or loss of skin pigment . It would be nice if we could have this discussion with people before that take the plunge.

No pity at all. If stupid kids want to deliberately disfigure themselves, let them rot in a homeless shelter. Above all, let them NOT reproduce. I own a business and I tell the "inked" slobs straight up: "you are the scum of the Earth. " I also tell them that if they don't leave the office withing 20 seconds, then I will call the cops on them. I will have no tattooed disease carriers in MY office near MY customers.


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