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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you are an example of why there is so much hatred and discrimination in the world. You look like the scumbag by judging people this way. Just because someone has tattoos does not mean you are not qualified to do the job. Many people have tattoos with full college degrees and work in very professional environments. If you really talk to clients or people applying to work for you, then you probably lose a lot of business by being such an ignorant douche bag. Call the cops because you see someone with tattoos? youre probably racist too, scumbag.

My 4.0 average at my top notch university begs to differ with your "stupid kids" comment. The inhumanity with your comment is probably the reason why you would lose customers, not the tattooed employees working for you. Furthermore, tattoos are the oldest tradition of self decorating...before jewelry, hair styles, manicures, etc. The fact that you call your employees "scum of the Earth" is defamation of character and they could sue you faster than your twenty second rule. Also, it is my duty to inform you that most states, including mine, have strict tattoo regulations when administering tattoos. That means that your "disease carriers" comment is not factual and is another example of testimony to your employee's case. You sir are that reason tattoo discrimination still exists today in the workplace. When did it become practice to discriminate against someone based on their looks and not their skills? Your narrow mindedness in life will not get you far.

I think maxweenianholland need not worry about "inked slobs" his toxic attitude probably keeps them away.

A good friend of mine works as a barista and got told they had to cover the ink on the job, but my friend had the ink when they were hired. It's a shame people in such a (fairly) creative field are asked to hide a part of who they are simply because some bean counter up the totem pole is worried ink will scare the straights. It's the 21st century people, grow up!

Tattoos will always matter in the workplace, because having one shows that you make bad decisions in the short-run, with life-long consequences.

That is not true at all. You sound like an idiot. You can be very well educated with a great college degree and do your job just as good as anyone else sometimes better. Employers miss out a lot of times turning down well qualified people with experience by turning someone down with tattoos. I have them myself and nobody could ever tell if I did or not and I am respected very highly and have a great job thanks to my great education. Having tattoos does not take away from my intelligence, I am one of the nicest people my job and my clients have ever seen.

Amen. Unless the sub-prime brothel business substantially improves, these ink-pigs have no future.

I think a lot depends on the size and type of tattoo. I personally feel there has been a big change in attitude towards tattoos. I myself would never have dreamed of getting a tattoo 20 years ago and now have four small ones and I am way over the ages listed in your article. It's hard to generalize and many tattoos, as you said, are not always visible. I think the visibility of celebrities and athletes has made tattoos more commonplace.


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