As teens and college students assert their independence on their journey to adulthood, many choose to make a bold statement permanently on their body . . . the college tattoo. Tattoos have become almost the norm for young people. Some reports estimate that a third of people 18 to 25 have at least one tattoo. In some environments, the people with tattoos are actually in the majority. Look at professional football or basketball, and try to find a player without tattoos. With these men as prominent role models, what do we expect of our high school and college football or basketball players? Many of them “can’t wait” to get their first tattoo, and unfortunately many rush to get a tattoo on a dare, while drinking, or in response to some life changing event (first love, recent death, etc.). In some cases, a hurried tattoo can lead to life-long regret, and make finding gainful employment more challenging than they ever expected.

A few years ago, Ohio State football players showed what they value the most by exchanging football memorabilia for something of real significance to them. . . a tattoo. To their credit, they were all seeking a professional tattoo (not a dorm room imitation) which carries with it significantly less risk for disease transmission, or regret due to poor artwork.

But these young athletes get consumed with the drive to get tattoos, and lose sight of the fact that upon graduation, the vast majority of them will not play professional ball (yes, even at Ohio State). In fact, if they’re lucky they can enter today’s highly competitive workforce at an entry level position. This is where the problems arise.

Employers, managers, and corporate leadership still have a strong tendency to negatively pre-judge individuals with tattoos. As the younger people with college tattoos age and move into these positions, this will likely correct itself, but for now, these are the facts. Employers view a person with tattoos as less intelligent, less aristocratic, more impulsive, and less likely to climb the corporate ladder. An online survey on found that 68% of people believe that tattoos are negatively stereotyped in the US. With scarce jobs and a challenged economy, the final decision on hiring a young applicant could easily hinge on the presence, or absence, of obvious tattoos.

Here’s another problem.  The most recent trend in the tattoo world is to be independent and bold, therefore getting a tattoo on the neck, hands, lower legs, and even face is the new sign of autonomy. Unfortunately, employers haven’t jumped on that band wagon yet either, and these college students with un-hide-able tattoos will find that a lot of jobs will simply be out of their reach.

The answer is simple.  Think of a tattoo as a surgical procedure similar to plastic surgery.  You wouldn’t get a tummy tuck in your friend’s basement. When getting a tattoo, do a considerable amount of research.  Think about your family, future, career, and life’s possibilities.  Go to websites like and review the pros and cons of tattoos in a balanced way.  Talk to people who have tattoos and get their honest opinion about their experiences. Studies have consistently shown that when people research a major life decision thoroughly, they are overwhelmingly more happy with the outcome.