Can physical therapists have tattoos? And can physical therapist assistants have tattoos? The answer is nuanced, so we’ll cover the all of the important factors in this article with some firsthand comments from physical therapists who have tattoos.
Before we get started, we also have other physical therapy resources you might want to check out. If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between physical therapy and physiotherapy, this article breaks down the meaning and connotations.
We’ve also broken down the demand, salary, and career outlook for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants.
Yes, physical therapists can have tattoos. Some graduate schools and employers will require you to cover all tattoos. More extreme cases, such as an obscene tattoo on your forehead, would likely cause you major problems in finding a physical therapy school and job.
Physical therapist assistants can also have tattoos, but the same general principles apply. Any difference between the career impact of tattoos between PTs and PTAs will come down to the supply-demand curve.
If the healthcare system can’t find PTs but has plenty of PTA applicants, then PTs would likely have more leeway with tattoos in that situation.
We’ll take a look at firsthand accounts of being a physical therapist with tattoos, but first let’s make the important point that the answer is going to depend partially on your region of the United States.
In short, tattoos are going to be much more widely accepted in Seattle or the Bay Area than in the Deep South. Your location matters, so you should consider that in deciding whether to get (or cover) a tattoo.
YouTube user Matthew Duya works in home health in the Bay Area, and noted:
“I’ve got both arms fully sleeved and I’ve never had any issues with anyone complaining. You’re right about it varying in acceptance in regards to work environment and place of residence. If I’m meeting a patient for the first time, I’ll usually where a long sleeve or jacket to cover up and after that I can usually tell if someone will be weird about it.”
Student Doctor forum member tweaze also shared their experience:
“I’ve shadowed [physical therapists] with visible tattoos, and have a visible tattoos myself. I do live in Seattle, which is pretty tattoo/piercing friendly.”
As the quote above shows, many physical therapists are doing just fine with tattoos, and don’t even need to cover them at work. However, many healthcare settings and hospitals do require employees to cover their tattoos.
As Reddit user josephmagnolia put it: “I don’t care if you have a tattoo. Your grandma would, though. Grandmas are who you’re likely to have as clients. So, that means you have to cover up, like my classmate did. Maybe in 50 years, no one will care.”
User only_one_contact also talked about how covering tattoos every day can be a lot of work:
“I’m a tattooed, dreaded, and pierced PT student. I wear long sleeves, keep my hair up in a bun unless I’m letting someone do a massage demo on me, and keep spacers in my piercings. If it’s worth the trouble to you to, by all means get your tattoos, but know that you will have to be cognizant of keeping them covered.”
Offensive or Tasteful?
When we claim that physical therapists can have tattoos, we’re not talking about a Donald Trump tattoo on your forehead.
Vulgar or offensive tattoo messages have a much higher chance of affecting your career, and the physical location is also important.
Face and hand tattoos are the ones most likely to get you in trouble, as employers may have policies requiring employees to cover their tattoos. If you’re in physical therapy where you need to work with your hands, it’s not really going to work to wear gloves or a forehead bandana all day.
The design quality of the tattoo may also have an impact here. In general, people like pretty designs more than ugly ones.
Can Physical Therapists Have Tattoos?
As we’ve already made clear, physical therapists can have tattoos, you just have to be aware of the cultural climate and consider taking steps to minimize the impact on your career.
In some cases, physical have had no problem at all with their tattoos. A member of the Student Doctor forums who goes by scrawnyguy said this:
“I have tattoos on both forearms and I generally wear short sleeves while working. I’ve been volunteering and interning at one of the top rehab hospitals in the country the last few months and I haven’t really run into into any issues. I was going to wear Under Armour type sleeves but I was told that as long as the tattoos weren’t offensive they didn’t see the need to cover them up.”
So yes, physical therapists can absolutely have certain tattoos.
Would Tattoos Impact Your Career?
On the Student Doctor forums, user jdaniels36 put it this way:
“Oh, you would absolutely be judged, so be ready for that. On the other hand, who cares. I personally have a tattoo but its not visible with a top on. The way I see it, schools and employers won’t be able to see it at interviews, and they won’t won’t kick you out of school for having it.”
If the tattoo can’t be covered, you may run into more trouble. Student Doctor forum user jesspt said:
“I couldn’t hire some of the applicants for our [physical therapy] tech positions because they had tattoos on their hands that could only be covered by gloves.
“Best bet is that if you don’t already have a tattoo but are thinking of getting one, put it in a place that can be easily covered by the clothing you will be wearing as a [physical therapist].”
Tattoos are more likely to impact your career during your initial interview, or when trying to get a promotion. However, in these cases it will all come down to what the decision-maker(s) think about your tattoos.
Some may dislike tattoos, some may actually like you more because of a tattoo, but most simply won’t care—especially if you cover the tattoos for an interview or important meeting.
Conclusion: Can Physical Therapists Have Tattoos
As you see, physical therapists can definitely have tattoos, but it may impact your daily life, and also has a slight chance to impact your career.
When considering a tattoo, think about the culture in your area, hospital policies, and whether you’d mind covering a tattoo sleeve if a job required it.