People with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), particularly with treatment, can excel in a wide range of jobs. Certain settings and responsibilities may make a job a better fit for someone, but there are no specific jobs to avoid.
Rather than focusing on specific career types, it may be helpful to consider the setting of a specific role, the people with whom a person will work, and job duties. The same job can feel and look very different depending on the setting in which someone works, for whom they work, and other factors.
Each setting and employment type has its own drawbacks and benefits for people living with ADHD.
There is no comprehensive list of jobs to avoid that will apply to all people with the condition — instead, a person should consider their strengths and weaknesses, then make career decisions on the basis of this self-knowledge.
Read on to learn more about choosing a job for people with ADHD.
No specific job type will be harmful to every person with ADHD, and it is important to not view careers as “off limits” to people with the condition. With
There are many steps people can take to make their career work for them — for example, changing the setting or daily task structure.
A 2021 study supports the theory that workplace setting matters. However, individuals with ADHD differ in terms of symptoms, which means they will have different workplace needs. For example, a person who experiences hyperactivity may do best in a job that requires physical activity.
People with ADHD
A person should cultivate an understanding of their individual symptoms before choosing a job or career. For example, a person with more hyperactivity may need a job that includes lots of movement.
Some aspects of a job that may be challenging for people with ADHD include:
- Long-term projects: If a person must organize long-term projects without much assistance, the executive dysfunction of ADHD can be challenging. Project management jobs, some management roles, and jobs that offer little support from a team or a supervisor can be difficult.
- Distraction: Distraction is a hallmark of ADHD, and some work environments are more distracting than others. A shared workspace, a busy emergency room, or a job that requires frequent interruptions for meetings can exacerbate symptoms.
- Low reward: In people with ADHD, dopamine — a neurotransmitter that supports reward and motivation — may be low. Jobs that offer little reward for the work, such as a call center, may be especially challenging.
- Opportunities for impulsive behavior: Some people with ADHD struggle with impulsivity, so jobs that activate a person’s impulsivity can be difficult. For example, a person who struggles to control their spending may not thrive working at their favorite clothing boutique.
There is no single career that will suit all people with ADHD. Instead, people should look at work settings and requirements that suit their needs.
It is also important to note that the same career choice can follow many different paths. For example, a doctor can work in a clinic, an emergency room, a research facility, as a consultant, or in a variety of other roles.
Some things to look for include:
- rewarding roles that help a person stay motivated
- work structure that enables a person to meet deadlines
- low-distraction environments
- stimulating environments to support motivation
- accountability and benchmarks that help with executive dysfunction
- environments that do not exacerbate impulsivity
- disability discrimination or denial of workplace accommodations
- keeping up with deadlines
- distraction, especially in busy and highly distracting environments
- controlling impulses, such as when managing conflict with colleagues or resisting distractions
- remaining motivated
- staying on-task
- experiencing a sense of reward and pleasure at work
- returning to tasks when they have to rapidly shift tasks
In the United States, workplaces with more than 15 employees must give reasonable accommodations to people with diagnosed disabilities. Some states offer additional rights.
Reasonable accommodations are those that make it possible for a person to do their job without fundamentally altering a key job responsibility. For example, a person may be able to work in a less distracting room or communicate via audio instead of video call.
To ask for workplace accommodations, a person should follow their workplace’s process. This usually involves consulting the human resources department.
If an employer refuses to give accommodations, it is wise for a person to seek legal advice about the next steps.
Workplace accommodations are a legal and logistical question. While a doctor may be able to write a note justifying accommodations, they may not have much advice about careers.
Instead, a person should explore treatment options with a doctor. Some questions to ask include:
- How can I better manage my ADHD symptoms?
- What should I do if treatment does not work?
- Can lifestyle changes help?
- Are there certain environments that may make my ADHD worse?
- What should I do to deal with medication side effects?
ADHD can challenge some people at work, but ADHD may also offer some workplace strengths, such as the ability to hyperfocus.
There is no single job or group of jobs that can accommodate every person with ADHD. Instead, a person must identify their strengths and challenges, then find ways to work within these confines.
Pursuing ADHD treatment may also help. With the right treatment, a person may experience fewer symptoms at work, making it easier to excel.