Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be hard to handle in many workplace situations. Those diagnosed with either disorder are impulsive, inattentive and hard-wired against sitting still; as a result, they struggle with staying organized, creating good relationships with coworkers and keeping jobs for long periods of time. ADDitude cites a study that suggests that on average, ADHD-afflicted college grads earn $4,300 less than their non-ADHD peers.
While this statistic sounds grim for individuals with ADHD, the good news is that there are also a whole range of jobs that are well-suited to their needs. While many jobs require you to complete tasks that might increase your ADHD symptoms, these jobs are exciting and fresh enough to keep even the most hyperactive people engaged.
What are the best jobs for people with ADHD?
1. Small business owner
Average salary: $59,000/yr (The Balance)
Small business owners might have the ideal job for those with ADHD — they shape their business models however they want, which also means creating their own hours and controlling how many employees they hire. Although average salary for business owners is highly variable (the low estimate is $29,462/yr and the high estimate is $160,606/yr, which is a very dramatic range), the malleability of their work environment may make the risk worth it.
Average salary: $59,170/yr (US News)
If you have ADHD, odds are that you struggled your way through grade school, frustrated that other kids were able to focus on math problems while you were distracted by every little movement or noise. Don’t let this keep you away from school as an adult — surprisingly, adults with ADHD do well in a school environment. Your past as a hyperactive child will likely make you more patient with the children who struggle to pay attention in class.
Average salary: $39,301/yr (Army sergeant, Infantry; PayScale)
There’s something to be said for a routine to help adults with ADHD cope. Joining the military can be daunting, but the amount of regimented physical labor involved (and the consequences for not following orders) can help ground individuals with ADHD.
4. Copy editor
Average salary: $45,502/yr (PayScale)
Copy editors fix text so that it is presentable (and legible) for the intended audience, so if you are vehement about good grammar and willing to sacrifice some sleep, this might be the job for you. Copy editing may be tough on your eyesight, but it’s also flexible enough to accommodate ADHD; many copy-editing jobs are remote and allow you to work at your own pace.
Average salary: $68,893/yr (Indeed)
If you have a million-dollar idea, why not follow in the footsteps of Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates and become an entrepreneur? This job is high-risk, high-reward; some strike it big with their ideas, but many fail to capture the attention of their audience and end up in debt. Plus, being an entrepreneur allows you to focus on your passion all day, which is an awesome deal for anyone with or without ADHD.
Average salary: $40,038/yr (PayScale)
Being a journalist is invigorating. Whether you’re following a story to some exotic destination or plunging deep into an interview, this job offers exciting opportunities every single day. Plus, for those creative types with ADHD, writing can be the perfect medium for expression. Unfortunately, journalism jobs are pretty unreliable, and it takes a while working freelance to get to a stage where you can support yourself on a journalist’s paycheck.
Average salary: $64,162/yr (Salary.com)
Photography is another profession that never forces you to live by a schedule. Photographers are free to take as many gigs as they want and to choose what they'd like to shoot. A huge upside of this career is that you don’t need any degrees to start taking photos; all you need is a trusty camera.
8. Auto mechanic
Average salary: $44,438/yr (in New York City; PayScale)
Being an auto mechanic means you have to know your way around the underbelly of a vehicle — and be willing to get your hands dirty. Having ADHD would be of great aid in this profession because you get to work on a bunch of different projects simultaneously, all the while using your hands.
Average salary: $53,854/yr (Glassdoor)
If you loved detective books as a kid and are willing to study for the private investigator state exam, this job could be a great fit. Once you’re licensed to practice, you'll spend your time combing through potentially fraudulent records, performing background checks and (hopefully) solving mysteries. For a passionate adult with ADHD, the perks of this detective lifestyle will outweigh the cons.
Average salary: $45,338/yr (ZipRecruiter)
Firefighters and other first responders have a job that uniquely benefits adults with ADHD. Their work schedule is entirely unpredictable; on some days they may have little to do, but on others they are rushing from fire to fire, crashing through burning buildings and rescuing the wounded from the wreckage. If you can stomach the idea, you should go into this line of work — there will never be too many firefighters.
Average salary: $68,392/yr (Salary.com)
The kitchen of an upscale restaurant is a notoriously hectic place. Chefs are at the center of this hubbub, creating dish after dish for a seemingly never-ending dinner rush. For obvious reasons, this is a great ADHD-sensitive job — you work intensely for a few hours at a time and then for the rest of the day you’re just engaged in prep or cleanup. Of course, if you want to enter the big leagues, you have to make it through culinary school first.
Average salary: $60,075/yr (ZipRecruiter)
Tutoring full-time is a challenge, simply because it can be difficult to find enough clients to support oneself, but the work is incredibly rewarding. This job has all the benefits of teaching — developing a personal relationship with a child, seeing the lightbulb go off behind their eyes as they grasp a concept — without any of the drawbacks of responsibility for an entire classroom.
Average salary: $56,657/yr (Salary.com)
As a sales representative, you are tasked with selling your company’s product. You will either be assigned to inside calling, which entails making phone calls to try to drum up new business or outside calling, which allows you to take trips to visit valued customers in order to continue the business relationship. Another perk of this job is that you’re always meeting new people, which can help you work on your people skills.
14. Software developer
Average salary: $101,790/yr (US News)
Right now, the field of software development is extremely lucrative. Every business needs a website, and if you have the coding skills to design one, you’re going to immediately become more desirable on the job market. This job requires intense concentration, which can be challenging for those with ADHD, but if you’re passionate about the project, those attention problems will likely fade away. Plus, lots of jobs in tech have insane benefits, like office nap pods or mini-golf — which make for great quick breaks when you get overwhelmed.
15. Graphic designer
Average salary: $48,561/yr (Glassdoor)
Graphic design is a tough field to enter, usually requiring some formal schooling. However, once you’ve mastered the basics, you can literally create whole new worlds at the tap of a finger. Folks with ADHD are reported to possess heightened creativity, according to Scientific American, and this job is perfect for harnessing and utilizing your creativity to your advantage.
Average salary: $24,850/yr (US News)
Cutting hair for a living requires more than just a pair of scissors. Truly great hairdressers are dedicated to the aesthetic world, much like artists and photographers, and need to be creative both in their work and in their communication with the client. Plus, a bustling salon is an appropriate creative space for people with ADHD.
17. Police officer
Average salary: $65,400/yr (Smart Asset)
The itinerant nature of this job is well suited to ADHD needs. Police officers need to be curious, brave and vigilant all at the same time — qualities that adults with ADHD possess in spades.
Average salary: $68,450/yr (All Nursing Schools)
Although becoming a nurse takes an arduous journey through medical school and a stressful examination, this job can be a good fit for those with ADHD who don’t mind pressure and want to help the world. The hours are irregular, and there's always something new to deal with; it’s hard for a nurse to ever get bored.
19. Stage manager
Average salary: $52,729/yr (Glassdoor)
For those with ADHD, it is difficult to stay in one job for a long time. Luckily, as a professional stage manager, this is literally impossible — since shows open and close almost constantly, stage managers are constantly looking for their next project. Although they don’t get a lot of recognition from the outside world, they’re absolutely essential to the theater-making process, and everyone in the theatre knows it.
Average salary: $54,311/yr (Salary.com)
Another way to utilize that ADHD-enhanced imagination is to become an artist. Making a living with creativity alone is not easy, of course, but it’s worth a shot if you think you’ve got talent. Plus, artists make more money per year on average than hairdressers.
Tips for finding and keeping a job when you have ADHD.
In the interview process, make sure you’re upfront and honest with your possible employer about your ADHD. Severe ADHD can be classified as a disability, which means protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act, so you shouldn’t worry about your ADHD hurting your chances of being hired. In addition, if you do get the job, being honest about your ADHD can lead to extra understanding from your boss.
Once you’re in the job, you need to find coping mechanisms to work around your short attention span. It’s difficult to stay engaged for long periods of time, but methods like prioritizing work and maintaining a clean workspace should help you stay on task.
Take organization seriously. If you want to keep a job, you don't wait to forget instructions that are given to you. A notebook and a pencil will go a long way to helping you remember everything you need to do, even if it’s a mess. Also, allow yourself to make mistakes — everyone does, and not everyone has ADHD.
ADHD may hinder your capacity to focus, but it doesn't have to prevent you from a successful and illustrious career. There are many more careers open to you than you might think; you just need to think outside the box — something you already do well — and make sure your needs are met.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Hannah Berman is an editor of WeScrive Rivista. She also writes for Fairygodboss, where she served as an editorial fellow. When she's not writing about women in the workplace, she has spent her time volunteering, teaching English lessons to Italian-speaking children in Italy. She has also been a course assistant at Wesleyan University, where she led two weekly discussion sections for students in introductory Italian courses.