Comparing Blue-Collar vs. White-Collar Jobs: An Overview
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 30 January 2023
Published 27 September 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Blue-collar and white-collar are two categories that describe different types of professionals based on the work they perform. Both white-collar and blue-collar jobs can provide you with a satisfying career path depending on your personal interests and goals. Understanding the meaning of these terms can help you accurately discuss various job options and determine which career category is ideal for you. In this article, we define the terms blue-collar and white-collar, explain the distinction between blue-collar vs. white-collar jobs and share several careers in each category.
What are blue-collar vs. white-collar jobs?
Blue-collar jobs are positions that require physical work, while white-collar jobs involve office tasks. The term "blue-collar" originates from the durable fabric that people often wear when completing physical labour, such as denim or chambray. Similarly, "white-collar" references the white button-up shirts and suits that are common office attire. Here are some of the main differences between blue-collar and white-collar jobs:
The work you do is one of the main ways to determine if your job is blue-collar or white-collar. White-collar professionals focus on administrative, clerical, managerial and strategic duties. They focus on developing ideas and plans, delegating tasks, organising information and facilitating communication. Entry-level white-collar professionals may organise files, complete data entry tasks or answer phones. White-collar executives may be responsible for coordinating board meetings, preparing financial reports and drafting contracts for clients.
People in blue-collar positions work to enact ideas and strategies using manual labour. They may complete some administrative tasks or desk work but primarily focus on physical tasks, such as assembling a product, building something, cleaning a space or repairing a machine. Blue-collar professionals make physical repairs and improvements using a variety of tools and raw materials. Someone in an entry-level blue-collar position may have duties such as unloading supplies, clearing a worksite and using hand tools. Experienced blue-collar professionals may complete skilled tasks such as installing electrical wiring systems and operating construction vehicles.
White-collar jobs involve working indoors, usually in an office setting. Some white-collar positions give you the opportunity to telecommute and work from home. A white-collar environment frequently includes working at a computer or handling paperwork. You may collaborate with a team, interact with clients and attend meetings. White-collar positions may also require travel for business meetings and conferences.
Blue-collar positions typically require you to work outdoors or in an industrial environment. Common settings for blue-collar jobs include oil fields, warehouses, power plants, construction sites and shipping yards. Many blue-collar professionals also visit customers in their residences to make home repairs and complete landscaping tasks, such as lawn maintenance.
Blue-collar and white-collar jobs require different types of education. Many white-collar jobs have formal education requirements with specific degree qualifications for certain roles. Having a bachelor's degree, a master's degree or even a doctorate is common in a white-collar workplace. You may also need additional professional qualifications depending on your job. For example, an accountant may have a bachelor's degree in finance and a certification as a chartered accountant.
Some blue-collar positions don't have any education requirements and provide on-the-job training to teach you the necessary skills. Construction, landscaping and manufacturing jobs often have entry-level roles and provide you with training. Other jobs require vocational training through apprenticeships or technical college. Electricians, plumbers and carpenters are common types of professionals who gain official education through some type of vocational program. Blue-collar professionals can also gain education through certification programs where they learn about specific tools and skills.
Some industries have primarily blue-collar professionals while others mainly have white-collar positions. White-collar industries focus on ideas instead of tangible, physical work. For example, finance is one field that almost exclusively employs white-collar professionals. Other white-collar fields include:
Blue-collar industries emphasise producing and maintaining physical products or locations. There are often a few white-collar job opportunities in blue-collar industries to manage the business operations of a company. For example, a construction company may hire an accountant to handle the business's finances, even though most of the employees are blue-collar workers, such as construction experts. Here are some common blue-collar industries:
The schedules of white-collar and blue-collar positions can vary. Many white-collar jobs have a standard full-time schedule of eight hours a day and five days per week, whereas white-collar professionals often have consistent schedules, even if they work part-time. They may also work overtime, and people with white-collar leadership positions may have a demanding schedule where they also work during evenings and weekends because of their managerial responsibilities.
Blue-collar jobs can involve varying schedules depending on your position. Some roles have a standard workweek, while others have a much more sporadic shift-based or task-based schedule. Contractors, for example, may coordinate their schedules depending on specific projects and requests from clients. Some blue-collar professionals, such as plumbers, may be on-call 24 hours per day to assist with emergencies at any time.
Whether you work in a white-collar or blue-collar position, you can earn a high salary if you research your job options and essential qualifications to optimise your earnings. White-collar jobs often provide salary pay for a full-time salary. You may also be eligible for bonuses or commissions depending on your performance. Managers and executives in white-collar roles can have an extremely high earning potential depending on where they work.
Blue-collar positions often provide hourly pay or a fixed amount of income per job. Doing a blue-collar job can offer you reliable income because blue-collar positions are frequently in-demand regardless of other influences on the job market. As you gain experience, you may increase your rates because you can provide a higher quality of work to clients. Customers value experienced blue-collar professionals for their technical skills and industry knowledge, which allows them to earn high wages in certain roles.
Pink-collar jobs are a third category of career options that refer to positions in the service and care industries. The name "pink-collar" comes from a history of women primarily working in these positions. Some jobs can be both pink-collar and white-collar or blue-collar. For example, many people consider teachers and nurses to be both pink-collar professionals and white-collar professionals. Here are some other common pink-collar jobs:
Examples of blue-collar jobs
Here are a few examples of blue-collar jobs and their duties:
Warehouse associate: A warehouse associate loads and unloads trucks, scans items, records inventory and picks items for shipping.
Truck driver: The duties of a truck driver include reviewing cargo, planning shipment routes, weighing trucks at checkpoints, maintaining driving logs and confirming delivery at the final destination.
Landscaper: A landscaper performs groundskeeping duties such as maintaining flower beds, mowing lawns, installing and maintaining sprinkler systems, trimming trees and raking leaves.
Waste collector: A waste collector is responsible for collecting trash and recyclables from homes and businesses in an assigned area. They drive garbage trucks and handle trash and recycling receptacles.
Flooring installer: A flooring installer lays various types of flooring such as carpet, tile and linoleum in commercial and residential buildings. Their responsibilities include measuring the area, preparing materials and installing the flooring.
Mechanic: Mechanics help ensure that vehicles and other types of equipment are safe and ready for use. They handle a variety of jobs such as maintaining engines, changing oil, rotating tyres and inspecting electronic equipment.
HVAC technician: An HVAC technician works with heating, cooling and ventilation equipment. This professional installs, repairs and maintains air conditioners, furnaces, ductwork and other elements in residential and commercial properties.
Examples of white-collar jobs
Here are some common white-collar positions and their responsibilities:
Accountant: Accountants maintain budgets, manage financial transactions, reconcile accounts and process taxes. Accountants also evaluate and report on a company's financial health.
Market researcher: A market researcher collects and tests market data, and then makes recommendations on advertising campaigns based on their assessments.
Health services director: A health services administrator oversees the daily operations of healthcare facilities like hospitals. They manage health records, budgets, schedules and policies.
Executive director: An executive director oversees strategic planning for the company. This includes developing business plans, directing fundraising activities, evaluating marketing activities and appointing leadership roles.
Attorney: Attorneys represent their clients in civil or criminal legal proceedings. Responsibilities include preparing documents, developing arguments and advising clients on legal situations.
Software engineer: A software engineer is responsible for developing, implementing and maintaining computer and web applications. Duties include testing and debugging software, developing custom platforms and programming new code.
Physician: A physician examines patients, diagnoses health problems and develops treatment plans. They order and interpret tests, prescribe medications and counsel patients on managing their health.
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