What is a White Collar Job?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Although dress codes have changed significantly over the years, many jobs are still categorized by the traditional work shirts worn by those who perform them. Workers who primarily perform manual labor or other hands-on work often wear blue work shirts, for example. Jobs traditionally held by women, such as teaching or secretarial work, are sometimes called pink collar jobs. A white collar job is typically associated with clerical, sales or managerial occupations, where the traditional dress code is often a white button-down dress shirt and tie.

Blue collar jobs tend to lessen with the advent of technology.
Blue collar jobs tend to lessen with the advent of technology.

Back in the days when the American economy was primarily agrarian, white collar jobs accounted for less than 20% of the total workforce. Today, the number of is closer to 60%. As technology improves in a given industry, there is often a shift from blue collar workers who service the machinery to white collar workers who supervise and manage production. This type of job is quite often associated with management, even if the employee's actual job duties are more hands-on than supervisory.

In white collar jobs, appearance is more important than utility when choosing attire.
In white collar jobs, appearance is more important than utility when choosing attire.

Clerical work in an office environment is generally considered to be the ultimate definition of a white collar job. A person who holds such a job may still be an hourly employee like his or her blue collar counterpart, or he or she may be salaried. This often means a white collar worker has a significant number of responsibilities and a longer work week than hourly blue collar workers. The job description does not always provide protection from manual labor, however. Restaurant management, generally considered a white collar job, often requires managers to perform the duties of absent workers, for example.

Other types of white collar employment include sales, accounting, advertising and customer service. These jobs are usually considered to be career-level vocations held by degreed or highly trained workers. Although modern business dress codes now allow for other "business casual" attire, many clerical and managerial workers are still encouraged to wear actual white collars in order to present a professional appearance to potential clients or the blue collar workers they may supervise.

White collar workers make yearly salaries.
White collar workers make yearly salaries.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments

arsalanjan

Very nice article about white collar jobs. I like it. Great article site.

DinoLeash

@Stormyknight: It did used to seem as though white collar employees automatically made more than blue collar employees. However, according to a recent survey, that is no longer the case.

For example, take a college professor and a prison guard. The average job salary of a mid-career prison guard is $60,880, which is 3% higher than the average salary of a mid-career college professor ($58,876).

Times have changed and our blue collar employees have become very necessary and it is shown in their pay.

StormyKnight

On average, do people who work white collar jobs make more money than people who work blue collar jobs?

GreenWeaver

Great article- I just want to add that professional jobs such as attorneys and doctors are also considered white collar jobs.

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