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Blue-Collar vs White-Collar Jobs

Published August 11, 2023 (last updated on April 19, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer

factory worker in blue jumpsuit works on machine

Wondering what the differences are between blue-collar and white-collar jobs? Blue-collar jobs typically involve physically demanding manual work, including farming, factory work, and construction, while white-collar jobs normally take place in office settings, involving clerical, administrative, and managerial tasks.  

There’s far more separating these two job categories than just shirt colour. Let’s dive in and take a closer look. 

Blue and white-collar roles  

White-collar job roles often focus on ideation and contributing a particular skill set to the completion of a project. This frequently involves the following responsibilities:  

  • Strategic thinking

  • Brainstorming sessions   

  • Planning and executing projects and initiatives

  • Setting goals and objectives

  • Leading teams  

  • Administration   

  • Reporting 

  • Stakeholder management

  • Data entry   

Blue-collar responsibilities often revolve around manual labour and using heavy machinery, with a focus on practical skills and hands-on work. Some blue-collar workers use specialised tools and software, with many jobs demanding the application of niche skills and techniques.  

Job examples  

Examples of blue-collar jobs include:  

  • Electrician  

  • Mechanic  

  • Bricklayer  

  • Welder  

  • Landscaper  

  • Carpenter  

  • Factory worker

Examples of white-collar jobs include:  

  • Real estate agent  

  • Software Engineer  

  • Project Manager  

  • Accountant  

  • Consultant  

  • Marketer  

What qualifications do blue and white-collar workers need?   

It’s common for a white-collar job to require a bachelor’s degree or another higher education qualification. White-collar roles often offer higher earning potential dependent on further education. For example, a Product Manager with a doctorate in Product Management often has higher earning potential than someone with a bachelor’s degree in the same field.  

While plenty of blue collar-workers will have bachelor’s degrees, it is less likely to be a prerequisite for most blue-collar jobs. However, many blue-collar roles require certificates documenting the acquisition of certain key skills.   

In many cases, a blue-collar role is more likely to offer on-the-job training. Trade schools, such as TAFE, offer practical education for people looking to advance in blue-collar careers.  

What are typical blue and white-collar work environments?  

White-collar jobs normally take place in an office environment. With many businesses going digital, it’s also possible for many of these roles to be completed remotely. In this day and age, a white-collar environment might take the form of an employee’s lounge room or garden patio. Remote and hybrid arrangements are particularly common in white-collar jobs because most of the work is software-based and completed online.  

Blue-collar jobs take place in various locations, including construction sites, factories, oil rigs, and warehouses. These roles are usually site-specific and, in many cases, entail working outdoors. Heavy machinery and equipment are an important part of the blue-collar work environment. Workers might find themselves using anything from a concrete breaker to a print press.   

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What’s the difference in pay for blue and white-collar jobs?  

A white-collar worker tends to receive payment for their work based on an annual salary. Companies calculate the value of the employee’s contribution based on a 40-hour workweek, and payments are distributed throughout the year.  

A blue-collar job will normally be paid with an hourly wage. This means that employees receive payment for a certain amount per hour and their total payment depends on the number of hours they work.  

There’s a common belief that white-collar jobs are better paid than blue-collar jobs. While this might be true in some cases, there are plenty of exceptions. Blue-collar workers who are highly trained, distinguished in their trade, and offer specialised expertise can command a large fee for their services. This is especially true in Australia, where the construction economy is strong relative to many other countries.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are jobs defined by collar colour?

In earlier generations, jobs were often classified by the type of collars, shirts, or clothing workers normally wore. As an example, blue-collar workers were classified as such because they often wore durable denim shirts and jeans – perfect for more rugged work. White-collar workers were named so because of the smart white collared shirts they wore beneath their business suits.  

Do blue and white collar roles crossover?

It’s important to acknowledge that blue and white collar responsibilities often merge. For instance, a freelance electrician might post their own social media marketing, raise client invoices, and keep their own financial records.  

What other colour collar jobs are there?

Purple collar 

This refers to a mix of white and blue collar work, which demands both higher education qualifications and hands-on skills. For example, engineers and technicians are normally university educated but also perform manual labour.  

Green collar 

As an emerging workforce, green collar jobs are focused on environmental issues. This might include working for a not-for-profit, or within a business as a sustainability manager. Tasks could involve decreasing a company’s waste, energy use, and pollution. 

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