What Does “Blue Collar” Mean?

In contrast, the white-collar worker typically performs work in an office environment and may involve sitting at a computer or desk. A third type of work is a service worker (pink collar) whose labor is related to customer interaction, entertainment, sales or other service-oriented work. Many occupations blend blue, white, or pink-collar work and are often paid hourly wage-labor, although some professionals may be paid by the project or salaried. There are a wide range of payscales for such work depending upon field of specialty and experience.

Blue collar comedy tour

How did “blue collar” originate?

“Blue collar” was first used in a 1924 newspaper to refer to trade jobs. It referred to the blue denim or chambray shirts, jeans, overalls and boilersuits worn by many industrial and manual employees like welders, boilermakers, bricklayers, masons and coal miners. Dark colors, such as blue, were expected to help hide dirt and other elements on soiled clothes due to physical labor.

What is “blue collar”?

The stereotype “blue collar” refers to a job that involves manual labor often within an industry regulated by a labor union to physically build and maintain a product or equipment. Individuals who hold blue-collar jobs, such as those in construction, agriculture, manufacturing and shipping, are often referred to informally as blue-collar employees. These jobs are typically physically demanding, requiring employees to work outdoors or with heavy machinery.

Blue-collar employees usually are paid by the hour or completed task instead of a weekly or monthly salary. As technology advances and employees learn related skills, their wages typically increase.

Education requirements for blue-collar jobs

While four-year degree programs can prepare you for blue-collar jobs, it’s more common to get a two-year degree from a technical school or community college. For some roles, you only need a high school diploma or equivalent.

Many skilled trades also offer on-the-job training and apprenticeships. During an apprenticeship, you’ll spend several months or a few years working with an experienced tradesperson. Once completed, you become a qualified tradesperson.

Many blue-collar occupations require state licensure, so check with professional organizations near you as you pursue your chosen career.

Industries with blue-collar workers

Here are some of the fields or industries employing blue-collar workers with their national average pay. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary links.

Trucking

People employed in the trucking industry transport large quantities of finished goods and raw materials over land—usually from manufacturing plants to retail or distribution centers. Some of the most common and in-demand roles in the trucking industry include:

Automotive maintenance and repair

Employees in this industry perform repairs and maintenance on different types of vehicles, from motorcycles and small passenger cars to diesel buses and trucks. Some of the most common jobs in the automotive maintenance and repair industry include:

Construction

Construction jobs allow individuals to work with their hands, usually outside and at many different locations. Construction workers build bridges, hospitals, roads, houses and other structures. Common jobs include:

Recycling

The recycling industry converts waste materials, such as glass, plastics, paper and metals, into new objects or materials. Common jobs include:

Oil and petroleum

The oil and petroleum industry helps bring products like gasoline and crude oil to the world market. Common jobs in this industry include:

Food processing

Many food processing occupations collect raw materials and convert them into finished products to be sold to butcher shops, grocery stores and restaurants. Common jobs include:

Pest control

Landscaping

The landscaping industry includes roles that care for and maintain landscapes for businesses and homes. It also includes people who design and construct decks, patios, fences, stone walls and pathways. Common jobs include:

Logging

Some who work in the logging industry harvest trees to provide the raw material for many industrial products and consumer goods. Common jobs include:

Commercial fishing

Agriculture

This industry involves anything raised or grown for human consumption, including lumber, flowers, livestock and crops. Common jobs include:

Mining

This industry involves extracting minerals, coal and precious metals from the earth. Common jobs include:

Logistics

People who work in logistics roles manage the flow of products within an organization. They’re involved in the overall integration of warehousing, transportation, packaging, material handling and inventory. Common jobs include:

Manufacturing

This industry is involved with converting raw materials or parts into finished products sold in retail or wholesale markets or exported for sale in other countries. It covers a wide variety of industries, from pharmaceuticals to food and beverages, steel and iron and more. Common jobs include:

Skills for blue-collar jobs

Blue-collar jobs may also require highly specialized skills to perform certain tasks, including:

Mechanical skills

People in blue-collar roles may use mechanical skills to work with machinery, build or create products and serve customers. Possessing mechanical skills is essential to understanding how a product works. These skills may also entail identifying and troubleshooting potential problems or malfunctions with equipment.

Problem-solving skills

Some blue-collar employees work outside in all kinds of weather conditions. Others work at manufacturing plants where they might face challenges like an electrical failure at the same time an order needs to be completed. People in these roles need problem-solving skills to proactively look for alternative solutions for various issues.

Technical skills

Some blue-collar roles entail working with computer systems to maintain a companys operations, such as improving production quality and runtime. Employees also may need to regularly access detailed work orders through computerized systems.

Physical ability

Some blue-collar jobs are more physically demanding than others, requiring good hand-eye coordination, heavy lifting or extended hours of manual labor. You must clearly understand the type of environment you’re working in to be able to effectively perform the job. The potential for injuries also may be more prevalent.

Other employment “collars”

There are several other employment categories sometimes referred to as collar workers, including:

White-collar workers

White-collar workers typically have jobs in an office setting and involve managerial, administrative and clerical duties with little to no manual labor. The term “white collar” once referred to the white shirts typically worn by these professionals.

Green-collar workers

Green-collar workers are employed in the environmental sectors of the economy. Often called “green workers,” they help fill the ever-growing need and demand for green development. They tend to focus on implementing environmentally conscious designs, policies and technologies designed to help improve environmental conservation and sustainability.

Black-collar workers

The term “black collar” historically referred to those whose collars became black by the nature of their work in places like mines and oil rigs. It’s now an informal classification for creative professionals like artists, graphic designers and video producers with an informal preference for dark attire.

New-collar workers

This relatively new classification refers to workers who have obtained technical and soft skills needed to work in technology jobs through nontraditional education paths. They do not have a four-year degree but instead are trained through other methods, such as software boot camps, technical certification programs and on-the-job internships.

Other collars

Several other “collar” categories are in a transition away from their historically implied biased or gendered identity, including:

FAQ

What does blue-collar mean?

The term originated in the 1920s when blue-collar workers—such as those in mining and construction—wore darker color clothes (e.g. jeans, overalls, etc.) to hide dirt. Today, the term “blue-collar” has evolved, and it’s common to find workers in this role who are formally educated, skilled, and highly paid.

What is between blue-collar and white-collar?

Blue collar workers are those who perform manual labor. The name comes from the early 20th century when these workers wore resistant fabrics of darker colors (e.g. blue denim or blue uniforms).

Why is it called blue-collar job?

Gold collar: These jobs are a hybrid between blue-collar and white-collar jobs. They combine the technical skills and manual labor of blue-collar jobs with the knowledge and education white-collar jobs usually require.

Why is it called white collar and blue collar?

Blue-collar jobs are considered “working class” jobs, which are typically manual labor and paid hourly. The term originated in the 1920s when blue-collar workers—such as those in mining and construction—wore darker color clothes (e.g. jeans, overalls, etc.) to hide dirt.

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