What Is a White-Collar Job?

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Blue-collar and white-collar jobs are differentiated in different ways. For example, white-collar workers are described as corporate professionals who climb the corporate ladder to success, whereas blue-collar workers are described as manual laborers who perform in more difficult work environments.


A white-collar job takes place in an office, school or store, and typically requires a worker to wear a collared shirt with or without a tie. Examples of white-collar workers are doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers and bankers. Frequently, people contrast white-collar jobs with blue-collar jobs, which are characterized by manual labor and non-management positions.


White-collar jobs are synonymous with corporate and managerial positions and competitive pay rates. As a general rule of thumb, white-collar jobs are for professionals with higher education and a specialized career interest, such as medicine, law, education or sales. Because white-collar jobs take place in offices, the general assumption is that white-collar jobs take place in cleaner workplaces.


On average, the hourly pay of construction workers, plumbers, electricians and carpenters -- all traditional blue-collar workers – is $20 per hour or more. Blue-collar workers belong to trade unions which negotiate competitive benefits packages for its members. White-collar workers earn substantially more than $20 per hour; however, most medical doctors and surgeons graduate with roughly $200,000 in student debt and take up to 30 years to pay it off, according to the GotaJob website.

Expert Insight

Some employers believe unpaid internships -- particularly those carried out in an office -- carry more weight in the long run than paid blue-collar jobs. Pandit Wright, senior executive president for human resources at Discovery Communications Inc. in Silver Spring agrees, “In terms of career growth in the long run, getting an internship is a better time investment.” Mark Oldman, co-founder of Vault Inc. takes Wright’s statement even further saying, “Internships are an essential steppingstone to career success.” However, this is not to say that blue-collar jobs do not offer valuable experience to any worker.