Difference between White-Collar and Blue-Collar jobs

It is sometimes difficult to determine where a particular job belongs when it comes to white-collar or blue-collar jobs. Understanding these categories can help make decisions such as how to designate an appropriate occupation, which in turn affects the life and social class of a worker. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between these two categories.


Blue-collar workers
Blue-collar workers

Blue-collar jobs: According to Wikipedia, blue-collar jobs feature workers who use their hands to accomplish tasks. Examples include mining, construction, and warehousing. In all these examples, physical work is involved.

Whiter-collar workers
Whiter-collar workers

White-collar jobs: Workers in this job category work in office environments and are often highly skilled professionals. Examples include engineers, bankers, attorneys and accountants. These jobs do not involve physical work, but rather formally acquired skills and qualifications. 

Comparison chart

White collar jobs Blue collar jobs
Workers are professional e.g. accountancy, banking and law. Workers perform manual labor e.g. mechanics, electricians and plumbers.
Workers are formally trained, often at university. Workers are formally trained, often at a technical college, or trained on the job or apprenticed.
Workers traditionally wore white. Workers traditionally wore blue.
Workers often paid more than those in blue-collar jobs. Workers often paid less than those in white-collar jobs.
Workers work in an office environment Workers work in various trade occupations and industrial locations.

White collar vs Blue collar jobs

What is the difference between white collar and blue collar jobs?  The difference lies in tradition, pay, setting, education level and, most importantly, the type of work performed by workers in these two categories of jobs.

  • White-collar jobs are usually professional jobs such as those performed by banking staff or real estate agents. On the other hand, blue-collar jobs usually require manual labor, i.e. the use of the hands. In other words, white-collar jobs are those jobs that are mostly done while workers are seated, while blue-collar jobs are those jobs that are mostly done while workers are standing.
  • White-collar jobs often require extensive formal training or schooling at post secondary-level in order to become qualified, as well as considerable experience, while blue-collar jobs may require less experience, but involve various technical or mechanical skills which can also be acquired formally, with on-the-job training or by apprenticeship, leading to suitable qualifications.
  • Traditionally, white-collar jobs featured workers dressed in suits and/or white colored shirts that were expensive and formal. This is because white-collar workers mostly avoid dirt and so white shirts or collars can be easily maintained. On the other hand, blue-collar workers wore blue or dark colored uniforms that were practical and protective while at work because of the physical nature of their work that sometimes involved getting dirty.
  • Usually, workers in white-collar jobs are paid higher than their counterparts in the blue-collar job sector. The gap in pay is a result of the difference in the amount of schooling and skill building efforts required for these two categories of jobs.
  • Almost all workers in the white-collar job category work in an office environment while those in blue-collar jobs work in trade occupations such as industrial establishments.