White collar and blue collar are terms used to describe different kinds of employment. Understanding the difference between white collar and blue collar workers can help you to tailor your job search within different industries.

Blue collar workers are traditionally associated with manual work. The term blue collar comes from the hard-wearing blue clothing many workers wear when carrying out manufacturing, construction, or trade-focused tasks. Originally workers would have worn strong clothing, often made from denim which was robust enough to withstand physical work.

White collar workers, on the other hand, are associated with office working environments and professional employment. White collar refers to the white shirts that businesspeople often wear underneath suits, and the term has come to represent any desk-based forms of employment. To give you a clear picture of the difference between white and blue collar operatives, here are some examples of popular areas of employment in each sector.

White collar jobs

Traditionally, white collar jobs were carried out by professionally qualified people. As office working environments became more common, workforces became more diverse, with many unqualified people working in office environments and often undertaking training to develop and progress within a company.

White collar jobs are usually office based and are sometimes carried out from home. Clerical duties are commonplace as are communication, accounting, and computer-focused design and implementation. White collar workers often work a standard 40-hour week and receive an annual salary. Bonuses are common and companies often use a pay scale as an incentive for employee success.

Some white collar job roles include:

  • Software engineer
  • Accountant
  • Data analyst
  • Marketing executive
  • Financial adviser
  • Secretary
  • Market researcher
  • Administrator
  • Company manager

White collar jobs are diverse but all share similarities such as working environment and potential for training and development.

Blue collar jobs

Blue collar jobs are perhaps even more diverse than white collar roles. They range from unskilled manual labourers to highly qualified technicians and skilled tradespeople. Blue collar jobs take place in a wide variety of environments. These can include factories, offices, homes, public spaces, workshops, and outdoor areas. On-the-job training is often offered and some blue collar work is accessible via apprenticeship schemes and in conjunction with vocational colleges.

Blue collar workers often carry out shift work and may be paid an hourly rate. Contract work is common with a blue collar operative often working on a project alongside other tradespeople working for a main contractor. In some industries, such as the home improvement sector, blue collar workers are often self-employed. Self-employed workers who run their own business will either have to employ white collar workers to complete their financial responsibilities or carry out the tasks themselves.

Some blue collar job roles include:

  • Warehouse operative
  • Electrician
  • Mechanic
  • Construction worker
  • Unskilled/semi-skilled and skilled labourers
  • HVAC technician
  • Telecoms engineer
  • Painter and decorator
  • Railway maintenance worker

Blue collar jobs are diverse but have many transferable skills between sub-sectors. For example, a domestic electrician could easily retrain as a motor vehicle electrician.

Working as a blue or white collar operative

In today’s employment landscape, there is much interaction between blue and white collar employment. As mentioned above, a self-employed blue collar worker will often need to perform tasks usually undertaken by a white collar worker. The new skills that a self-employed blue collar worker learns in running their own business can then be applied in a white collar working environment.

Conversely, white collar workers may spend years in a traditional office environment, studying technical information and gaining industry specific knowledge and expertise. They may then choose to take this expertise and apply it directly in a different environment and become a blue collar worker. For example a civil engineer may be involved in the planning of a large scale infrastructure project. Their expertise may then be needed within the live site environment which will become their place of work.

In both white and blue collar work, there is always opportunity to develop and diversify. If you’re looking for your next role as either a blue or white collar operative, contact PPR today to find out more about our current opportunities. Call 01895 808188 or contact us online for more information.