Blue Collar vs. White Collar: What's the difference?

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Difference between Blue Collar and White Collar

Blue collar workers are generally industrial and manual workers who wear durable clothing and a popular component of such clothing has been, and still is, a light or navy blue work shirt. The attractiveness of the color blue among manual laborers is in contrary to the ever-present white dress shirt that is standard apparel in office environments. A new class of workers is now differentiated from blue collar and white collar workers, namely office workers. This group includes non-professional office personnel who support professionals in jobs dealing with the public and outside service workers, hourly wage jobs and often are paid lower wages than blue collar workers. Here, however, we will look closer at blue collar and white collar designations.

Nature of Work

Wages for blue collar work is lower than that of a white collar worker, although normally paying more than many entry level service occupations. Especially skilled blue collar jobs may pay very well when compared to many white collar jobs even though sometimes work conditions may be exhausting or risky. Blue collar jobs may be represented by trade unions or regulated by state and/or federal statutes. White collar workers are usually a salaried professional or an educated worker who does professional office, administrative, and sales coordination tasks, as opposed to a blue collar worker. With typically high salaries and a good opportunity to advance to higher levels on the socio economic ladder, they are not immune to working long and exhausting hours.


Blue and white collar workers are significantly differentiated in the amount of formal education that is needed by each group. The educational emphasis is also the deciding factor on the nature of work they do and they salaries they will be paid. Blue collar workers usually require only a high school diploma, trade school or two year college degree. White collar workers are usually college or university graduates with an undergraduate, graduate or doctoral degrees. Education level is a major deciding factor in the type of job a person pursues and lands. A major drawback in blue collar work is retirement age. Let’s consider that blue collar work is often physically demanding so age can play a part in employment. Not only do standard retirement benefits become available only after 59.5 years of age, but blue collar workers may not use as much foresight in relation to retirement investments and securing their finances in the face of stock market fluctuations and its effects on retirement account allocations. Financial management and planning skills are probably the most valuable side effects of higher education degree program training.


Since blue collar and white collar workers differentiate in education level and the nature of work they perform, there is a difference in pay as well. Not only do white collar workers work in the comfort of a chair with a telephone in an air conditioned office, they are usually paid more because of the degree they've earned. Blue collar workers usually perform manual labor which is more tiring, physically demanding and thankless than white collar work, but since the blue collar worker doesn't have as much formal education as a white collar worker, he is faced with performing a repetitive job with little to no chance of growth or advancement in their field. Health problems can curtail any dreams they have of financial padding or security. Strong union representation can have the effect of protecting blue collar rights in relation to health issues and pay disputes but without union representation, retirement benefits, pensions and health care coverage is at risk in the face of poor management practices.

Similarities and Differences

  • There are two kinds of workers, white collar and blue collar. White collar workers are highly educated workers who work from the comfort of their office. Whereas blue collar workers are usually high school graduates who do industrial or manual labor.
  • Blue collar worker is often hazardous and physically tiring. White collar work is performed in a professional office setting with minimal physical demands.
  • White collar workers are generally better at planning for retirement, handling investment accounts and using financial tricks learned in business degree programs.
  • Blue collar workers are generally at the risk of poor management in areas such as retirement funds, pensions, vacations and health care if not represented by a strong union. 

Which type of work is more secure?
  • Blue Collar
  • White Collar

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