FAQ: What Do Job “Collars” Represent? (With Examples)
Updated July 14, 2023
The color of an employee’s work attire has long been used as an informal classification of employment. Known as job collars, these stereotypes, such as “blue collar” or “white collar,” refer to the skills, workplace environments or jobs associated with certain fields.
In this article, we define the various job collars, including the required education and skills for these industries.
What are job collars?
Job collars originally denoted groups of working individuals based on the color of their work outfits’ collars. Historically, they were associated with pay, social class and even outdated gender norms as they pertained at the time to certain jobs or fields of employment. The most common job collars still in common use today by employers are blue and white, but the list is continually updating to keep up with technological advancements and employment needs.
What are the types of job collars?
There are several types, or colors, of job collars, all of which refer to generically grouped skills and abilities by industry. Here are a few:
"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. These jobs are physically demanding, requiring employees to work outdoors or with heavy machinery. Blue-collar workers often are employed in fields such as construction, agriculture, manufacturing and shipping.
“Blue collar” was first used in the early 20th century to denote trade jobs. It referred to the blue denim or chambray fabrics worn by 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.
"White collar” typically refers to jobs in an office setting involving managerial, administrative or clerical duties with little to no manual labor. First used in the 1930s, the term referred to the white shirts typically worn by people who worked in offices.
"Green collar” refers to those employed in environmental sectors of the economy. Often called “green workers,” these individuals help fill the ever-growing demand for environmental jobs. They tend to focus on implementing environmentally conscious designs, policies and technologies designed to help improve conservation and sustainability.
This relatively new classification, first introduced in 2016, refers to workers who have obtained the 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.
What fields do job collars represent?
Certain fields are associated with certain collar colors, including:
Blue-color jobs typically involve physical labor or a skilled trade. They are associated with fields including:
White-collar jobs typically involve office work, relying mostly on education and experience in office settings. They are associated with fields including:
Green-collar jobs focus on the environment or “green” development. They are associated with fields including:
Recycling or waste management
New-collar jobs job focus more on skills and abilities rather than formal education. They are associated with fields including:
What education is required for job collars?
There are different education requirements for different job collars, including:
A blue-collar job usually involves formal or on-the-job training. It may include an apprenticeship or internship. Depending on your specialty, you may be required to obtain a license or certification.
White-collar jobs typically require at least an associate or bachelor’s degree. However, not all white-collar jobs require formal education. Some may prefer experience over education.
Read more: 16 White-Collar Jobs To Consider
Education requirements for green-collar jobs can vary greatly depending on the specific roles. While some jobs require on-the-job training to prepare you for the role, others require a college degree of some sort.
New-collar employees usually pursue a nontraditional education path such as military training, trade school or technical school, licensure or certification program. You may also undergo an apprenticeship or internship to gain the skills needed for a new-collar job.
What skills are required by job collars?
Professionals in each job collar category typically have large skill sets that allow them to succeed in their roles, including:
Blue-collar skills typically include both hard and soft skills, including:
White-collar jobs usually require a variety of different hard and soft skills, including:
Green-collar job skills typically vary by job but include:
New-collar skills can vary based on the specific role but usually include:
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