What Color Is Your Job? Job Classifications and Distinctions

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2007-08-2723

I come from a family of white collar workers. But once in a while, I wonder — or even fantasize — about how it would be like to be working a different type of job: maybe something less stressful, like planting flowers in somebody else’s garden (but only in the spring and summertime), or opening a craft shop (open three times a week only).

After some additional thought, I end up convincing myself I’m just trying to escape this week’s bedlam at work and I’m not really serious. Then again, many people actually are. Such as the office manager who decides one day to become a home builder, or the tough saleslady who’s traded high pressure for high chases, as a cop.

Do you have a calling? Lots of people out there have been stuck with one kind of job for a while, wondering if they should make a move to do something else. I figure that by the time you hit middle-age (like myself) you’re about ready to try something new.

Have you asked yourself if you’d prefer to work in this team:

Office Team

or this one?

Construction Workers

Every job actually falls into some sort of classification, and for the most part, they can be described by the “color” attributed to it. I’ve always found it interesting how occupations were typed by the color of your collar (I like how that sounds), with the definitions here picked up from the Wikipedia:

White Collar:

This type of job refers to a salaried professional or a person whose job is clerical in nature, typically what you call a “desk job”. White collar workers are usually salaried professionals who do work that is expectedly less “laborious” but typically more highly paid than blue-collar workers. White collar posts are seen in the medical, legal, administrative or clerical fields. The name comes from the use of traditional white, formal shirts that workers wear in offices or places of work. Known for: desk jobs and high pay.

Blue Collar:

Refers to manual or technical labor, such as in a factory or in technical maintenance “trades.” Workers are members of the working class who perform manual labor and earn an hourly wage. They may be skilled or unskilled, and may involve factory work, building and construction trades, law enforcement, mechanical work, maintenance or technical installations. We normally associate the term blue-collar to the dignity of labor and hard work ethic. Known for: manual labor and unions.

Gold collar:

This is a rarely used term that refers more to marketing than to a class of society. A typical demographic portrays people who’ve gone to a community college or vocational school, or have acquired an education beyond high school. However, some don’t actually graduate or may not even hold a high school diploma. They range in age from 18 to 25 years old and hold full time or part time jobs. Interestingly, because they don’t have the same tuition or debt load as college students, they may actually have more disposable income than college students do. But in the long run, gold collar incomes turn out to be much lower than the incomes of college graduates. More on gold collar here and here. Known for: youth and spending.

Pink collar:

Refers to typically female jobs — hence the term “pink collar”. These occupations are relatively safe, clean and traditionally held by females, and aren’t considered as well-paid or prestigious as white-collar jobs. Neither do they require the same kind of professional training as white-collar jobs do. Some sample jobs: waitress, florist, nurse or medical assistant, secretary, receptionist, tutor, babysitter, maid, nanny, cosmetologist and other low-level positions in the service industry. Known for: female service jobs.


Despite all the subclassifications shown here, I see a lot of overlap among these jobs; it’s still much simpler to refer to these occupations as just white and blue collar, using the more popular socio-economic terminology.

If you’re thinking of shifting careers, you may decide to do something very different from what you’ve been doing all this time; I notice that most people I’ve heard who go from a white collar job to a blue collar job do so to follow a passion, but the other way around — to move from a blue collar post to a white collar one is normally done to improve their status and financial situation. Notice that “collar shifting” mostly goes in the direction of blue to white.

But before I personally make any radical career changes, I’d refer back to a lesson learned from years of work and job-hopping. From yet another cliche: when you’re working a job, the grass always seems to look greener on the other side. How common is it for people to regret leaving a job for a more inferior one? Pretty common I’ll bet. Definitely something to ponder before a career shift! Because if you look hard enough, you may still find a reason or two to like (or maybe just appreciate) your job, no matter what color it is.

Image Credit: BeMoreHealthy.com, SiriusCentre.com, HGAssociates.com

Copyright © 2007 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick August 27, 2007 at 10:18 am

I worked blue collar for a long time (I consider my work in the USAF as blue collar work, because I was an aircraft mechanic and I dealt with manual labor, tough physical conditions, etc.)

I have since changed to a white collar job. There are always a lot of reasons for doing so, ubt the biggest for me was the challenge. I need a strong intellectual challenge to keep me satisfied at work.

I don’t regret the move, but I do miss the blue collar world sometimes – I work in a cubicle farm and it can get boring! In blue collar jobs people tend to bond together better, spend more time together off duty, and have fun whenever possible. People do that in the white collar world, just not to the same degree as in the blue collar world.

SRS Finance August 27, 2007 at 10:37 am

I used to have similar fantasies. Sitting in an office, staring at the clock, nothing sounded better than working outdoors with my hands. I suspect the novelty would have worn of quickly though. Ha ha.

Brip Blap August 27, 2007 at 6:16 pm

Like SRSF said, I have had the “Office Space” fantasy more than once – to be outside! Fresh air! No computers! Then I realize I have a $3000/month mortgage since I live in northern NJ and I need a white-collar job and shake it off. Too bad, though, since unlike SRSF I don’t think the novelty would wear off. My father-in-law works in construction and he’s a smart guy and it works for him. He doesn’t sit in front of a PC screen and attend mindless meetings day after day and he doesn’t worry about skipping the gym. Not that it’s a perfect way to earn a living but when you’re sitting in a meeting in zombie mode, it sounds awfully appealing…

John August 28, 2007 at 4:03 pm

I had a girlfriend who’s a waitress in L.A. who wants to break into the entertainment business. There’s no way she’s going to get a desk job even if it means a stable source of income. You couldn’t bribe her to sit in a cubicle farm.

Cap August 30, 2007 at 9:48 am

Just a note, I know you pulled the description from Wikipedia, but summarizing pink collar job in those wording did make it seem like some of the exampled “pink-collared” jobs not required professional training, e.g. nursing. And I’m pretty sure current nursing students will disagree with that assessment.

it’s probably still viewed a bit traditionally as a women-only job, but we probably all know that the pay is pretty hot in recent years.

Nerak August 31, 2007 at 8:22 pm

Since when does a nurse need less education than an average white collar worker? They both go to school for 4 years. I disagree with this classification; the nurse is probably making more than a lot of people working in ‘white-collar’ jobs.

mathematrucker September 5, 2007 at 8:34 am

I successfully executed the white-to-blue transformation from a relatively posh window cubicle near the top of the (formerly) Safeco Tower in Seattle, to the driver’s seat of a late model Freightliner semi-truck. There were days when I’d literally break into tears on my way home from my actuarial job…now hardly a day goes by without thinking to myself (laughing), “They’re actually paying me to do this?!?” And I’ve been doing it for ten years.

Annie September 11, 2007 at 8:21 am

Both my husband and I worked in the city of London. He was a CEO, and I was a highly specialised librarian. We earned good money, had a big house and a lot of prestige.

But we hated being *owned* by someone else. We never saw our son, I was too stressed to conceive the 2nd child that we desperately wanted and however much money we earned, it never quite seemed to be enough.

Eventually we woke up, and now he is a builder/electrician and has never been happier. I’m a stay-at-home mother, which I combine with freelance writing, blogging and web design. We have our 2nd child – a much treasured daughter.

Do I regret it? Not for a milisecond. No amount of money is worth the stress and despair of that kind of life.

Nancy Hoe January 3, 2008 at 12:13 am

Hi there again,

I never thought there were so many types of colors tagged. Very Interesting. I am still in the ‘White’ color job category. Hopefully as I have said in my earlier posts I can be on my own. So what color is that? Just curious

Thanks for the great post.

Truly Yours

Nancy Hoe


Crystal January 20, 2008 at 11:19 am

To sum nursing into pink collar- a “safe and clean” job… requiring less education and poor pay is incredibly stupid. As someone who worked my butt of to have a 3.8 GPA needed to get into my nursing school, studying constantly for 4 years …. Comparing nursing to babysitter, secretary…. I dream everyday of such luxurious positions where you are not responsible for monitoring someones medical status.. doctor is there for five minutes a day… and your error could be the death of someone.

Silicon Valley Blogger January 20, 2008 at 11:47 am

I have very high regard and respect for anyone in the medical industry and I realize how much training, effort, work, sacrifice and dedication is involved in becoming a medically trained professional. I believe these job classifications overly simplify our work reality and as far as pink collar jobs go, the label was applied to mean a service job dominated by women.

As far as women dominated jobs are concerned, I agree that some of these professions are underappreciated and even underrated.

rgc December 12, 2008 at 12:05 am

I thought that somthing like an apprenticeable trade, where you had to put in up to 4 years training, with many hours in class room study,was refered to as grey collar.

Elly Goaden August 2, 2009 at 8:34 am

What about creative-type jobs?
Artists, actors, musicians, writers, etc.

They aren’t typically desk jobs, nor do they require manual labour, nor are they mainly for women.

What colour collar are they?

Tucson Electrician May 22, 2010 at 5:51 am

I went from blue, to white, to blue again. Started out at a young age in a combat job in the US Army. I excelled at being a soldier, but thought college and a “good” job were the way to go. After years of being medical technologist, I decided to become an electrician. I’m much more happy now…glad I made the switch.

Tony July 7, 2010 at 12:10 pm

It is good to try as many jobs and therefore, experiences as you can. Some companies actively encourage people to swap jobs for a certain period of time.

WP Bonds October 6, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Contrary to popular belief, landscaping is not stress free work. It’s a lot of hard work in the hot sun all day long. I’ve worked a lot of jobs and planting flowers in someone else’s garden was far from the least stressful.

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