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The Blue Collar Worker: A Hero In Our Workforce

Jill Caren
By Jill Caren
Updated December 17th, 2023

Blue-collar workers, sometimes also called skilled trade workers, make up a significant portion of the American workforce.

Many different careers are considered blue-collar and this article will help you understand what it means to be a blue collar worker.

  1. Blue-collar workers are those that perform manual or physical labor to get a job done.
  2. They are often paid hourly and can make a lot of money just in overtime due to the shortage of workers.
  3. The negative stigma associated with working trade jobs is affecting the entire industry. We need to consider these workers heroes and diminish their value in society.
  4. Without skilled trade workers we could not live the comfortable lives that we live.

What Are Blue Collar Workers?

So what are blue-collar workers exactly?

The official blue collar definition is “relating to manual work or workers, particularly in industry”.

It basically refers to someone who does manual and physical labor which may include skilled or unskilled work.

People who work blue-collar jobs are considered members of the working class, despite the high earning potential associated with such jobs, as well as the opportunity they afford workers to develop specialized skills. 

Skilled trades are one of the most secure and needed jobs that exist! Blue collar work is often hourly and is protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act which can help set requirements for overtime pay and hours.

There are many opportunities available in a blue-collar career path that can provide a good living and exciting opportunities!

Examples of Other Job Colors

As the job market changes, so does the need for accurate terms to describe workers.

Several terms—like pink collar, gray collar, green collar, white collar, and gold collar—describe workers in their respective industries to indicate the kinds of jobs they do.

While you may not have heard of these other colors, they can be helpful when dividing the vast landscape of employment into distinct terrains.

  • Pink collar jobs include retail positions, elementary school teachers, and jobs in service fields like waitstaff or secretaries. Rather than a reference to the color of clothing these workers wear, pink is meant to represent the women who traditionally fill these roles.
  • Green collar jobs work in conservation and sustainability.
  • Gold collar jobs are those that work in law or medicine.
  • Gray collar jobs include jobs like engineers. Engineers are considered gray-collar workers because of their white-collar education and blue-collar job expectations. Like their blue collar counterparts, they often require some type of certification or vocational education.
  • White collar jobs are those that are typically have an office job and rarely do manual labor. A white collar worker might be an administrative assistant, bank teller, data entry clerk, or someone in the finance field. They were given the name “white collar job” because they often were required to wear white dress shirts and a tie in the office and were often viewed as having a higher social class than blue collar workers. But, in many cases a white collar worker may actually make less than those in blue collar jobs. Learn more about white collar vs blue collar careers.

Where Did Blue Collar Originate?

The term “blue collar” originated in the United States in the 1920s.

It began as a reference to the blue shirts (which often had blue collars) or blue jeans worn by those that did manual labor. Blue uniforms and blue denim clothes (or any other dark colors) were often used by those who did physical work in manufacturing and mining jobs because they could hide dirt well.

Now, the term applies to workers in all sorts of industries and generally refers to jobs requiring all different types of physical labor.

Although there is a stigma associated with these jobs, there is also a lot of supporters out there. Mike Rose, is a strong proponent of skilled trade workers as seen in his article called Blue Collar Brilliance.

In this article he talks about how education does not equate to intelligence.

We agree.

How Have Blue Collar Jobs Changed?

The meaning of blue collar has changed drastically since the 1920s. While it originally referred to low-paying positions that did not require any advanced education, you can now find blue-collar workers in any salary bracket and level of education.

Although blue collar still denotes jobs requiring manual labor, you can find blue-collar workers across a variety of industries. As these industries increase their reliance on technology, they will need more blue-collar workers to understand and operate it. 

Owing to their technical expertise, most blue collar workers find employment in energy, aeronautics, and even filmmaking. Manufacturing jobs, truck drivers, construction, and welding are all some of the most popular blue collar career options, but there are so many more out there.

Certain blue-collar positions also require a college or trade school education because they involve the use of advanced and specialized technologies.

blue collar Job Examples

There are more blue collar professions than you can even imagine! With the blue collar workforce taking a hit with new recruiting, there has never been a better time to get into a trade career.

Below are just a small handful of examples of blue collar jobs. You may be surprised to know that many trade jobs earn more money than their white-collar work counterparts!

Hourly rates vary greatly based on experience, location, and type of work that you might do, but many blue collar workers earn over $70,000 annually.

Be sure to visit our how-to become trade career guides to learn more about what it takes to land a great trade job.

what does blue collar mean - locksmith at work who is blue collar

Nuclear Power Reactor Operators

Unlike the requirements of many blue collar jobs, nuclear power reactor operators need to prepare for several different exams and licensing requirements. Nuclear power reactor operators must additionally pass frequent health and recertification exams to continue working.

These highly-trained specialists operate and maintain nuclear power reactors and earn more than $100,000 per year.

Power Distributors And Dispatchers

Seeking employment as a power distributor and dispatcher means you will need at least a high school degree and advanced knowledge of math and science. While it is not required, many employers prefer candidates with some college or vocational experience. 

Power distributors and dispatchers are responsible for maintaining and operating equipment that produces steam and electricity. Considering the technical skills they need, power distributors and dispatchers often take classes to help familiarize themselves with complicated machinery.

Once you’ve put in the work to become a power distributor and dispatcher, you can enjoy a comfortable salary of more than $90,000 per year. The power generation career path is a strong one and there are many different opportunities within the sector.


Electricians are among the most common and best-paid blue-collar workers and are considered part of the public utilities career path, which is a good one! Electricians can work in many different industries and are likely to find high-quality employment with a good salary and job security.

Becoming an electrician requires a bit more work than other blue-collar jobs. After earning your high school diploma, you should consider attending a trade or vocational school to acquire some foundational electrical skills. Holding a degree is not required, but it can be helpful later on.

On top of the job freedom enjoyed by many electricians, they can earn between $30,000 and $60,000 per year. Electricians who own their own business are likely to make much more, but be prepared to put a lot of additional work and effort into it.

Related: Electrician vs HVAC

First-Line Supervisors

First-line supervisors can work in just about any field you can imagine. Supervisors are essential for making sure that operations run smoothly and that their employees provide consistently high-quality work. Depending on the field in which you want to work, you’ll need to meet a few different requirements to become a supervisor.

The best-paid first-line supervisors are those who work with police and detectives. They are responsible for administrative and leadership tasks, and they communicate with people like lawyers and court personnel outside of the department.

Other types of first-line supervisors work at power plants, fire departments, and mechanic shops. Because supervisors can work in such a wide range of different fields, they can earn vastly different salaries, ranging from $60,000 to $90,000 per year.

Elevator Installation And Repair

elevator repairman at work

Although it may not sound like the most exciting job in the world, elevator installation and repair technicians are in high demand and can earn an impressive salary. Becoming an elevator installation and repair technician requires advanced technical knowledge and years of training.

Once you’ve satisfied the rigorous requirements of becoming an elevator mechanic, you can expect to earn a salary of more than $84,000 per year.

You will also likely be a member of a union, giving you a cushion of added benefits and increased job security.

Wood Patternmakers

Wood patternmaking offers blue-collar workers a unique opportunity to incorporate creativity into their work. Wood patternmakers carve designs and patterns into wood to create sand molds for casting. 

To become a wood patternmaker, you will need several years of relevant experience and at least a high school degree. As patternmaking involves increasing amounts of technology, employers look for candidates with some level of college or trade school education. 

Once you’ve finished your training, you can expect to earn around $64,000 per year on average.

Can Blue Collar Workers Make More Than White Collar Works?

While you may think that blue collar jobs do not pay well, you would be wrong.

The wages for in-demand careers like solar panel installers, wind turbine technicians, radiation therapists, and more can make very generous incomes. Many earning well over 6-figures with some experience.

In contrast, not all white collar jobs pay well due to the workforce having too many people applying for the same job. More kids than ever are going to college – many for business degrees, making the demand for these employees much less than that of an automotive technician for example.

How are white collar jobs different than blue collar?

White-collar jobs are typically office based, require more education, and can come with larger salaries. These jobs may be in finance, legal, or sales.

Blue-collar jobs are more often done outdoors – often with a lot of dirt around. They are considered manual labor jobs and usually require less education and can come with lower salaries.

You can learn more about the differences between white collar and blue collar jobs here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Jill Caren is an international SEO consultant and founder of 2Dogs Media. She is also a trainer, journalist, and speaker who helps brands increase their organic search visibility, traffic, and conversions. She is also the co-founder of Blue Collar Brain, a resource for those looking to enter a trade career.

She has been featured on MSN, Wealth of Geeks, Hubspot, SEO Powersuite, and other publications for her work as an SEO and advocate for skilled trades.