What Does Blue Collar Mean?

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Blue-collar workers make up a significant portion of the American workforce.

Blue-collar jobs often involve manual labor and are compensated by hourly wages. Many different careers are considered blue collar, so you may be wondering what the term means.

What Does Blue Collar Mean?

Blue collar has a variety of connotations, as various types of jobs can be said to fall under the category of blue collar. The most common types of blue-collar jobs are found in construction, mining, and manufacturing.

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!

What Are The Other Colored Collars?

As the job market changes, so does the need for accurate terms to describe workers. Several terms—like pink collar, gray collar, green 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, while gold collars work in law and medicine. Gold collar is less a reference to their status than to the high salaries they earn.
  • Gray collar jobs, the final colored collars in this list, include jobs like engineers. Engineers are considered gray-collar workers because of their white-collar education and blue-collar job expectations. 

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 clothes worn by people who worked manufacturing and mining jobs to hide dirt. Now, the term applies to workers in all sorts of industries and generally refers to jobs requiring physical labor.

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 physical labor, you can find blue-collar workers across the industry spectrum. As industries increase their reliance on technology, they will need more blue-collar workers to understand and operate it. 

Owing to their technical expertise, blue-collar workers find employment in energy, aeronautics, and even filmmaking. Certain blue-collar positions also require a college or trade school education because they involve the use of advanced and specialized technologies.

What are some of the best blue collar jobs

There are more blue collar jobs than you can even imagine! Below are just a handful of some of the best that are out there in terms of salary and job security. Be sure to visit our how to become guides to learn more about what it takes to land a great trade job.

Nuclear Power Reactor Operators

Unlike the requirements of many other 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.

The extra work that goes into becoming a nuclear power reactor operator pays off when you consider the high earning potential and competitiveness of this field. 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. This competitive salary more than makes up for the time you’ll spend training and learning about different types of technology.

Detectives and Criminal Investigators

Detectives and criminal investigators run investigations to help solve and prevent crimes. Detectives are at the forefront of police work—they conduct interrogations, analyze evidence, and participate in raids and arrests.

Because detectives and criminal investigators work in such a dynamic and potentially dangerous field, they enjoy a comfortable salary of around $80,000 per year. Becoming a detective takes a lot of work, though, and often requires more education, training, and experience than other blue-collar workers.

While some police departments may not require officers or detectives to have any college education, many require at least a two- or four-year degree in a relevant field. After earning your degree, you need to enroll in a police academy to gain investigative experience. Only then are you professionally certified and credentialed, ready to begin your career as a detective.


Electricians are among the most common and best-paid blue-collar workers. 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. First, after graduating high school, 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.

After attending a trade or vocational school, you will need to apply to become an electrician’s apprentice before earning your electrical license. With license in hand, you are free to work and apply to jobs in any industry you like. Many electricians even open their own businesses to help people and other businesses in their local communities.

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.

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.

To become a first-line police and detective supervisor, you will need at least five years of experience, and you’ll likely need to hold an undergraduate degree. Because you’ll be doing administrative work, you could also benefit from knowing at least one foreign language.

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

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.

Your career as an elevator technician begins with a four-year apprenticeship under another elevator technician. For each year you spend as an apprentice, you will need to complete several hours of on-the-job training to help you build experience and technical expertise.

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. 

One way to boost your chances of success as a wood patternmaker is to enroll in math and computer science courses. The more advanced woodcutting technology becomes, the harder it will be to operate new machinery. Getting ahead of the curve with science and math courses will keep your skills relevant and useful in a quickly changing work environment.

Fortunately, most of your training as a wood patternmaker will be completed on the job. Additional certifications and education can help you stand out from other wood patternmakers, and can even help you earn more money. 

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

If college isn’t the right choice for you, check out Blue Collar Brain to help you find your career path!

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