The distinction between white collar jobs and blue collar began in the 1920s and 1930s when it was the norm for the growing class of office workers to wear white shirts, and for manual workers to wear darker colors which would not get soiled as easily. However, the term "white collar jobs" has evolved beyond the historical meaning to mean those whose work is knowledge intensive, non-routine, and less structured. Management positions, for example, are considered white collar jobs, as are professional jobs such as lawyers, doctors, accountants and engineers.
Management positions are classic white collar jobs. Just about all management positions, except perhaps that of an assistant manager at a convenience store, meet the modern definition of knowledge-intensive and non-routine work. Mid-and upper management positions like sales manager, treasurer, chief financial officer or chief executive officer are unarguably white collar jobs.
All manner of professional jobs are considered white collar jobs. Lawyers, doctors and accountants all apply their knowledge in the practice of their professions, and have long been considered white collar workers. Where you draw the white collar-blue collar line with other medical professionals besides doctors is a little more blurry. One can certainly make a case that radiologic and surgical technologists are white collar workers, while most would agree that orderlies and medical assistants who perform routine support work are blue collar employees. Registered nurses entering the field in the 21st century typically have bachelor's degrees and their job is very knowledge-intensive, but because a nurse's job was historically more palliative and routine, nurses are still sometimes categorized as blue collar workers.
Science and Engineering Jobs
All science and engineering jobs are white collar as they involve applying scientific and engineering principles to solve problems. The only issue in science and tech is again where to draw the line. Everyone agrees that civil engineers, software engineers and biochemists are white collar jobs, but because the work of many lab assistants and lab techs is supportive and often tends to be repetitive, they are sometimes considered blue collar.
Almost everyone agrees that IT specialists, network administrators and project managers are white collar workers, but there are significant differences of opinion on the status of lower-level admin jobs such as clerks, tellers, secretaries and administrative assistants. Clerical and administrative positions were historically white collar positions, but some organizations, like the Kaiser Family Foundation define them as blue collar workers in the 21st century. Others think that although some clerical work can be quite repetitive, there is enough variety and knowledge required in doing the work that most administrative workers can still be considered considered white collar positions.
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