There are a number of differences between blue and white collar jobs, though they are often grouped based on the sort of work that is done and the type of education or training that is required. Blue collar jobs tend to involve manual labor, and white collar work is often performed in an office environment. Another distinction that is sometimes made is the prevalence of hourly wages in blue collar jobs, contrasted with the salaried positions of white collar workers. White collar jobs often require a higher level of education, while blue collar workers may need vocational or on the job training. Many jobs do not fit well into the blue collar and white collar categories, especially where the service sector is concerned.
The terms blue and white collar refer to the colors of shirts that have been commonly worn by different types of workers. Manual laborers traditionally wear darker clothing that is also sturdier, as it may become soiled or damaged throughout the course of their work. Professionals have often worn white collared shirts, which are better suited to an office environment than manual labor. Though not everyone who works in these types of jobs actually conforms to this specific dress code, the terms can still be used to identify different types of workers.
Blue collar work is typically defined as requiring manual labor, though this refers to a wide variety of different jobs and skill levels. Unskilled factory work and highly skilled vocations, such as carpentry, are all typically seen as blue collar. White collar jobs can include anything from low paid office workers to highly educated doctors, lawyers, and other professionals.
Education has traditionally been one of the main differences between blue and white collar workers. Blue collar jobs often require a high school education, a two year vocational program, or an apprenticeship. Many white collar jobs, especially professionals such as doctors and lawyers, require extensive undergraduate and graduate school educations. This is not always the case, and many white collar office workers have no college education. College graduates can also choose to work in positions that require manual labor, though these jobs rarely require a four year degree.
Some jobs involve the performance of many different functions, which may include both manual labor and tasks more commonly associated with office work. The terms blue and white collar do not fit well with these sorts of jobs. This is particularly true with service sector jobs, which may require a degree, though that is not always the case.