White Collar: Definition & Examples

White Collar: Definition & Examples

white collar definition

What is a White Collar

A white collar is the name used to define a segment of employees that earn higher than average wages in highly skilled positions. White collar positions are known as such because these roles would usually require a shirt and tie outfit. These are the typical roles we may associate with office and management jobs that do not require physical labor.

Those in white collar jobs may range from accountants to market research analysts, to a software developer. Due to the average pay being around or above the national average, white collar workers tend to fall into the ‘middle class’.

The main other type of collar are those who are blue-collar workers. These are traditionally ‘working class’ employees that work in plants, mills, and factories.

Key Points
  1. A white collar refers to employees working in the office, usually in skilled positions.
  2. White collar workers are generally paid above the national average wage.
  3. White collar jobs tend to require Bachelor degrees.

The term ‘white collar’ originates from Upton Sinclair, who coined the term in the 1930s. The reference was in relation to those who worked in office-based clerical, administrative and managerial positions.

These workers were seen as professional workers with a set salary. They became known as ‘white collar’ workers due to the fact that throughout the 19th and 20th century, this positions required workers to wear white collared uniforms.

White Collar Examples

1. Attorney

Typical Wage: $61,000 – $136,600

An attorney, otherwise known as a lawyer in some parts of the world, practices law. They perform a range of legal services for their clients such as conveyancing, criminal law, family law, and corporate law.

Attorney’s are generally office based, but do travel for clients where necessary. In this white collar role, employees will need a law degree and pass the relevant legal examinations. In the US, this will require a successful BAR examination. Many states will also require attorneys to pass an ethics exam.

2. Doctor

Typical Wage: $36,000 – $190,000

Doctors location will range from working in a hospital to a smaller local surgery. There are a number of different types of doctors, such as primary care, pediatricians, dermatologists, and urologists.

Although we may not consider hospitals as an ‘office’, these are actually offices by definition. An office is defined as “a room, set of rooms, or building used as a place for commercial, professional, or bureaucratic work.” So as far as doctors are concerned, they can also be considered as a ‘white collar’ role.

3. Economist

Typical Wage: $72,000 – $152,000

Economists are one of the fastest growing white collar roles there is. Most roles require an undergraduate and masters degree, whilst some also require a PhD.

Economists can work in a number of areas ranging from public work in education and research, to corporate fields. Whilst their roles can vary, they are generally office based and data driven – therefore characterising it as a white collar role.

4. Executive Assistant

Typical Wage Typical Wage: $39,000 – $74,500

An executive assistant manages the schedules and communication for key executives within a firm. These white collar roles tend to require a bachelor’s degree.

Executive assistants play a big role with the companies executive decision makers. Their role is to keep schedules, prioritize calls, meetings, and e-mails, whilst administering documents and travel arrangements.

5. Financial Advisor

Typical Wage: $55,000 – $134,000

A financial advisor helps their clients with their money, helping on decision making on matters such as personal finances and investments. These roles typically require a degree in business, marketing, or finance. There are typically additional exams to pass before gaining accreditation.

Financial advisors are usually based in offices whereby clients either call in, or visit in person. For this white collar role, clients will receive advise on matters ranging from mortgages, investment options, to managing every day finances and budgeting.

6. Human Resources Manager

Typical Wage: $64,000 – $110,000

Human resource managers seek to create internal procedures for internal disputes, whilst also handling employee-related issues. Their role also covers other areas such as hiring and firing, and ensuring motivated and happy employees, ensuring a good retention.

This white collar role tends to require a bachelor’s degree in human resources or similar field. Additional qualifications in psychology or conflict management can prove beneficial.

7. Information Security Analyst

Typical Wage: $75,000 – $136,000

Information security analysts have become increasingly important in the new world of sophisticated technology. They monitor their organizaitons networks for security issues and potential holes in that security. They maintain various security features such as the firms firewalls and data encryption programs to protect sensitive details.

This white collar role requires a bachelor’s degree in cybersecuirty, computer science, information assurance, or programming. Again, these roles are office based.

8. Investment Banker

Typical Wage: $112,500 – $222,200

Investment bankers are a type of financial advisor that specialises in raising capital for their client. They usually work in the corporate sector, but also work with governments.

For this white collar job, a bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement. However, to advance in this field, a Master’s degree is a must have.

9. Management Consultant

Typical Wage: $72,000 – $146,000

Management consultant’s advise companies on ways by which they can help improve efficiency and increase profits. Firms usually hire third party management consultants rather than having an ‘in-house’ employee.

This helps in two ways. Firstly, it provides a fresh outside view into the workings of the company. And secondly, the consultant will have experience with other companies and best practices of working which may be suitable.

For this white collar role, it’s necessary to have a Bachelor’s degree in business, computing, economics, accounting, management, finance, marketing, or psychology. A Master’s degree would also be beneficial.

10. Market Research Analyst

Typical Wage: $44,000 – $90,000

Market research analysts help companies develop a competitive advantage by gaining a deeper understanding of the market. This might be potential opportunities, market trends, and customer behavior.

Analysts may use surveys to gather data, or using existing resources to analyse and dissect market trends. This might be using existing buyer habits and behavior.

For this white collar role, analysts are generally office based, although may conduct some general field work on occasion. They require a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree, although a Master’s may be necessary for some positions.

11. School Administrator

Typical Wage: $29,000 – $88,000

School administrators provide data to day office support within a school. This covers areas such as maintaining attendance records, arranging new in-takes, and arranging for school supplies to be purchased.

This white collar role requires various levels of qualifications depending on the area. Some may require a basic teacher preparation program whilst others may require a Bachelor’s degree and teaching experience.

12. Social Media Marketer

Typical Wage: $31,000 – $62,000

A social media marketer will generally have access to the firms social media platforms, using it to help build the firms brand image and presence. This can cover the scheduled release of posts, to the marketing budget on pay-per-click advertising campaigns.

This white collar role doesn’t necessarily require a Bachelor’s degree, but some positions prefer one. A social media course or training is also preferred. However, a large number of social media marketers are freelance workers.

13. Software Developer

Typical Wage: $77,000 – $138,000

A software developer designs and creates computer programs. These could be for applications ranging for mobile apps to desktops, to other unusual sectors such as cars.

This white collar role requires a Bachelor’s degree in computer science or related field. For some higher paid roles, a Master’s degree may be required.

14. Statistician

Typical Wage: $68,000 – $140,000

A statistician collects and collates data and presents this in a way that helps companies make informed decisions. This might be quantitative data whereby there and underlying trends. Or, it may be qualitative data which needs to be collated and interpreted. This is then presented in a way by which the company can take action, usually in the form of a report.

For this white collar role, a Bachelor’s degree is a necessity for entry level. High levels will require a Master’s degree on occasion. These higher paid positions are still office based, but some may require travel to meetings with various stakeholders.

15. Therapist

Typical Wage: $49,000 – $99,000

As the awareness surrounding mental health increases, so too has the demand for therapists. Within this role, therapists help in a number of areas ranging from couples, to families, to other issues such as emotional abuse and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In the white collar role, a Bachelor and Master’s degree is needed to become a licensed practitioner.

Other Types of Collars

Other that the typical white collar roles, there are a number of other ‘collars’. Whilst these cover a wider range of various roles, the main types today are ‘blue-collar workers’ and white collar workers. The others include:

  • Red collar these cover government workers with origins from the red ink budget.
  • No collar these are known as ‘free spirits’, usually in the arts. This covers professions such as artists, musicians, and acting.
  • Orange collar these refer to those who work in prisons due to the traditional ‘orange’ jumpsuits usually worn by inmates.
  • Green collar these refer to professions that relate to environmental protection and development of renewable energy.
  • Scarlet collar these refer to workers in the sex industry.
  • Black collar these refer to manual laborers who get dirty during their jobs. These include professions such as mining or oil-drilling. Often, miners would come out of the miners covered in black dust from the coal.
  • Grey collar refers to professions that don’t quite fit into the traditional blue or white collar roles. Examples might include airline pilots, priests, chefs, and firefighters.

Blue Collar vs White Collar

White collar workers are known to wear a white shirt and tie, within the service sector. They are generally located within an office environment and do little in the way on manual labor. This type of collar is generally paid at or above the average national wage and conducts relatively skilled work. Most jobs will require some kind of Bachelors degree and some level of experience or training.

By contrast, blue collar workers are known as manual laborers. The origins of such was that such workers would tend to get dirty, so wore blue clothing which was better at covering potential dirt or grease on their uniform. This type of collar is also known as ‘working class’ as many workers would go down the mines or in the factories. Often, this was on relatively low pay.

Blue CollarWhite Collar
• Physically demanding • Highly skilled
• Low pay • Medium to high pay
• No qualifications required • Degree level qualifications
• Works outside or in a factory • Works in an office
• Hourly salaried • Yearly salaried
• Lower levels of job security • Comparatively high job security
• Severely threatened by automation and AI • Relatively safe from development of AI


What is the meaning for white-collar?

The term white collar comes from the fact that skilled professionals wore a white shirt and tie. These office based roles are generally in the service industry, whereby a neat and tidy uniform was necessary.

What Is a White Collar Crime?

White collar crime is an illegal activity which does not cause physical damage, but is committed for monetary gain. Some examples of white collar crimes include embezzlement, fraud, counter-fitting, and theft.

Are White Collar Jobs Better?

White collar jobs are not necessarily better than other professions. Yes, they do tend to pay more than others, but job satisfaction is also a key factor. Some may find manual labor blue collar jobs are better suited to them, whilst others may prefer to stay in an office.

About Paul

Paul Boyce is an economics editor with over 10 years experience in the industry. Currently working as a consultant within the financial services sector, Paul is the CEO and chief editor of BoyceWire. He has written publications for FEE, the Mises Institute, and many others.

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