Do you consider engeineers/programmers/IT "white collar"?

They’re certainly not “blue collar” workers.

But, I always thought of “white collar” as business people, insurance salesman, bankers, generic management positions, etc.

What say you. . .that programmer going to work dressed in jeans, and a golf shirt. . .is he a “white collar worker” or do you have a different category?

I’ve always thought “white collar” vs. “blue collar” as a simple income difference. In the tech world, even the CEOs don’t usually wear ties.

I always thought it was just a metaphore for doing your work physically or doing your work mentally. In other words, labor versus office job. And the actual clothes you are wearing are immaterial (Ha!).

The way the white/blue collar system was described to be by my parents when I was a child was thus. Blue collar is for those who work up a sweat during their workday. Blue shirts don’t show yellowing and sweat stains like white shirts do. People who don’t work up a sweat with their daily routine can wear white shirts, and often do because they work well with more suit/tie combinations than blue does. So whenever someone asks me to categorize someone as “white collar” or “blue collar” I think “would an average person(without health problems which cause excessive sweating without corresponding physical activity) have sweat stains on a white shirt while doing this job?” So even in “blue collar industries” like construction or auto repair, there can be “white collar” positions. Foreman, service advisor, etc. Similarly a lot of what people may think of as “white collar” jobs, such as a manager at a large retail store(think Macy’s, or Sears) may spend so much time running around from department to department that they stain their shirts.


And with that in mind, a programmer is unlikely to work up much of a sweat - the guy building the rack in the data center - on some days he has a very blue collar job - on other days, he may be the guy watching the monitoring software.

Go back to the 1950’s and look at it from that point of view.
Back then an engineer wore a white shirt (probably short sleeved) and a tie. So did the CEO (although he might wear a long sleeve shirt).
What computer people existed were most likely engineers, so they wore the engineer’s uniform of a white shirt and tie.

My vote, white collar.

Yes, I would consider them white collar. Crawling under desks notwithstanding, the work is brain-powered and not manual labor.

How far did “pink collar” extend? I know it’s sexist now but for what it was worth I thought it meant secretaries. Did it also include service workers?

The guy building the rack in the data center probably isn’t sweating because of the systems which keep the servers cool. The raised floor area of my office has it’s own AC and they keep it at about 62 in there. :slight_smile: Still, I see your point. I’ve never found the white/blue collar labels of much use myself. Can’t think of the last time I used the terms.


I dunno – I’ve had to heft some mighty heavy servers in my day. Putting a whole rack together in a timely manner is definitely sweat-worthy, even in the chilliest data-centers.

But, yeah, “white collar” just means someone who works in an office and doesn’t do manual labor regularly.

I’m an engineer and I consider myself a “no collar” worker. I am, however, not representative of my coworkers.

And the blue collar people don’t necessarily make less money.

Depending on where you are regionally, everybody may be showing up at work in jeans or at least khakis, not just the programmers and engineers.

No it didn’t extend that far. It was women working in offices, whether secretary, or clerk, or receptionist. It wouldn’t be someone like a grocery checker or manicurist.

My understanding of the term is that it referred to the “better” female-dominated jobs – secretaries, nurses, telephone operators, primary school teachers, etc. Lots of women, not much potential for advancement, opportunity to marry up. It’s not as obsolete as I would like, but at least the phrase isn’t quite so common anymore.

And, yes, I consider IT & programmers white collar. Engineers fall into the “professional” category.

Pretty much. I might add that to me white collar also implies a professional job requiring some sort of degree. So engineers are considered white collar at my job, but so are the most junior, bench-level lab techs.

Definitely not. Senior “trades” workers like electricians, instrument techs, mechanics and the like are considered blue collar, but they make more than the assistant engineers and junior lab techs where I work. In a natural history museum/aquarium of which I am acquainted, the unionized stationary engineers that maintained the aquarium equipment made much more than the various degree’d, career curatorial assistants ( not sure how they stacked up with the actual full PhD curators, but I’m sure it was compeititive ).

  • Tamerlane

My husband used to work in IT, and I’m told he wore a white dress shirt and tie to work back then. He was a contractor for the U.S. government. That was certainly white-collar.

Now he wears T-shirts and jeans to work, and owns a company. That’s blue-collar, definitely, but he earns far more now than he did as an IT contractor. (Yet he can still build one fierce computer from parts, and set up a wireless network faster than anyone I’ve ever seen.)

White collar without a doubt.

Another vote for white collar.

I think the difference is whether you’re able to wear nice clothes to work without the fear of getting crap all over them. Even if many IT folks end up just wearing jeans and a t-shirt, they very well could wear fancy clothing and it would still be fine at the end of the day.

I wear fairly grubby jeans and t-shirt to work because I know damn well I’ll get splashes of ink on them, probably get a bit of grease smeared on them somehow, and will definitely sweat in them.

I’ve been IT/programmer as long as I’ve really been in the work force, and I guess I thought of myself as white collar in the general sense, though I don’t work for a place that has a ‘white collar’ dress code.

In fact, I don’t actually own a white shirt at all… my work shirts are mostly in colors that actually look good on me - purple, blue, green, and red. (Oh, and there’s that spiffy blue and white striped one!)

The distinction (as Mtgman has already pointed out) is based on doing manual labor. If your job primarily involves you working with your hands and body (i.e., chopping, lifting, carrying, or assembling stuff), you’re a blue collar worker; otherwise, you’re a white collar worker.

Labor unions use these terms to divide “the working class” (blue collar) from “management” (white collar). Based on this, I used to think that “blue collar” also meant “paid an hourly rate based on replacement cost of work, including overtime rates”, while “white collar” meant “paid a flat salary based on value of the role to the company, with performance-based bonuses and infinite opportunity for advancement/promotion”. Then I learned this distinction is made with the term “exempt” (as in, “exempt from overtime compensation”), which in the modern world gives a much more meaningful distinction now that many “white collar” jobs are now non-exempt.

Anyway, back to the original topic. IMO where the line gets a little blurry for computers is for hardware tech support. Computer programmers are unequivocally “white collar”, because the labor is purely intellectual; they’re basically software engineers, and engineers have always been considered white collar professions.

On the other hand, plumbers and auto mechanics have always been considered blue collar professions. In this sense, the guys who go around setting up and fixing networking and hardware problems, installing rack systems, running cables and swapping out hard drives and other stuff, could be considered “blue collar” even though their hands are not “getting dirty”.

Heh. Here, ‘pink collar’ refers to prostitution, hostess clubs, stripping and other related businesses.