What All Students Should Know About ‘New-Collar’ Jobs

For many years, workforce classifications were divided into blue-collar and white-collar jobs. But many of today’s workers aren’t so easily classified in one group or the other. Instead, “new-collar” employment is making an impact in the job market. These skilled positions fall somewhere between the longstanding blue- and white-collar worker designations.

White-collar employment commonly refers to professional positions that require a college education and additional higher learning. The name stems from the need for professional attire for these office and boardroom jobs. Physician, lawyer, administrator, accountant, corporate executive, and pharmacist are representative white-collar careers. They’re typically high-paid, salaried positions.

In comparison, blue-collar workers hold a range of skilled and unskilled positions that include service jobs, manual labor, assembly work, trade jobs, janitorial positions, and numerous other careers that don’t require a college degree. Blue-collar employees usually work for an hourly wage. They may learn their job skills via vocational classes or with on-the-job training.

But the career landscape is changing. The rapid growth and advancements in digital technology has been blurring the lines between outdated worker categories. Employers are seeking team members with very specific knowledge and skill sets to meet their needs. These high-demand positions require schooling and training, but not a four-year college degree. Instead, vocational and technical training focuses on the precise skills the jobs require. These new-collar jobs generally command impressive salaries. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty is credited with coining the new term. “If we would change the basis and align what is taught in school with what is needed with business …” Rometty told CNBC that’s where I came up with this idea of ‘new collar.’ Not blue collar or white collar.”

Sample New-Collar Jobs

The new-collar job market is strongly represented in the tech industry and the health care field. But many industries can benefit from these specially trained workers, and the number of available new-collar jobs is likely to continue growing. The following fields and job examples demonstrate many of the current in-demand new-collar jobs in the U.S. today. Several are from U.S. News Best Jobs of 2019.

Computer Technology

  • Systems Engineer
  • Software Engineer
  • Systems Administrator
  • Application Developer
  • Data Center Technician
  • Project Manager
  • Security Analyst
  • Web Developer
  • Field Service Engineer

Sales and Financing

  • Sales Manager
  • Financial Sales Advisor
  • Mortgage Loan Originator
  • Mortgage Protection Sales

Medical Field

  • Medical Assistant
  • Physical Therapy Aide
  • Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • MRI Technologist
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologist
  • Optician
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Medical Equipment Repairer
  • Medical Records Technician
  • Radiology Technician
  • Emergency Room Registered Nurse
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Medical Secretary


  • Wind Tech
  • Help Desk Agent
  • Technical Support Representative
  • Robotic Welding
  • Machining

The Impact for Middle and High School Students

Serious career planning can start as early as middle school. Students in sixth and seventh grades already have strong opinions and are quickly identifying their preferences, likes, and dislikes. This is an optimal age to start looking at possible career options.

Making a student aware of all their available career choices at this stage can better inform their performance, grades, motivation, and extracurricular activities. The college path isn’t for everyone, and recognizing that early on can minimize frustration and remove fear about the future.

This early approach also provides students with valuable time to learn more about the career options that interest them, helping them make educated decisions prior to high school graduation. High school students in career academies or in schools with career education programs can take classes that better prepare them for their chosen job, especially those fast-growing new-collar jobs. This gives them an education background that will be helpful in their future classes and training, enhancing their potential for success.

Career Exploration

Exploring career choices in high school is vital in helping students prepare for their future. When opting for a traditional college education geared toward a specific career choice, high school grades and activities weigh heavily in college admissions. If a new-collar job is the student’s goal, the search for the right fit and the best vocational or technical school for that career choice should start early. Related classes, clubs, and school organizations may be available to help in career preparation, as well. School career guidance counselors can offer additional resources to support successful career exploration for motivated students who want to plan for a rewarding future.

Not all high schools are equipped to offer career exploration and education to students, but it is an important part of the education process. K12 offers a number of Destinations Career Academies and programs for students, which combine traditional high school academics with Career Education to help prepare students for their futures.

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