Talk about your place in society, Part 2: Professions

Blue collar mechanic

This is the second article in our series on describing your place in society. In the last article, we presented ways to talk about wealth. This time, we'll be talking about a person's occupation.

We use different phrases to describe different kinds of jobs.

Blue collar and service jobs

A "blue collar" job is one that involves some kind of physical work. Some examples of "blue collar" jobs include:

  • mechanic
  • factory worker
  • janitor
  • police officer

The phrase "blue collar" can sound either positive or negative, depending on the situation and who's saying it. People sometimes call themselves and their families "blue collar".

Blue collar workers are usually paid an hourly wage. Sometimes this wage can be quite high, like for electricians, welders, and other specialized skills.

Another word that's similar to "blue collar" worker is "laborer". A "laborer" does something which requires physical labor but not specialized skills, like carrying supplies at a construction site.

White collar jobs

A "white collar" job is typically something that you do in an office. The term "white collar" comes from the fact that men who did these jobs used to wear suits and white dress shirts. 

A "professional" is someone who works in a respected profession, like a doctor, a lawyer, or an accountant. Sometimes teachers are included in this group.

People who work in government, but aren't in political offices, have a specific term. We call them "beaurocrats". A beaurocrat deals with paperwork and enforces government rules. Most people consider "beaurocrat" to be a negative term.

Another group of people are "academics". These are college professors, researchers, and some writers. Their jobs involve a lot of thinking and writing.

The elite

People in highly-ranked positions of society are sometimes called "the elite". These are people like CEOs of large companies and government leaders. You would also call students at the best universities part of "the elite".

Another kind of elite group is celebrities. These are people who are famous for things like acting, singing, playing sports, and so on.

Other groups

Someone who doesn't work, and survives by asking for help from friends and family, is called a "freeloader". This is a negative term.

People who paint, write, act, sing, or perform are part of the "creative class". You can call these people creatives. But when someone becomes very famous, you usually don't call them part of the "creative class".

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