Firefighter Answers: Is Firefighting a Blue-Collar Job? 

Firefighting is a difficult, dangerous job, but for the brave men and women who battle on the frontlines of fire, it’s the most rewarding occupation there is. However, does firefighting fall under blue-collar or white-collar classifications?

Firefighting is a blue-collar job, as are many related service jobs such as police work and EMTs. These are considered skilled blue-collar occupations.

What does it mean to hold a blue-collar job, anyway? Are these roles better than white-collar jobs? We’ll answer those questions and more ahead, so make sure you keep reading! 

What Is a Blue-Collar Job?

First, let’s begin with a definition of what constitutes a blue-collar job. 

Blue collar is one of two job classifications, with the other being white collar (keep reading for more on the differences between the two!).

A blue-collar job is a working-class role where employees use a trade or manual labor to make a living. These employees may receive piecemeal compensation or hourly pay depending on the occupation. 

The reason a blue-collar job is referred to that way is due to the blue, collared shirts worn by employees working in maintenance, mining, construction, manufacturing, or agriculture.

Blue-collar jobs divide into two subsections, skilled versus unskilled labor.

Skilled Blue-Collar Jobs

This subcategory consists of employees who study in a trade and then use their skills as part of their day-to-day jobs. For example, welders, plumbers, painters, electricians, and cooks are skilled blue-collar workers.

Unskilled Blue-Collar Jobs 

A subset of blue-collar work is considered unskilled, which means the employees didn’t study a trade to earn their jobs. Oil field workers, miners, messengers, janitors, grocery store checkout clerks, dishwashers, and laborers are all considered unskilled blue-collar jobs. 

Is Firefighting a Blue-Collar Job?

Now that you have a better idea of what constitutes a blue-collar job, including examples, does firefighting fit into this classification?

Indeed, it does! Firefighting is considered a skilled blue-collar job along with EMTs and police officers. 

How Is a Blue-Collar Job Different from a White-Collar Job?

Why doesn’t firefighting qualify as a white-collar job? To help you understand that, let’s review what’s different between these two types of jobs.

The Work Setting

A white-collar employee traditionally works in an office environment wearing a crisp, white button-down shirt as part of a suit with a tie.

Blue-collar workers do their jobs anywhere. In the case of firefighters, it’s from a fire station. 

Agricultural workers might do their jobs on the field or farm, police officers from a police department (and their local city or town), and manufacturers from a warehouse. 

The Amount of Physical Labor Required

White-collared workers usually stay at their desks inputting data, such as an attorney, accountant, software engineer, administrative assistant, marketing manager, or salesperson. They type and answer phones, and they’ll leave their desk or cubicle, but they’re not expending physical effort.

By comparison, a blue-collar job is all about physical effort. It’s the crux of the job. These employees get breaks but rarely does their job afford the leisure of minimally physically taxing work.  

The Hours

Many white-collared workers have a traditional weekday schedule, such as the standard nine-to-five slot. While some blue-collared jobs might follow that same schedule, the 40 or more hours these employees work per week could be allocated to morning to afternoon shifts, afternoon to evening shifts, and even weekends. 

The Pay

We’ll discuss blue-collar pay more in just a moment, but white-collared jobs typically have a higher earning potential. Part of that has to do with the payment structure reserved for these types of workers.

Instead of hourly pay, white-collar workers are typically salaried, which means it matters less how many hours the employee works. However, they’re still expected to work a set number of hours to keep their job. 

The Perception 

Perception plays a big role in someone’s willingness to enter a specific career field. Generally, people assume that white-collar workers are more valuable than blue-collar workers, usually due to the higher earnings and the cleaner, less strenuous jobs associated with white-collar work.

Blue-collar jobs are considered beneath some people, at least when they contemplate occupations like toiling in a field. However, many people wish to become firefighters and police officers, so those are exceptions to the rule. 

Do Blue-Collar Jobs Pay Well?

As we made clear, white-collar jobs usually have a higher earning potential. However, rather than it boiling down to a simple case of blue versus white, you have to take each occupation individually.

For example, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that a firefighter’s median pay in 2021 is $24.38 an hour. That’s $50,700 a year. 

BLS states that an administrative assistant or secretary makes $19.08 an hour or $39,680 a year. 

Thus, although firefighting is a blue-collar job and employees should earn less than in a white-collar role like admin assistance, that isn’t the case. 

Of course, we could play apples to oranges and compare blue-collar and white-collar work all day. You’d notice that some examples see blue-collar workers earning more and others, white-collar workers.

Challenging the perception and stereotype of blue-collar work reveals that you can more than make a livable wage working in these roles.  

Firefighting is an example of a blue-collar job, which means it requires skilled, manual labor. It’s tough, dependable work, and although it might not pay as well as some cushy white-collar jobs, that all depends on which jobs we’re talking about.

Ultimately, whether firefighting is a blue-collar, white-collar, or rainbow-collared job shouldn’t matter. You can create a long-term career and make a comfortable wage as a firefighter. If you’re interested in pursuing this career path, you should!