For so long, Americans have defined jobs in one of two categories: white collar and blue collar. Those lines are blurring thanks to the rapid advancements in technology. The “white collar” tech industry and the non-tech “blue collar” industries are both struggling to find people with the skills they need to bring them into the future.
But it looks like that’s about to change.
Many tech industry leaders and educators are urging people to stop thinking in terms of white collar or blue collar but to start looking at these positions as "new collar" jobs.
What is a “new collar” job? It is a new kind of job that emphasizes skills over education and work experience. They are also referred to as middle-skill jobs, and require people to gain specific hard skills but do not necessarily require a four-year degree. These skills are often acquired through vocational training, an apprenticeship, or a two-year degree.
In a USA Today op-ed she wrote last December, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty coined the term “new collar.” She also unveiled her plans to roll out the P-Tech program, an IBM-sponsored six-year high school and associate’s degree that is currently available in several cities across the U.S. Although some graduates of the program go on to receive additional education, many go on to work for IBM.
Delta Airlines is another example. The company has partnered with around 45 aviation maintenance schools across the country to give young people the technical knowledge they need to be an aviation maintenance technician or AMT. Unsurprisingly, many graduates of the program end up working for Delta down the line.
But it’s not just IBM and Delta that are tackling this issue head-on. Multiple industries are starting to look for people with the right skills, rather than the right degree. A few examples are the healthcare, manufacturing, and information technology (IT) sectors. These skill-based jobs don’t just allow you the opportunity to bypass an expensive college education; they offer good salaries and, most importantly, are in high demand.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that as of the last business day in November 2017, there were 5.9 million job openings. Many of these openings are “new collar” jobs that are unfilled due to a lack of unskilled or under-skilled workers.
So what are these jobs and how much do they pay?
Here is a list of five of the top new collar jobs, according to The Balance:
1. Computer Programmer
A computer programmer is someone who creates, writes and tests the code that allows computer programs to function. They typically need to know a variety of computer languages, such as JAVA and C++. Although many computer programmers do have a four-year degree, some only have an associate’s degree. Many programmers also became certified in specific programming languages and have extensive experiencing coding. Such specialization helps get them find well-paying jobs. The median pay for a computer programmer is around $71,000 per year.
2. Ultrasound Technician
Formally known as a diagnostic medical sonographer, ultrasound technicians work under the direction of a physician to produce ultrasound images for patients. They are perhaps most known for being the one to tell parents the sex of their baby. Much like programmers, these technicians can have a bachelor’s degree, but many only complete an associate’s or a one-year certification program. A medical sonographer’s salary is, on average, $64,000 per year.
3. Network and Computer Systems Administrator
These people install and operate computer systems for companies. Almost every industry nowadays has network and computer systems, and so these administrators work in literally every field. While some of these jobs require a degree, more and more job openings are requesting only a postsecondary certificate. The certificate, coupled with strong computer skills, is quickly becoming enough for many employers to say yes to a candidate. The average pay for a network and computer systems administrator is around $71,000 per year.
4. Radiologic Technician
Also known as radiographers, radiologic technicians perform diagnostic imaging tests like X-rays, MRI and CT scan on patients. They work with physicians, taking the images and evaluating them alongside the doctor in charge. Most radiologic technicians have an associate’s degree in MRI or radiologic technology. These programs usually run for 18 months to two years. One year certification programs are also available. Radiologic technicians earn, on average, $46,000 per year.
5. Service Delivery Analyst
A service delivery analyst makes sure clients receive the highest quality service. They do this by using a software to analyze user experience. It keeps track of how services are being delivered, and how they can be improved. Typically, a service delivery analyst just needs strong computer skills. So, a few years of experience in the industry, as well as a knowledge of the service delivery software the company uses, is all that is required. The average pay for a service delivery analyst is $62,000 per year.
In 2017, IBM promised to hire 25,000 “new collar” employees over the course of the next four years. Hundreds of students are graduating this year thanks to Delta’s AMT partnership.
These milestones are a testament to the fact that so many industries are being reshaped by tech-based skill. This means that this new crop of positions isn’t just “new” - they’re needed. The time has come to look differently at the future of work, and what it takes to get there.