Emerging New Collar Jobs and Where to Find Them

We’ve spoken before about the importance of new collar jobs, the change they’re bringing, and how to find one. They’re growing, and we think that’s exciting, but which jobs exactly are the ones changing? And where are these changes happening?

New Collar Jobs on ZipRecruiter

Let’s start by clarifying what we consider to be “new collar.” The key feature of these jobs is that they don’t have formal education requirements. But there’s more to it. Figure 1 groups job titles by their median salary, and then plots the fraction of posts that list education requirements against this median salary (see the technical notes for details).

As you can see, lower paying jobs are less likely to list education requirements. But when we talk about “new collar,” we think of high paying jobs without formal education requirements. So we define a new collar job as one with above median salary and no education requirements listed in the post.

With this definition in hand, we can see which are the high-paying occupations that are seeing the biggest change in education requirements, and which cities are seeing the most changes.

What Job Titles Are Making the Shift?

We calculated the fraction of posts listing education requirements in the first four months of 2016, and compared it to the fraction in last four months. We’re especially interested in which job titles are seeing changes in prioritizing formal education, and that’s what’s shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Job titles with the biggest change in formal education requirements

Job TitleEducation requirements - 2016Education requirements - 2017Change in education
Account Representative65%
QA Manager87%43%-44%
Sales Manager59%21%-38%
Sales Specialist76%39%-37%
Production Manager72%37%-36%
Territory Sales Representative63%30%-34%
Maintenance Supervisor72%43%-29%
Assistant Manager83%54%-28%

Sales jobs are clearly leading the way. Account Representatives, sales managers, sales specialists, and territory sales representatives have all seen large declines in education requirements. More than anything, jobs like these require an understanding of the product, the ability to meet new people and communicate adaptively with them, and a willingness to be flexible to what the customer needs. These things aren’t taught in schools, and we think the historic emphasis on formal education was really a relic. We’re happy to see things changing.

The other big standouts in changing education requirements are management jobs, including quality assurance managers, sales managers, production managers, assistant managers, and maintenance supervisors (with maintenance managers not far behind). Good managers often draw on their experience and (especially) their judgement at least as much as their training and education. The big declines in education requirements for managers will pave the way for many workers with substantial on-the-job experience to find opportunities for upward mobility, growth, increased responsibilities, and a longer-term professional future. It matters what you’ve done in life, not what you’ve done in school, and this is new-collar work at its finest.

What Cities are Leading the Way?

Across the board, key jobs are changing how they recruit and screen workers. This is good news for the 70% of the US workforce without a college degree. These changes are coming everywhere, but some cities seem to be leading the way.

We took a similar approach to looking at cities as we did with job titles. We restricted our analysis to jobs with above median salaries, and calculated the fraction (at the start of 2016 and end of 2017) which listed formal education requirements. Again, we’re most interested in where changes are occurring. Table 2 shows the cities leading the way.

The cities making progress in expanding new-collar opportunities are spread throughout the country, with nearly all regions being represented. They are almost all mid-sized cities, with few large cities standing out.

They include several cities that have been hit hard by the manufacturing decline (e.g., Cincinnati, OH), but remember that we’re only looking at college requirements among high paying jobs, so it’s not that this shows these places don’t have any good job opportunities. Rather, the high paying jobs they have are open to a broader set of applicants.

Table 2. Cities with the biggest change in formal education requirements

City Education requirements - 2016Education requirements - 2017Change in education
Des Moines, IA43%23%-19%
Tulsa, OK43%24%-19%
Boise City, ID43%24%-19%
Omaha, NE41%22%-19%
Madison, WI53%36%-18%
Columbia, SC47%30%-17%
Cincinnati, OH39%23%-16%
New Haven, CT32%16%-16%
Jackson, MS26%12%-14%
Syracuse, NY39%25%-14%
Austin, TX52%39%-13%

Interestingly, the list also includes many cities known for major universities (Madison, WI, New Haven, CT, Syracuse, NY, Austin, TX). While many of these cities did (and some still do) have very high rates of education requirements, they’re certainly making great progress. Does this mean that society at large is set for a broad change in prioritizing education? It’s too early to tell, but it’s a possibility worth keeping an eye on.


Are the times a changin’? Yes. But not everywhere and not equally. We’ve shown that some jobs, especially in sales and management, have seen huge shifts in decreasing the formal education required for a position. This makes sense, as education isn’t well-oriented for these jobs anyway. And we’ve seen that while all regions of the country have a leader in this domain, it’s mid-sized cities who are leading the way. As things continue to change, keep an eye on ZipRecruiter to keep you up-to-date with the ever-evolving state of work in the US.

Technical Notes

Figure 1 is a binned scatterplot. First, for each job title, we identified posts that list a salary (only about 20% of posts because many employers choose not to include salary information) and calculated the median salary for the job. Then, for each job title, we calculated the fraction of openings with education requirements posted.

We could plot these education requirements against median salary directly, but since ZipRecruiter posts include nearly 12,000 different job titles, that plot is a bit overwhelming. So we split job titles into 50 groups based on their median salaries, and for each salary group, took the average education requirements across all the job titles within that group. This is the binned scatterplot in Figure 1.

As we’ve discussed elsewhere, it’s a strategic business decision (reflecting culture and priorities) whether or not to post salaries. So we don’t think of the median salary posted as being the actual median salary, but we do think it’s a reliable index to rank different jobs (as higher or lower paying, on average). Thus, while we use the salary information, we prefer not to report the specific numbers (since we don’t have much confidence in them). This is why we’ve excluded them from Figure 1. Just think of it as an ordering or index of relative pay differences between jobs.

In Tables 1 and 2, “Start of 2016” means January-April 2016, “End of 2017” means October 2017-January 2018. Tables 1 and 2 also exclude jobs in healthcare (since a “Registered Nurse” or “Occupational Therapist,” for example, must hold a degree even though it isn’t typically listed in the post) and education (since these jobs often talk about education in the description, it’s hard to tell whether they list education requirements). Tables 1 and 2 are based only on job titles with above median salary. In Tables 1 and 2, column 3 might not equal column 2 minus column 1 because of rounding.

Written by

Mitch Downey is an Assistant Professor of economics at the Institute for International Economic Studies in Stockholm and a former contributor to the ZipRecruiter blog.

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