Teaching is not the highest class of profession, but I don’t really characterize it as blue-collar. I have always considered teaching to be the quintessential middle-class occupation. “Top” college graduates aspire to upper-middle-class occupations, so that’s why they aren’t interested in teaching.It's important to make a distinction between the phrase "middle class" and the middle of the class continuum. There are four major classifications of social class in the contemporary US--upper class, middle class, working class, and lower/under class. There are of course gradations within these four (upper middle class, middle upper class, lower middle class, etc), but these are the four the GSS uses, and they're the four I'm going to employ here. As the breakdown is basically 5%-45%-45%-5%, respectively, to be solidly middle class is to be of 'greater' social status than being somewhere between middle and working class is to be. It is the latter position that actually constitutes the middle of the social scale.
Evidence of teaching being almost as low class as nursing is that a lot of teachers are married to cops (according to an online forum).
The following table lists occupations and occupational groupings by self-assessed social class on a 1-4 scale, the higher the number, the higher the class. The mean is 2.47 with a standard deviation of .64:
|Doctors, veterinarians, dentists, and pharmacists||3.15|
|College/university lecturers and professors||2.90|
|Architects and engineers||2.90|
|Authors, writers, and journalists||2.87|
|Sculptors, painters, actors, and other artists||2.81|
|Sales and finance workers||2.73|
|Operations department managers||2.68|
|Human resources workers||2.67|
|Real estate agents and appraisers||2.63|
|Policemen and firefighters||2.58|
|Office department managers||2.58|
|Mail carriers and sorters||2.55|
|Secretaries and other office clerks||2.50|
|Life sciences workers||2.40|
|Hairdressers and beauticians||2.40|
|Certified nurse assistants||2.36|
|Waitresses and bartenders||2.29|
|Construction workers and carpenters||2.25|
|Sewers and knitters||2.23|
|Building maintenance workers||2.21|
|Personal care workers||2.20|
With doctors and lawyers at the top, it passes the smell test!
Indeed, teaching is more of a middle class occupation than nursing is (evincing the fact that while class and income tend to move in the same direction, the correlation is certainly imperfect), but both professions are in the top half of the distribution. That's hardly surprising since both require college degrees and consequently are closed to most of the population.
Bank tellers are the most middling. Other Joe and Jane Americans include those in the military, techs, retail salespeople, and teaching assistants. Those sorts of jobs may strike readers here as distinctly 'prole', but we don't tend to associate with a representative sample of the public on a regular basis. I recall Charles Murray once quipping about how academics and intellectuals errantly tend to think of truck drivers as the bottom of the (white) social spectrum when in reality it descends a lot lower than that.
GSS variables used: CLASS, ISCO88. If interested in the specific codes used for each of the occupational categories, I'll gladly send the excel file--it's too tedious to list out here, though.