The comments by superdestroyer, Jody, and The Superflous Man to my post about unpaid internships make some valuable points about career choices and class.
It's probably obvious to most people that if a college professor and a UPS truck driver earn the same salary (and there are many college professors who earn less than the unionized UPS drivers), the college professor still has more class.
But the class distinctions between other jobs aren't quite as obvious and therefore are easily overlooked, or intentionally ignored by people who pretend there's no such thing as class.
Jobs in engineering and computer programming are lower class white collar jobs compared to journalism or museum curating, even though the former jobs pay better. It's easier to earn a six figure salary as a computer programmer than it is as a lawyer, but the lawyer has a higher class job.
When a low class job has salaries that are "too high," people consider this a "shortage" that needs correcting by allowing more immigration. This is why the computer programming field is full of immigrants. And I wrote about the nursing shortage a few days ago. Nursing is definitely seen as a low prestige job despite that fact that four year college degrees are offered in nursing.
On the other hand, there is no call to import more lawyers in order to lower the cost of legal services. To the ruling upper classes, it seems natural and right that high class workers make a lot of money, but if someone in a low class job makes a lot of money then this is a "problem" that needs to be solved by importing more workers from overseas.
What are some of the characteristics that distinguish upper class white collar jobs from lower class white collar jobs besides the social class background of the workers?
The upper classes seem to favor winner-takes-all professions. In computer programming, engineering, or nursing, it's easy to find a job and work your way into a good salary, even a six figure salary, but then your career reaches a plateau. In upper class professions the salary distribution is much more pyramidal. A few lucky lawyers who become partners at big law firms earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, but a large number of lawyers at the bottom are worse off than typical computer programmers.
Upper class professions are more verbal, while lower class professions are more numerical.
Career paths in which the entry level position requires commision based sales are lower class. In higher class careers, one starts out with a salaried position and then gets promoted into sales. For example, the partners at law firms do the sales while the associates do the real work, and the same is true in investment banking except that the salespeople are called "directors" instead of "partners."
Certain types of federal government jobs are upper class but others are lower class. This seems related to the location of the office. If the office is in DC it's more likely to be an upper class job, but if it's located in Virginia then it's probably a lower class job. If it's in Virginia outside the Beltway then all the people working in the office have big beer bellies and drive to work in pickup trucks.
Unpaid internships are more common for upper class career paths, as pointed out by superdestoyer. I think there are two reasons why this is the case: (1) students from middle class backgrounds are less able to afford unpaid internships; and (2) the higher class career paths are more likely to be winner-takes-all, and therefore it is crucially important to get on the right track in order to avoid being left behind. On the other hand there is an opening for every single qualified nurse so there's no need for nursing students to further enhance their resume.