The Top Jobs People Don’t Leave
Engineers, computer programmers, and nurses are among the least likely workers to consider a career switch.
Most people contemplate a career change at some point. But some occupations stand out for how loyal their workers are — these are the top jobs people don’t leave.
Engineers and computer programmers are among the least likely workers to contemplate a career switch, according to a new analysis using Indeed resume data. Nursing is also notable for people sticking around. Individuals in the various nursing occupations click on jobs outside of healthcare at very low rates.
At Indeed, we have tens of millions of resumes uploaded by US job seekers. There are thousands (and sometimes millions) of individuals in specific job titles, like “barista,” “attorney,” or “registered nurse.” By examining the Indeed job postings these users click on, we can calculate the percentage of clicks that are for positions outside a narrow job title — or outside a field altogether. For this study, we looked at the top 300 job titles of those with at least a Bachelor’s degree.
Below are the 20 job titles held by those least likely to contemplate a career switch. Many of them are in technology, and several nursing jobs are in it for the long haul, too — more on that later. The job with the lowest career-switch search rate is “java developer” (7.5%), with network engineer (25%) and software engineer (27%) also being very low. Java developers — like software developers in general — are well-paid and have lots of opportunities, but their retention is especially high, perhaps because Java has been in widespread use for decades, giving these developers a profitable niche.
Salary matters when it comes to retention
On the other side of the spectrum, the job titles most likely to contemplate a career switch include “student worker”, “intern,” “student assistant,” and “camp counselor.” No surprise. These are entry-level, often temporary jobs held by younger people looking to move up in the labor force. For all of them, over 94% of the clicks by individuals having those jobs were for positions outside that job’s field.
Unsurprisingly, salary matters. Economic research has documented a link between earnings and career-switching. The chart below, showing the mid-point salary of jobs with a college degree and those jobs’ career-switch search rates, indicates a clear negative relationship. The higher your salary, the less likely you are to contemplate a change. This result likely reflects both that lower-paid workers are at the beginning of their careers, and thus doing more career-changing than older workers, and that higher-paid workers see less upside outside of their occupation.
Nurses stand out for career longevity
Several nursing jobs are among the 20 job titles held by those least likely to contemplate a career switch. Just 29% of the clicks made by licensed practical nurses were for jobs outside healthcare. It’s even lower for charge nurses (25%), registered nurses (23%), and nurse practitioners (19%).
Further confirmation that nurses are reluctant to make a career change can been seen in the top jobs they’re clicking on — mostly other nursing or healthcare-related occupations. But even when nurses search for jobs outside the specific category of healthcare delivery jobs, they’re still interested in jobs that could be healthcare related, such as a case manager, administrator, or educator.
Here are the top 20 jobs registered nurses clicked on outside of healthcare delivery. For example, “clinic manager” and “care manager” are management jobs that do not involve delivering healthcare service, but these jobs are still done in a healthcare setting.
Nurses’ reluctance to contemplate a career change is unusual even among higher-salaried jobs. The various nursing occupations (registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, nurse practitioner, and so on) have career-switching search rates even lower than expected, given their salaries. A nurse practitioner, for example, makes about $107,000 on average, according to Indeed data. If it were more similar to other college-educated jobs at that salary, then the career-switching rate for nurse practitioners would be predicted to be about 62%. But it’s 19%.
Nurses might be more reluctant to switch careers because of the big investments they’ve made to get the job in the first place. Nurses are generally required to have at least a Bachelor’s degree specific to nursing. And then there is the required licensing process. So the upfront cost of getting into nursing is higher than in other careers. Nurses’ healthcare-specific skills may also be less transferable outside the industry. All these factors probably make nurses less willing to change careers.
Another factor behind nurses not leaving their jobs: It’s a career with solid earnings, in a growing industry. The typical registered nurse in the US earns about $68,000 per year. Registered nursing (RN) jobs are expected to grow 15% between 2016 and 2026, much faster than average job growth. More men are becoming nurses, too, shedding the perception that it’s a female profession. For the education required to become a nurse—often just a Bachelor’s degree—it’s a career with a good bargain.
So despite what you might hear about nurses suffering from burnout — which is surely happening on some level — nurses generally want to stay in their field. If these trends continue, nursing is a smart job for the long haul.
A job’s field is defined as the broad occupational grouping, or 2-digit SOC code, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For this analysis, we’re looking at the career-switch search rates of the top 300 job titles held by individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree.
Andrew Flowers is an Economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, focusing on the US labor market. Previously he was the quantitative editor and economics writer at FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver’s data-driven news site; and before that, he was an economic analyst for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. As a freelance journalist, he has written for The Economist. He has a B.A. in economics from the University of Chicago.