For some job seekers, this might sound like a dream come true: you find a job you love so much that you never leave it. But for recruiters, this mindset poses both opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, jobs that people stay at can be more attractive and marketable to candidates. But on the other hand, in a tough labor market it may be hard to draw candidates away from these “sticky” fields to fill other roles.

With fewer candidates to fill openings, recruiters are getting creative about looking for qualified candidates, regardless of their previous job title. They are smart to think outside the box when looking for talent — Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data showed that 4% of the workforce changed careers between 2015 and 2016.

So what are the roles that people are reluctant to leave? And why? In order to learn more, we sat down with Indeed Economist Andrew Flowers, of the Indeed Hiring Lab to talk about his research on this subject.

What are the key findings?

Andrew used information from job seekers’ resumes to see the field they currently work in, compiling a list of the top 300 jobs held by people with a college degree. Then, he looked at what types of jobs they were clicking on. The career-switch search rate measures how likely someone in a certain field is to click on a job in a different field. So the closer a job is to the top of the list, the less interested these people are in switching careers.

The top jobs with the lowest career-switch search rate and the mean salary of each, as of October 2019.
Compiling Indeed’s internal data, this table shows the top jobs with the lowest career-switch search rates and the mean salary of each ranked job: 1) Java developer, 11% and $106,810, 2) Nurse practitioner, 23% and $110,082, 3) Registered nurse, 23% and $56,618, 4) Charge nurse, 24% and $60,974, 5) Software engineer, 27% and $107,039, 6) Licensed practical nurse, 30% and $45,528, 7) Front end developer, 30% and $107,374, 8) Network engineer, 33% and $92,292, 9) Mechanical engineer, 34% and $84,237, 10) Truck driver, 38% and $95,596, 11) Pharmacist, 39% and $112,007, 12) Design engineer, 39% and $82,686, 13) Art director, 42% and $76,192, 14) Physical therapist, 42% and $86,157, 15) Web developer, 42% and $78,585, 16) Electrical engineer, 43% and $87,175, 17) Nurse, 45% and $77,501, 18) Database administrator, 45% and $95,405, 19) Occupational therapist, 46% and $85,060, 20) Director of human resources, 47% and $104,342

The list is dominated by tech and healthcare roles, with five of the top 20 roles in nursing alone. Tech and healthcare are both hot fields right now — on the employer side, there is huge demand for these roles. And as the use of technology continues to spread into every aspect of our lives and an aging population requires more care, it’s unlikely that demand for this type of work will slow any time soon. Tech and healthcare jobs are also “future proof,” meaning they are highly unlikely to be replaced by automation

Aside from choosing a high-growth, future-proof job, salary is a factor that plays into many job seekers’ decisions about careers. In many cases, the higher your salary is, the less likely workers are to contemplate a change. Our list is no exception — every job except one has a salary above $50,000, and six earn more than double that.

Another factor that may hold people in jobs is the amount a worker has invested to get the job they have. According to the sunk-cost fallacy, people have a tendency to continue an option or behavior if they’ve invested significant resources in it. Many of the jobs on our list require special training, and some, like nurse practitioners (#2), even require a master’s degree.

Andrew sums it up: “Job seekers in healthcare and tech roles are notably reluctant to switch careers, and for good reason — job security and compensation is high, and they've probably spent years accruing the skills to do these jobs in the first place."

But there are many things that go into choosing a career, and less tangible things certainly play a part as well. Many of these “sticky” jobs require complex thinking and problem solving and include an aspect of helping others. They are challenging and rewarding. If you’ve managed to get a job you like and simply don’t want to try something else, why change?

What does this mean for employers?

Even though people in these roles want to stay in their fields, it’s still important to think about how to keep them at your company. The work is not the issue — these workers want to continue doing what they love. The catch is that they may be open to doing it somewhere else! 

For employers trying to fill roles with low career-switch search rates, it’s important to know where they stand in their fields in terms of compensation and other benefits. This is because employees are looking mostly at similar jobs, so they’ll know what competitors in the same field are paying.

But salary isn’t the only consideration, and it’s often not even what job seekers value most. In fact, a recent Indeed survey of tech job seekers showed that 92% of tech workers would take a pay cut to work for a company that provided career advancement, workplace flexibility, a shorter commute or other things. According to Andrew, “Companies hoping to hire workers in high-demand roles like nursing or software engineering need to be competitive because qualified job seekers have plenty of options. Compensation and benefits surely matter, but so do other job attributes." Employers should stay in tune with what their employees want out of work and consider how to provide these things to keep them around.

For jobs with higher career-switch search rates, employers have a larger pool of competitors than they might think. In this case, employers should consider broadly who their competitors might be. For example, a career much lower on our list with higher career-switch search rates is program manager (#89). This is a job with a number of transferable skills needed in many fields. 

What does this mean for job seekers?

For job seekers early in their careers, or for those looking for a change, it’s helpful to know what types of jobs people tend to stay in. The low career-switch search rate indicates that people with these skills and on these paths are quite satisfied.

But aside from feeling satisfied, these workers have chosen jobs with room for career growth and staying power — job seekers can rest assured that front-end developers and physical therapists won’t be replaced by robots in the near future. And some of these jobs don’t require huge up-front investments — nurses and truck drivers can often work without a bachelor’s degree.

Andrew says, "Job seekers looking to switch careers can take comfort in knowing that, in most cases, they're not alone. And for those looking to choose a career with a higher chance of long-term satisfaction, a good indicator is how willing workers in those jobs are to make a change."

In the end, matching a job seeker with a job they love is a win for everyone. Job seekers find satisfaction and opportunity, and employers keep top talent around for the long run.


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.