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By Nicole Spector

What makes a job the best job around?

Is it average base salary? The growth in demand? The number of postings for such jobs?

According to new research from Indeed, the answer is “yes” to all of the above. The job site factored in these three components to render its Best Jobs of 2019 list, which covers 25 jobs from machine learning engineer and insurance broker (the top two job) down to project architect and senior financial consultant.

“To identify the best jobs in America in 2019 our data team focused on two factors: salary and abundance of opportunity,” Paul Wolfe, SVP of HR at Indeed told NBC News BETTER in an email. “The jobs are ranked on the list by their year-over-year growth in job postings on Indeed since 2015.”

Defining the best: Money, growth — but also culture and satisfaction

Though the list was constructed based on numbers, Wolfe admits that what makes a job “the best” involves more than sheer data.

“The answer to what makes a job the ‘best’ will vary from person to person, but factors such as work environment, job security and satisfaction, culture, career potential and salary matter to us all,” Wolfe says. “For this list, we used our vast database of employer behavior and job postings to determine which jobs are in high demand now and coupled that with our salary data.”

It’s no surprise that jobs like machine learning engineer (which swooped in at number one) or full-stack developer (at number three) score so well on this list. Just as it was no surprise that the U.S News & World Report’s list of best jobs for 2019 shows software developer at number one.

Is STEM all there is?

“When it comes to the 2019 top job there is no wonder the top job is software developer [according to the U.S News & World Report’s rankings] as the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million deficit in tech jobs compared to the available job market,” says Toni Howard Lowe, a career strategist and author at The Corporate Tea. “There is huge skills gap in the marketplace.”

Unless you’re in or gearing up for a career in tech or healthcare, reports like those from U.S News & World can be a bit of a bummer. I love my job as a journalist and editor, but being in a field that has been analyzed to be nowhere near a “best” job by experts working with hard data, I tend to wonder if I’d not be better off in the long run switching to computer science. The problem is, I don’t really have any interest in computer science, and as a 35-year old planning a family, I’m not up for investing money and time into another degree.

“Honestly, to transition to one of these top jobs would be challenging because it’s not like you can just become an orthodontist,” says Vicki Salemi, career expert for Monster. “Many require advanced training that take time and investments.”

Indeed’s report is refreshing because some of the top positions (like realtor at number nine) highlight opportunity for those of us who don’t have the desire and/or means to take the years to develop the demanded proficiency.

Some of these jobs may be considered ‘recession-proof’

I was struck by “realtor” ranking so highly on this list, particularly considering the insight from Laurie Berenson, a career coach and president of Sterling Career Concepts, that generally, these types of rankings feature jobs that are “recession-proof”, meaning they don’t stall out when the economy falters. The housing market is infamously unstable as we painfully learned from the crash over a decade ago.

But even in its darker hours, real estate can provide opportunity for its workers.

“[Whether] within a bullish or bear market, there is always a need for a realtor,” says Nick H. Kamboj, CEO, Aston & James, LLC, an MBA consulting firm. “For example, [say a CEO] merged two companies. She gets a bonus, wants to buy a mansion. She needs a realtor. The president of one of the companies the CEO just merged gets fired. He also needs a realtor to sell his mansion so that he can downsize. With every boon there is also a boom.”

“Insurance broker” came in as the second best job on Indeed’s list, and “insurance advisor” landed in fourth place.

A recent report from Deloitte found that the insurance market is growing due to economic growth and higher investment income in addition to rising interest rates, with 2019 predicted as a “banner year” for the sector.

“Becoming an insurance salesperson doesn’t have the same panache that machine learning does, but there is a lot of money to be made in selling insurance,” says Eli Howayeck, CEO of Crafted Career Concepts.

The boost in demand ties to the industry’s long standing difficulty in attracting millennial talent, as well-stated in an open letter from Hamilton Insurance Group in 2015, which noted that less than five percent of millennials were interested in a job in insurance.

“The insurance industry is aging and the average age of insurance brokers is closer to retirement age than college graduate age,” says Howayeck. “[Agencies are struggling] to recruit and develop young talent.”

Social workers and psychotherapists are in demand

Perhaps most surprising on this list, was “licensed clinical social worker” coming in at number 16. That ranking may not sound impressive, but it’s downright astonishing when you consider that “child and family social worker” staggered in at number 78 on the U.S. News & World report for 2019’s best jobs.

Berenson was impressed by Indeed’s ranking for social workers, as well as for psychotherapist, which came in at number 14.

“We’re always hearing that the market is saturated [in these sectors], but it appears supply and demand are evening out,” says Berenson. “There’s a demand for that human touch that technology can’t replace.”

It should be noted that there’s also demand for that human touch that technology can help provide. Online therapy (also dubbed telepsychology) is enabling mental health professionals to grow their clientele, as reported in a 2017 feature from the American Psychological Association.

Those looking to change careers should be encouraged

“Best jobs” lists are always ideal for young people who are choosing a college major or just starting out in the professional world, but Indeed’s report also holds promise for people in later phases of life. Some jobs, like realtor and insurance broker, don’t take a ton of time to prep for and capitalize on soft skills, making them optimal for people who don’t want or can’t afford to put years into earning a second degree.

The diversity of jobs is surprising — even to Indeed

"Positions in law, healthcare, construction, finance, real estate, and more make this our most industry-diverse collection of well-paying, high demand roles in the workforce,” says Wolfe. “Last year our list of best jobs was dominated by the tech and construction sectors, so it's interesting to see a much more diverse mix of industries this year. It seems that employers are looking to fill positions across functions, more so than we have seen in years past."

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