Job Satisfaction Among Athletic Trainers in NCAA Division I-AA Institutions


This study analyzed the level of job satisfaction experienced by certified athletic trainers in selected National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I-AA institutions having football programs. It utilized the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire, which was sent along with a demographic questionnaire to 240 certified athletic trainers around the country. Analysis involved 138 questionnaires, representing a 57.5% rate of return. One-way analysis of variance and post hoc Scheffe multiple comparisons were conducted to determine if significant differences existed in the level of job satisfaction among athletic trainers relative to their demographics. Statistical significance was accepted at an alpha level of p < 0.05. The study found statistically significant differences (p < 0.05) in trainers’ job satisfaction, associated with their various employment positions: program director, faculty member, head athletic trainer, assistant athletic trainer, graduate assistant. Program directors and athletic training faculty members were most satisfied with their jobs, while graduate assistants were least satisfied. The findings of the study also showed that male athletic trainers experienced significantly higher job satisfaction than female athletic trainers, and older trainers experienced greater job satisfaction than younger trainers. Level of job satisfaction increased with the level of professional experience in athletic training.

Job Satisfaction Among Athletic Trainers in NCAA Division I-AA Institutions

Because of the needs of American football, athletic training originated as a health-care profession at the turn of the 20th century. In the beginning, the practice of athletic training was more a skill than a science. Moreover, the role of the athletic trainer was not defined, nor were his or her duties clearly affirmed by sports personnel outside the profession (Arnheim, 1993). Since the establishment in 1950 of a professional association in athletic training, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), the establishment of undergraduate and graduate academic curricula in athletic training, along with establishment of standards for entry-level athletic trainer certification, has led to athletic training’s recognition as an allied health profession.

As the profession of athletic training has evolved, so have the athletic trainer’s responsibilities. Caring for athletes has always been an important responsibility; educating students of athletic training to secure professional continuity is becoming increasingly important. In 1994, NATA passed a mandate that, by the year 2004, any student seeking eligibility to test for the entry-level athletic training certification must attend a program approved by NATA. Athletic trainers around the country are in the process of meeting the new requirements set forth by NATA, which include new responsibilities within both the practical and academic realms. The new responsibilities may be especially noticed by smaller institutions whose budgets limit hiring of additional staff. The additional demands on athletic trainers may well induce additional stress, and the effects of that stress should be studied. An important related issue is the effects of athletic training personnel’s satisfaction with their academic and athletic responsibilities. Of primary concern to this study was the job satisfaction of the athletic training personnel in Division I-AA institutions having football programs sanctioned by the NCAA.


The participants were 138 certified athletic trainers (73 men, 65 women) from NCAA Division I-AA institutions that sponsor football. They included program directors (13.0%), faculty members (5.1%), head athletic trainers (16.7%), assistant athletic trainers (48.6%), and graduate assistants (16.7%). Of the respondents, 13.0% had bachelor’s degrees, 67.4% had master’s degrees, and 13.0% had doctoral degrees. Respondents’ professional experience most commonly numbered 1-5 years (34.8%); a further 31.2% of the respondents had 6-10 years’ experience, while 22.5% had more than 16 years’ experience in athletic training.

Job satisfaction among athletic trainers was measured using the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ). It employs a 20-dimension Likert-type scale with 5 responses (1 very dissatisfied, 2 dissatisfied, 3 neutral, 4 satisfied, 5 very satisfied). Demographic data pertaining to gender, age, experience, and education were also collected. The purpose of the MSQ is to determine the degree of job satisfaction in terms of characteristics associated with the task itself (intrinsic satisfaction); of other, non-task characteristics of the job (extrinsic satisfaction); and of overall satisfaction with a job (total satisfaction). Evidence of the validity of the MSQ derives mainly from its ability to perform in line with theoretical expectation (known as construct validity) (Weiss, Dawis, England, & Lofquist, 1967). Coefficients ranged from .84 to .91 for intrinsic satisfaction, while external satisfaction coefficients ranged from .77 to .82. Total satisfaction coefficients ranged from .87 to .92. Reliability reported in Hoyt reliability coefficients suggests that the MSQ scales demonstrate adequate internal consistency reliabilities.

Statistical Analysis
The data collected were analyzed, using descriptive statistics, to obtain frequency distributions, percentages, means, and standard deviations. In addition, a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted to determine if significant differences in job-satisfaction levels existed relative to the athletic trainers’ demographics. When results of the ANOVA test were statistically significant, Scheffe post hoc multiple comparisons determined where differences between means existed. Statistical significance was accepted at an alpha level.


Table 1 presents the ranking and mean values (in ascending order) for the total-job-satisfaction variables describing the athletic trainers. Primarily, the 3 intrinsic variables social status (M = 3.52), moral values (M = 3.50), and achievement (M = 3.41) ranked as top sources of job satisfaction among the athletic trainers. Participating trainers were least satisfied with their working conditions (M = 2.45), company policies and procedures (M = 2.22), advancement (M = 2.20), and compensation (M = 1.42).

Table 1

Mean Rank, Mean, and Standard Deviation of Variables in Athletic Trainers’ Total Job Satisfaction

 MSQ Dimension Mean Rank M SD
Social Service 1 3.52
Moral Values 2 3.50
Ability Utilization
Co-workers 11 3.02 0.99
Supervision-Human Relations
Social Status
Working Conditions
Company Polices & Practices

Table 2 presents total satisfaction levels in terms of the participants’ demographic characteristics, along with results of one-way ANOVA tests. Athletic training program directors (3.58 mean rating) and athletic training faculty members (3.47 mean rating) appeared satisfied with their jobs. On the other hand, head athletic trainers (2.85 mean rating), assistant athletic trainers (2.47 mean rating), and graduate assistants (1.40 mean rating) appeared less satisfied. The results of the one-way ANOVA test indicated statistically significant differences in the sample’s job-satisfaction level based on employment (f  = 152.875, p =.000). The results of the Scheffe  post hoc testing indicate that the surveyed program directors and faculty members had job-satisfaction levels that were higher than those of head athletic trainers, assistant athletic trainers, and graduate assistants, to a statistically significant degree. Certified graduate assistants reported the lowest job-satisfaction levels.

Male athletic trainers had a mean of 2.79, while female athletic trainers had a mean of 2.27. The one-way ANOVA test indicated statistically significant differences between male and female athletic trainers for total job satisfaction (f =20.401, p = .000). Female athletic trainers were less satisfied with their employment than were their male counterparts, to a statistically significant extent.

Athletic trainers between 20 and 29 years of age had a mean of 2.11, while those 30 to 39 had a mean of 2.81 and those 50 or older had a still higher mean score, 2.96. One-way ANOVA testing indicated statistically significant differences in participants’ total job satisfaction based on age (f = 17.709, p = .000). Scheffe post hoc testing furthermore indicated that athletic trainers between 20 and 29 years of age reported job-satisfaction levels that were lower than those reported by trainers in other age groups, to a statistically significant degree.

Participants who had  bachelor’s degrees had a mean of 2.30, while master’s-degree-holding participants had a mean of 2.56 and doctorate-holding participants had a still higher mean of 2.83. One-way ANOVA testing indicated statistically significant differences among the participating athletic trainers based on educational level (f = 3.149, p = 0.46). Scheffe post hoc testing indicated athletic trainers having the doctoral degree were significantly less satisfied in their employment than athletic trainers holding the bachelor’s degree.

Athletic trainers with 1-5 years of experience had a mean rating of 2.00, and those with 16 or more years had a mean value of 2.95. One-way ANOVA testing indicated there were statistically significant differences between participants based on years of experience as an athletic trainer (f = 19.826, p = .000). Scheffe post hoc testing indicated that the mean for total job satisfaction was significantly associated with the trainers’ years of professional experience; those having 1-5 years’ experience had mean scores that were higher than the mean scores for trainers with longer experience.

Table 2

Athletic Trainers’ Job Satisfaction as Related to Their Demographic Characteristics

Variable General Satisfaction
M SD F p
Program Director
Faculty Member 3.47 0.26
Head Athletic Trainer 2.85 0.28
Assistant Athletic Trainer 2.47 0.25
Graduate Assistant
20-29 2.11
30-39 2.81
40-49 2.94
50-59 2.96
Bachelor’s Degree 2.30
Master’s Degree 2.56
Doctoral Degree 2.83
Experience 19.826
1-5 Years
6-10 Years
11-15 Years
16 Years or More


The athletic trainers participating in the study indicated that those variables producing greatest job satisfaction were the intrinsic satisfaction variables. In the measure of total job satisfaction, social service was the highest ranking variable; advancement and compensation were the lowest ranking. Greatest satisfaction with one’s job was indicated by program directors and athletic training faculty members. In general, the less rank characterizing the employment position, the less job satisfaction reported. Perhaps job satisfaction, then, may be attributed in some part to compensation for various positions.

In this study, younger members of the profession expressed most of the dissatisfaction with a job, especially the certified graduate assistants who were surveyed. Male participants had a higher level of job satisfaction than female participants, which may be related to low scores for satisfaction with one’s professional advancement . However, the advancement variable from the total job satisfaction score was in general indicative of dissatisfaction among athletic training personnel. As the education level of the athletic trainers increased, so did their satisfaction with the job. In addition, as years of experience increased, so did job satisfaction.

The amount of job dissatisfaction among athletic trainers observed from this study is disquieting. Whatever their demographic, dissatisfied participants in the study indicated that compensation was a major factor. The surveyed certified graduate assistants, who are usually underpaid and overworked, were among the most dissatisfied. Graduate assistants constitute an important asset in academic departments and programs, contributing to their effectiveness. The pattern of abusive employment of graduate assistants should be changed. At a minimum, prospective graduate assistants in athletic training should be well aware of the demands of a position, and its advantages and disadvantages, prior to employment. In fairness, graduate assistant athletic trainers should be fully compensated for their hard work. Changing the pattern, however, will be difficult, since no matter how much work is demanded (with no matter how little pay or benefits), there will always be ambitious students willing to complete the experience.


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Author Note


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2015-10-22T23:43:30+00:00February 15th, 2008|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Coaching, Sports Facilities, Sports Management, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on Job Satisfaction Among Athletic Trainers in NCAA Division I-AA Institutions