June 1994 // Volume 32 // Number 1 // Research in Brief // 1RIB2

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Job Satisfaction and Commitment of 4-H Agents

A study of 208 Extension 4-H agents was conducted to determine agents' organizational commitment and job satisfaction, the relationship between these variables, and family structure and work characteristics. The majority of the 160 agents who responded to the mail survey were white female, middle-aged, and married. Survey results indicated agents were satisfied with their jobs, and were somewhat committed to their cooperative extension organization. In addition, the agents' job satisfaction and organizational commitment were related to age, marital status, work experience, and gender.

Cathy F. Bowen
Assistant Professor
Internet address: cobowen@psupen.psu.edu

Rama Radhakrishna
Research Associate

Robin Keyser
Assistant Professor

The Pennsylvania State University
Department of Agricultural and Extension Education

During the last two decades, several changes have been occurring in the family structure and society: (a) increasing number of working women, (b) an increased divorce rate, (c) more single parent families, and (d) an aging population (Engelbrecht & Nies, 1988). These changes in family structure may have implications for understanding the job satisfaction and organizational commitment of Extension agents. 4-H agents work closely with youths, adults, and volunteers in delivering Extension programs. They are in a position to observe how family and work variables influence each other from the perspective of children and adults. In addition, these agents' job satisfaction and organizational commitment may also be influenced by their own family situations and the nature of their position responsibilities. This study examined the relationships between job satisfaction, organizational commitment, family structure, and work characteristics of 4-H agents.


The population for the study consisted of individuals who were members of the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents. A stratified random sample of 208 Extension agents was used for the study. Three sections were included in the questionnaire to collect data on: (a) job satisfaction (14 items), (b) commitment (15 items), and (c) demographic and work characteristics. The items for the job satisfaction and commitment sections were measured on a Likert-type scale. The scales for both job satisfaction and commitment ranged from 1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree. The face and content validities were established using a panel of six faculty with extension responsibilities. Data were collected through a mail survey with 160 agents responding (77%). Post-hoc reliability analysis indicated that the questionnaire was reliable. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics.


The majority of the agents were female (54%), middle aged (39 years), married (67%), and almost all were white (97%). The highest degree held by more than half of the respondents was a master's degree (59%), followed by bachelor's (32%) and doctorate (7%) degrees. On average, agents had 11 years of work experience. The majority of agents had responsibilities in a single county (75%), and their salaries were paid from both state and county funding (71%). Agents were satisfied (mean = 4.13) with their jobs and were somewhat committed (mean = 3.61) to their state Cooperative Extension organization. Significant positive relationships were found between job satisfaction and commitment (r = .66; p<.001) indicating that agents who were satisfied with their jobs were also committed to their organizations. Similar findings were reported by Kemp (1967).

Job satisfaction of agents was significantly related to age (r = .26), gender (r = .16), marital status (r = -.25), and work experience (r = .24). Older (over 40 years of age), female, married and experienced agents were more satisfied than younger, male, single, and less experienced agents. On the other hand, job satisfaction of 4-H agents was not related to education level, geographic area of responsibility, and source of salary funding. This finding closely matches earlier studies of Bowen and Radhakrishna (1991) for agricultural education faculty and Kessler (1989) for extension professionals.

Commitment of agents was significantly related to age (r = .17), marital status (r = -.20) and work experience (r = .20). Agents who were older (over 40 years of age), married, and had worked longer for extension were more committed to their organizations than younger, single and less experienced agents. Educational level, gender, and source of salary funding were not related to organizational commitment.


Results of this study suggest that 4-H agents are satisfied with their jobs and are committed to cooperative extension. Older, married, and more experienced agents had higher levels of job satisfaction and were more committed to cooperative extension than younger, single, and less experienced agents. This suggests that younger, single, and less experienced agents may still be deciding what they want to do for a career. Deciding on a choice of work for life or for a given period of time may preclude job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Significant relationships between job satisfaction and commitment reinforces the suggestion that job satisfaction may preclude organizational commitment and the one does not exist without the other. Additional research to identify elements of job satisfaction for younger, less experienced 4-H agents could be useful. Staff development designers could incorporate information about job satisfaction in inservice opportunities. In addition, more experienced agents who may be mentoring younger agents could use this information to help increase younger agents' job satisfaction and organizational commitment.


Bowen, B. E., & Radhakrishna, R. B. (1991). Job satisfaction of agricultural education faculty: A constant phenomenon. Journal of Agricultural Education, 32, 16-22.

Engelbrecht, J. D., & Nies, J. (1988). Work/family interactions: Trends and applications. Journal of Home Economics, 80, 23-28.

Kemp, P. E. (1967). Commitment and job satisfaction. Journal of Cooperative Extension, 171-177.

Kessler, K. C. (1989). Job satisfaction and perceived inservice needs of Iowa cooperative extension personnel, Dissertation Abstracts International, 50, 1532A.