Athletes are one of the happiest careers in the United States.

At CareerExplorer, we conduct an ongoing survey with millions of people and ask them how satisfied they are with their careers. As it turns out, athletes rate their career happiness 4.2 out of 5 stars which puts them in the top 4% of careers.

To put this into perspective, we compared how happy athletes are to similar careers in the industry. Take a look at the results below:

Salaries and satisfaction ratings in similar careers

Career Satisfaction Avg Salary
Sports medicine physician
4.3
$201k
Athlete
4.2
$77k
Sports broadcaster
4.1
$40k
Sports scout
4.0
$39k
Coach
3.7
$26k
Sports writer
3.6
$28k

So what does it mean to be happy in your career? Let’s break it down into different dimensions:

  • Salary: Are athletes happy with their salary?
  • Meaning: Do athletes find their jobs meaningful?
  • Personality fit: How well suited are people’s personalities to their everyday tasks as athletes?
  • Work environment: How enjoyable are athlete’s work environments?
  • Skills utilization: Are athletes making the best use of their abilities?

Are athletes happy with their salary?

Athletes rated their satisfaction with their salaries 3.0/5. Few are explicitly unhappy with their salaries, with most athletes having generally positive views of their salary.

We asked athletes how fairly compensated they are for their work.
Their response was:

3.0 out of 5 stars

736 athletes

5 Star
25%

25% of athletes rated their compensation 5 stars

4 Star
16%

16% of athletes rated their compensation 4 stars

3 Star
19%

19% of athletes rated their compensation 3 stars

2 Star
15%

15% of athletes rated their compensation 2 stars

1 Star
24%

24% of athletes rated their compensation 1 stars

Do athletes find their jobs meaningful?

On average, athletes rate the meaningfulness of their work a 4.1/5. Unlike many careers, athletes have little difficulty finding meaning in their work, and it likely constitutes one of the main reasons people become athletes.

We asked athletes how meaningful they found their work.
Their response was:

4.1 out of 5 stars

765 athletes

5 Star
50%

50% of athletes rated how meaningful they found their career 5 stars

4 Star
24%

24% of athletes rated how meaningful they found their career 4 stars

3 Star
14%

14% of athletes rated how meaningful they found their career 3 stars

2 Star
7%

7% of athletes rated how meaningful they found their career 2 stars

1 Star
4%

4% of athletes rated how meaningful they found their career 1 stars

How well are people’s personalities suited to everyday tasks as athletes?

Athletes rated their personality fit with their work an average of 4.4/5. The majority of athletes find their personalities quite well suited to their work, with relatively few having complaints about their fit.

We asked athletes how well their personalities fit into their careers.
Their response was:

4.4 out of 5 stars

829 athletes

5 Star
61%

61% of athletes rated their career fit 5 stars

4 Star
24%

24% of athletes rated their career fit 4 stars

3 Star
8%

8% of athletes rated their career fit 3 stars

2 Star
3%

3% of athletes rated their career fit 2 stars

1 Star
3%

3% of athletes rated their career fit 1 stars

How enjoyable is an athlete’s work environment?

As a whole, athletes rated their enjoyment of their work environment 4.3/5. A solid majority of athletes enjoy their work environment, probably contributing to overall higher satisfaction with working as an athlete.

We asked athletes how much they enjoyed their work environment.
Their response was:

4.3 out of 5 stars

832 athletes

5 Star
55%

55% of athletes rated their work environment 5 stars

4 Star
27%

27% of athletes rated their work environment 4 stars

3 Star
11%

11% of athletes rated their work environment 3 stars

2 Star
4%

4% of athletes rated their work environment 2 stars

1 Star
3%

3% of athletes rated their work environment 1 stars

Are athletes making the best use of their abilities?

Former athletes on CareerExplorer have rated their skills utilization 4.1/5. Most athletes surveyed find that they manage to use their abilities to their fullest as an athlete, which helps contribute to higher career satisfaction in the long term.

We asked athletes how well their abilities were used in their careers.
Their response was:

4.1 out of 5 stars

824 athletes

5 Star
49%

49% of athletes rated their how well their skills were utilized in their career 5 stars

4 Star
24%

24% of athletes rated their how well their skills were utilized in their career 4 stars

3 Star
17%

17% of athletes rated their how well their skills were utilized in their career 3 stars

2 Star
7%

7% of athletes rated their how well their skills were utilized in their career 2 stars

1 Star
3%

3% of athletes rated their how well their skills were utilized in their career 1 stars