This year's salary survey by the Athletic Equipment Managers Association (AEMA) revealed several surprises, a few challenges, and some good news.
“The survey helps colleges and universities place importance and emphasis on hiring someone who is credible and knowledgeable,” Matt Althoff, AEMA Associate Executive Director who administered the survey this Spring. Matt is Director of Equipment at the University of Virginia.
“This survey should result in a greater emphasis on hiring someone who is certified,” Matt told Helmet Tracker recently.
The 11 questions elicited answers that showed:
- Salaries have increased significantly since 2013
- AEMA Certification makes a difference
- Females make less than male Equipment Managers, but the gap is not as significant as national figures show
- Experience is important
- Education and Program level may not make as much difference as you would think
Great AEMA Response
The first big surprise, Matt said, was the number of Equipment Managers who returned the survey.
“First, I was blown away by how many people responded and were interested,” he said. “As I was compiling the data, a lot of people were calling me and said they were going in for their annual review or going to see their supervisor to get more money for the whole team, and they wanted the data!”
It’s been five years since the Athletic Equipment Managers Association conducted a salary survey. This year, responses tripled.
Matt had the survey sent to 1,426 AEMA members and 67 Equipment Managers in the Power 5 not members of the AEMA. A total of 619 responded.
Why aren't some Power 5 Equipment Managers members of AEMA?
“There is a large group of Power 5 Equipment Managers who came out of one program and were simply not exposed to the value of the AEMA,” Matt said. “Additionally, many large programs have football camps in early June when we have our convention and it is tough to make it there. We are working to show them the benefits of membership.
Matt said the responses showed that many Equipment Managers were being paid well, and many were not.
The average salary rose to $52,575.
Average Salaries Increased
“In 2013 we had a few more than 200 respond. This year more than 600 returned the survey. That gives us a lot more data points which creates value and credibility,” Matt said.
The survey revealed that average salaries increased about $10,000 in the past five years. That’s nearly a 20 percent jump.
Of course, Matt admits, Equipment Managers could print off the survey and march into their Athletic Director’s office and demand a raise. But that’s not what the survey is about.
“The survey is more of a benchmark and tool to know where we are as a profession, as a group,” Matt told us. “It will make some people happy and some people upset. Others will find themselves right in the middle.”
First, though, the survey made it clear that Equipment Managers should earn AEMA certification. The survey found that salaries of certified Equipment Managers averaged $54,617, while AEMA membership salaries were $47,841, a 14 percent difference!
“To me, certification has always been important and it’s nice to see those numbers,” Matt said. “We are working on getting everyone who posts a job opening for an Equipment Manager to have a minimum standard requiring certification.”
Gender and Race Gaps
The survey also suggests that it is better to be a man in the Equipment Management business than a woman. Women averaged nearly 9 percent less pay than men. This, again, may be impacted by the longer tenure of older men in the industry. Those who work more years are paid better. It seems that the number of female attendees at the AEMA conference continue to grow. It would be interesting to cross analyze the tenure, level of program, and gender of each respondent to discover how much less women make in similar jobs.
“Overall, in our association, Equipment Managers are predominately white and male, so those numbers are skewed,” Matt said.
A 2018 study suggests that national pay gap seems to be somewhere around 20 percent and a 2020 study by Noel Griffith, Ph.D., states “Women Earn 79 Cents for Every Dollar Men Earn“, so female Equipment Managers are doing significantly better than some of their counterparts in other industries. Clearly, however, there is work to be done.
Because less than 2 percent of respondents were not white, race was not included in the results report, Matt said. The numbers were so low they would not communicate accurately.
“The number of minorities in our profession is growing—absolutely,” he said. “There were just a handful of women and minorities when I started—at convention you would know them all by name. Now there are more.
“Still, we need to be more diverse. It’s a challenge our entire association faces. We need education and to reach out to those who work for us and are student managers and say, ‘This is a profession you can get a masters program out of and then work as a profession, as a career.’ It will also take a grassroots effort from every Equipment Manager to recruit those who are not like them.”
Education Level, Age, and Experience
One odd finding showed that the level of education Equipment Managers completed seems to sometimes adversely affect income levels. For example, the average salary for High School grads was just $14 short of $60,000, while the average salaries for Associate Degree holders ($48,242), Bachelor
earners ($52,906), and Master’s degree ($51,185) were all significantly less. One explanation may be that the 45 respondents with a high school degree may have established and significant careers, while those with higher degrees may be younger.
In fact, age does make a difference. Salaries increased in every age category surveyed.
The survey also showed that the average salaries increased by years of experience, from $34,815 for the first year of experience, to $68,585 for 26 or more years of being an Equipment Manager.
“The progression is clear,” Matt said. “As you progress, you are being rewarded.”
Supervising Others and Program Level
Another oddity showed up when Equipment Managers were asked about their salary and the number of people they surveyed. The average salaries increased from the average of $43,395 for working alone to $77,796 while supervising 4 to 6 others. Then, however, the average salary dropped to $72,958 while supervising 7 or more.
Here’s another head-scratcher: Salaries do not seem to increase uniformly as Equipment Managers climbed from one level of school to a higher level program. Equipment Managers at the DIII, Junior College, and the NAIA/Other levels made nearly as much or more, on average, than DII, D1 FCS, and D1 (no football) Equipment Managers. The Pros and Power 5 DI schools pay their equipment managers the best.
Equipment Managers, those who pay them, and others should stand by. Matt hopes to conduct another survey in two years.