Home Home | About Us | Sitemap | Contact  
  • Info For
  • Professionals
  • Students
  • Educators
  • Media
  • Search
    Powered By Google

The Job Descriptive Index: Newly Updated and Available for Download

Christopher J. Lake, Purnima Gopalkrishnan, Michael T. Sliter, and Scott Withrow
Bowling Green State University

Author note: The authors would like to thank the current faculty sponsors of the JDI Research Group at BGSU—William K. Balzer, Michelle R.H. Brodke, Jennifer Z. Gillespie, and Michael A. Gillespie—as well as past and present members of the group for their assistance and support.

Christopher Lake can be reached at 419-372-8247; e-mail:

More than 50 years ago, a team of researchers at Cornell University’s industrial psychology program began studying people’s work satisfaction, which ultimately culminated in the development of the Job Descriptive Index (JDI). The JDI was officially introduced in 1969 by Smith, Kendall, and Hulin and has since become the “gold standard” of job satisfaction scales (Landy, Shankster, & Kohler, 1994, p. 271). The JDI has remained one of the most widely used measures of job satisfaction (see Bowling, Hendricks, & Wagner, 2008; Cooper-Hakim & Viswesvaran, 2005) due to the strong emphasis on psychometric rigor and its frequent updates over the years. This article briefly describes the importance of periodic scale updates, the procedures recently used to update the JDI family of scales, and how the newly updated scales can be obtained and used free of charge.

Over the past 50 years, the JDI research group has developed a number of scales that complement the JDI. Collectively, the JDI and related scales are referred to here as the JDI family of scales. The JDI is a facet measure of satisfaction, meaning that the measure assesses people’s satisfaction with five differentiable aspects of the job: the work itself, pay, opportunity for promotion, supervision, and coworkers. Contrast this with the Job in General (JIG), a scale that was developed by the group to assess people’s overall (global) feelings of work satisfaction. In addition to scales measuring satisfaction, the group has also developed scales to measure other important work-related constructs. The Stress in General (SIG) measures feelings of job stress and the Trust in Management (TIM) measures the perceived trustworthiness and integrity of management. Depending on the specifics of a given research project, we often recommend that users administer multiple scales to participants in order to capture a complete picture of satisfaction and related variables.

Since the original introduction of the JDI, the measure has undergone two major updates: the first in 1985 (Smith et al., 1987) and the second in 1997 (Kihm, Smith, & Irwin, 1997). In 2008, the JDI research group initiated a third major update to the JDI family of scales. The process of updating the scales involved two steps: collecting new normative data and refining the scale based on the newly acquired normative data.

Before describing the current update, consider why we believe that frequent scale updates are important. Over the years, the JDI family of scales has demonstrated excellent reliability and validity. However, the workplace is an ever-evolving environment within which people’s work-related attitudes are formed. Widespread changes in human resources policies, the increased use of technology, and many other factors all play a part in this evolution. Consider also that scale items may be interpreted differently over time due to factors such as language use. A case in point is the items “on your feet” and “hot,” which were included in the work facet of the original 1969 JDI. As the work environment has become less industrial, these items eventually became less applicable to employees. Frequent updates provide an opportunity to test the psychometric properties of the scales and to collect up-to-date normative data. We agree with DeVellis (1991, p. 113) who noted that “[scale] validation is a cumulative, ongoing process.” In that vein, we believe that frequent updates are an important part of maintaining the validity and integrity of the scales.

The first goal of the current update was to collect new normative data to support the scales. The JDI and JIG had both been normed in a previous update, whereas the SIG and TIM were being normed for the first time. In previous updates, the research group was able to use data from the U.S. Census and Social Security database to obtain a sample of United States workers. However, recent changes in governmental policies precluded access to census data, and alternate arrangements had to be made. Ultimately, we contracted with a company specializing in online panel data collection. People living in the United States who met some basic requirements (e.g., 18 years of age or older; working 35 or more hours per week) were eligible to participate in the online survey. A total of 1,485 working adults participated in the study, and participants were representative of the U.S. working population on key variables such as age, education, and type of industry. This normative sample had a mean age of 40.7 (SD = 11.5), was mostly White (80%), and consisted of slightly fewer women (42.3%) than men. The majority of the participants reported attending some college or having a college degree (63.4%), whereas 10.8% had either completed some high school or received a high school degree. The majority of participants reported gross household annual incomes between 50K–99K (17%) and 100K–149K (17%).

Because the new normative sample was specifically designed to be representative of U.S. workers, overall national norms were developed that allows the scales’ users to compare obtained scores to those from the typical U.S. worker. In addition to the overall national norms, select subgroup norms were constructed based on important demographic and industry variables, including organization level, education, management status, age, tenure, and organization type (i.e., government, for profit, not for profit, and self-employed). These subgroup norms allow users to compare obtained scale scores to those from these specific reference groups.

The second goal of the current update was scale refinement. We strove to ensure that the individual items were psychometrically sound, that the JDI facets (e.g., work, pay, promotion) continued to represent distinct factors, and that the scales continued to be relevant to science and practice. Experimental items were developed by the JDI research group for each facet of the JDI in order to replace any items that no longer functioned well. The item selection procedure involved the consideration of classical test theory (CTT) statistics and item response theory (IRT) parameters. Good items were selected into the scale based on (a) item-total correlation, (b) IRT discrimination, (c) IRT information functions, (d) IRT locations of maximum information, (e) item valence (i.e., positively worded vs. negatively worded), and (f) confirmatory factor analysis loadings. Efforts were made to create scales that had the highest information across a range of levels of satisfaction, had acceptable internal consistency, included a balance of positively and negatively worded items, and exhibited a clean factor structure. Similar procedures were used to refine the JIG, SIG, and TIM.

Now that the JDI family of scales has been updated, we would like to make the scales easily accessible to researchers and practitioners. In the past, JDI users were required to purchase copies of the scale for use in their projects with a discount given to those who were willing to share the data they collected. However, to encourage greater use of the scales, we are no longer charging for the use of the scales and no longer requiring data sharing. We are pleased to announce that, for the first time, the JDI family of scales can be used free of charge with no strings attached. The scales can be directly downloaded from the official JDI Web page: http://www.bgsu.edu/departments/ psych/io/jdi/. Please note that other products and services offered by the JDI Office (e.g., user’s manuals; normative scoring services) are available for purchase with proceeds helping to fund future research efforts. Comments or questions about the updated JDI family of scales should be directed to JDI Office, Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403; e-mail: jdi_ra@bgsu.edu.


     Bowling, N. A., Hendricks, E. A., & Wagner, S. H. (2008). Positive and negative affectivity and facet satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Journal of Business and Psychology, 23, 115–125.
     Cooper-Hakim, A., & Viswesvaran, C. (2005). The construct of work commitment: Testing an integrative framework. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 241–259.
     DeVellis, R.  F. (1991). Scale development: Theory and applications. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
     Kihm, J. A., Smith, P. C., & Irwin, J. L. (1997). Update for users of the JDI: New national norms for the Job Descriptive Index. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 35, 90–91.
     Landy, F. J., Shankster, L. J., & Kohler, S. S. (1994). Personnel selection and placement. Annual Review of Psychology, 45, 261–296.
     Smith, P. C., Balzer, W. K., Brannick, M., Chia, W., Eggleston, S., Gibson, W., et al. (1987). The revised JDI: A facelift for an old friend. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 24, 31–33.
     Smith, P. C., Kendall, L. M., & Hulin, C. L. (1969). The measurement of satisfaction in work and retirement. Chicago: Rand McNally.