Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 7% (As fast as average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Most new umpires, referees, and other sports officials begin by officiating youth or freshmen high school sports. After a few years, they may advance to the junior varsity or varsity level. Those who wish to advance to the collegiate level must typically officiate at the varsity high school level for many years.
To officiate at high school athletic events, umpires, referees, and other officials must typically register with the state or local agency that oversees high school athletics. They also typically need to pass an exam on the rules of the particular game. Some states and associations may require applicants to attend umpiring or refereeing classes before taking the exam or joining an association. Other associations require officials to attend annual training workshops before renewing their officiating license.
Median pay: How much do Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials make?
$25,660 Annual Salary

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials preside over competitive athletic or sporting events to help maintain standards of play. They detect infractions and decide penalties according to the rules of the game.

What do Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials do?

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials typically do the following:

  • Officiate sporting events, games, and competitions
  • Judge performances in sporting competitions to determine a winner
  • Inspect sports equipment and examine all participants to ensure safety
  • Keep track of event times, starting or stopping play when necessary
  • Signal participants and other officials when infractions occur or to regulate play or competition
  • Settle claims of infractions or complaints by participants
  • Enforce the rules of the game and assess penalties when necessary

While officiating at sporting events, umpires, referees, and other sports officials must anticipate play and position themselves where they can best see the action, assess the situation, and identify any violations of the rules.

Sports officials typically rely on their judgment to rule on infractions and penalties. Officials in some sports may use video replay to help make the correct call.

Some sports officials, such as boxing referees, may work independently. Others, such as baseball or softball umpires, work in groups. Each official working in a group may have different responsibilities. For example, in baseball, one umpire is responsible for signaling balls and strikes while others are responsible for signaling fair and foul balls out in the field.

Regardless of the sport, the job is highly stressful because officials often must make split-second rulings. These rulings sometimes result in strong disagreement expressed by players, coaches, and spectators.

Many umpires, referees, and other sports officials are employed primarily in other occupations and supplement their income by officiating part time.

Careers for Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials

  • Athletic events scorers
  • Baseball umpires
  • Diving judges
  • Dressage judges
  • Equestrian events judges
  • Handicappers
  • Horse show judges
  • Paddock judges
  • Pit stewards
  • Placing judges
  • Race starters
  • Referees
  • Sports officials
  • Umpires

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