Umpire and Referee Job Description
Umpires and referees are responsible for overseeing sporting events. They make sure that athletes follow the rules of the game, ensure that points are properly scored, and issue penalties when the rules are broken.
In sports like baseball and football, officials work as part of a team, where each official is responsible for observing a particular part of the field. In other sports like boxing or tennis, the officials work on their own.
Umpires and referees sometimes have to make controversial calls on plays that happen in the blink of an eye. Experienced officials learn how to give themselves the best angle to see a play as it develops, but no matter how good they are, it’s impossible to get calls right all of the time. As a result, these sports officials are under constant scrutiny from fans, coaches, and players, and are sometimes subjected to verbal abuse when others don’t agree with their calls. It can be a very stressful occupation at times.
Umpires and referees work in all types of weather, though their exposure to the elements varies depending on the sport they officiate. Sports like soccer and football are played in rain and snow. Baseball is played when it’s very hot and cold. Basketball and hockey are normally played inside, which gives the officials more consistency in their working environment.
The majority of umpires and referees work in youth, recreation, and amateur leagues on a part time basis. These officials commonly work a full time job in addition to their officiating duties, and choose to officiate because they love the sport and are able to earn some extra income.
Sports are commonly played on nights, weekends, and holidays, and umpires and referees are needed during those times to officiate the games.
In some cases, umpires and referees need to travel extensively to get to the games that they are officiating. Travel is rarer in youth and recreational leagues, but is much more common at the high school levels and above.
If you love sports, have a good eye, and aren’t afraid to stand up for yourself, then working as an umpire or a referee could be a good occupation for you.
How to Become an Umpire or Referee
The training, education, and experience requirements for becoming an umpire or referee vary greatly depending on the level of sport. For example, a referee at a youth soccer game needs only to be familiar with the rules of the sport, while a referee at the professional level will need to have many years of experience.
The requirements for becoming a sports official vary depending on the sport and league as well. In many cases, they need to pass a test that demonstrates their knowledge of a sport and its rules. The experience needed to officiate in more advanced leagues is gained by volunteering at recreational and community competitions.
To work in a high school league, umpires and referees have to register with an officiating body. These organizations are normally operated by a state agency that oversees high school athletics in their state. Passing an exam on the rules of the game is a requirement. Background and drug tests are also common.
To work in college sports, umpires and referees need to be certified and complete a probationary period where they need to demonstrate their officiating abilities. In some conferences, umpires and referees need to live within the conference. College sports officials need several years of experience officiating at the high school level before they will be considered for a college position.
Umpires and referees who work in professional sports leagues need to have many years of experience working in other highly competitive leagues. For example, NBA and NFL referees need to have extensive experience working at the college level, and MLB umpires need to work for a long time at the college and minor league level before they will be called up.
There are currently 19,500 umpires and referees in the United States, with 880 new umpire and referee job openings created each year.
Umpire and Referee jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Umpire and Referee Salaries
Umpire and Referee salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most umpires and referees make between $18,500 – $34,800 per year, or Not Available per hour.