Career Facts

Investigate MORE INFO on all professions that sound interesting. Take your time. Don't skip a step.

Job Outlook: 6% (As fast as average)

  1. Is WHAT YOU DO enjoyable?
  2. Does the WORK ENVIRONMENT feel comfortable?
  3. Are you ok with THE REQUIREMENTS?
  4. Is the PAY ENOUGH?
  5. Is the JOB OUTLOOK positive- more than 7%?
  6. Still interested? WATCH THE VIDEO
  7. RELATED OCCUPATIONS Click here to view similar jobs.
FIND A JOB and more.

What Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials Do About this section

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials
Umpires, referees, and other sports officials regulate play by signaling participants and other officials.

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.

Duties

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

  • Officiate sporting competitions
  • Judge performances in sporting competitions to determine a winner
  • Inspect sports equipment and observe 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 competitions, 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 make split-second rulings 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.

Work Environment About this section

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials
Umpires, referees and other sports officials work indoors and out, in all types of weather.

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials held about 20,200 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of umpires, referees, and other sports officials were as follows:

Self-employed workers 16%
Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries 13
Performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries 11
Educational services; state, local, and private 9
Civic and social organizations 5

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials work indoors and outdoors. Those working outdoors will be exposed to all types of weather conditions. Some officials travel by  bus to sporting events. Others, especially officials in professional sports, may travel by air.

Some sports require officials to stand, squat, walk, or run for extended periods.

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

Work Schedules

Seasonal work is common for umpires, referees, and other sports officials. Schedules may vary, and they often work irregular hours that include evenings, weekends, and holidays.

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

How to Become an Umpire, Referee, or Other Sports Official About this section

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials
Education and training requirements for umpires, referees, and other sports officials vary by the level and type of sport.

Requirements for umpires, referees, and other sports officials typically vary by state and local sports association. Although some positions have no formal education requirements, others may require a high school diploma. Officiating sports requires extensive knowledge of the rules of the game.

Education

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials typically need a high school diploma, although requirements may vary. Each state and sport association has its own education requirements for umpires, referees, and other sports officials. Some do not require formal education, while others may require umpires, referees, and sports officials to have a high school diploma.

Some sports, such as baseball, have their own professional training schools that prepare aspiring umpires and officials for a career at the minor and major league levels.

For more information on educational requirements, refer to the specific state athletic or activity association.

Training

To attain competency in the occupation, umpires, referees, and other sports officials typically need up to 1 year of on-the-job training. This training may include informational sessions covering topics such as positioning, signaling, and other responsibilities or shadowing an experienced official to help manage competitions.

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials may be required to attend training camps, classes, and seminars before, during, and after the season. These sessions allow officials to learn about rule updates, review and evaluate their own performances, and improve their officiating.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Credentialing requirements vary by competition level. For example, to officiate 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 sport. Some states and associations require applicants to attend umpiring or refereeing classes before taking the exam or joining the association. Other associations require officials to attend annual training workshops before renewing their officiating credential.

For more information, visit your state’s athletic association website or the National Association of Sports Officials.

Advancement

Most new umpires, referees, and other sports officials begin by officiating youth sports. After a few years, they may advance to the high school level. Those who wish to advance to the collegiate level must typically officiate at the high school level for many years.

Some umpires, referees, and other officials may advance through the high school and collegiate levels to reach the professional level. Advancement may continue within the professional ranks. For example, baseball umpires begin their professional careers officiating in the minor leagues and typically need 7 to 10 years of experience there before advancing on to the major leagues.

Standards for umpires and other officials become more stringent as the level of competition increases.

Other Experience

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials must have an extensive knowledge of the rules of the sport they are officiating.

Some officials may have gained much of their knowledge through years of playing the sport at some level. However, playing experience is not a requirement for becoming an umpire, referee, or other sports official.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Umpires, referees, and other sports officials must have good communication skills because they inform athletes on a sport's rules, discuss infractions, and settle disputes.

Decision-making skills. Umpires, referees, and other sports officials must observe play, assess situations, and make split-second rulings.

Good vision. Umpires, referees, and other sports officials must have good vision to identify violations during play. In some sports, such as diving or gymnastics, sports officials also must be able to observe an athlete’s form for imperfections.

Physical stamina. Many umpires, referees, and other sports officials are required to run, squat, stand, or walk for long periods during competitions.

Teamwork. Because umpires, referees, and other sports officials may work in groups to officiate a game, they must be able to cooperate and come to a mutual decision.

Pay About this section

Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials

Median annual wages, May 2021

Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers

$49,470

Total, all occupations

$45,760

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials

$35,860

 

The median annual wage for umpires, referees, and other sports officials was $35,860 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $19,170, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $81,620.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for umpires, referees, and other sports officials in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries $46,900
Educational services; state, local, and private 30,510
Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries 30,500
Civic and social organizations 23,380

Most umpires, referees, and other sports officials are paid on a per-game basis. Pay typically rises as the level of competition increases.

Seasonal work is common for umpires, referees, and other sports officials. Schedules may vary and often include evenings, weekends, and holidays.

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

Job Outlook About this section

Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials

29%

Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers

22%

Total, all occupations

8%

 

Employment of umpires, referees, and other sports officials is projected to grow 29 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 3,800 openings for umpires, referees, and other sports officials are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Much of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession that began in 2020 and is likely to occur early in the decade as organized sports resume activities.

At the high school level, student enrollments are projected to increase over the next decade, which could result in a rise in the number of student athletes. As schools offer more athletic programs and as more students participate in sports, the demand for umpires, referees, and other sports officials may increase.

However, funding for high school athletic programs may be cut when budgets become tight. Still, the popularity of interscholastic sports sometimes enables shortfalls to be offset with assistance from fundraisers, booster clubs, and parents.

Participation in college sports also is projected to increase over the decade, particularly at smaller colleges and in women’s sports. Many small, Division III colleges are expanding their sports programs and adding teams to help promote the school and recruit students.

Employment projections data for umpires, referees, and other sports officials, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials

27-2023 20,200 26,200 29 6,000 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about umpires, referees, and other sports officials, visit

National Association of Sports Officials (NASO)

National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)

For more information on umpires, referees, and other sports officials, refer to the organization that represents the sport and the locality.

CareerOneStop

For a career video on umpires, referees, and other sports officials, visit

Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials

O*NET

Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials

Video