Umpire & Referee
What you need to know
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.
Umpires, referees, and other sports officials work indoors and outdoors. Those working outdoors will be exposed to all types of weather conditions. Some officials must travel on long bus rides to sporting events. Others, especially officials in professional sports, travel by air.
Some of the things umpires, referees, and other sports officials might do:
- 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
- Communication skills. Umpires, referees, and other sports officials must have good communication skills because they inform athletes on the rules of the game, discuss infractions, and settle disputes.
- Decision-making skills. Umpires, referees, and other sports officials must observe play, assess various situations, and often make split-second decisions.
- Good vision. Umpires, referees, and other sports officials must have good vision to view infractions and identify any violations during play. In some sports, such as diving or gymnastics, sports officials must also be able to observe an athlete’s form for imperfections.
- Physical stamina. Many umpires, referees, and other sports officials are required to stand, walk, run, or squat for long periods during games and events.
- Teamwork. Because many umpires, referees, and other sports officials work in groups to officiate a game, the ability to cooperate and come to a mutual decision is essential.
The average pay for umpires, referees, and other sports officials in the United States ranges from $19,170 to $81,620 as of May 2021.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
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.
Participation in college sports 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. This may increase the need for referees, and other sports officials.
Each state and sport association has its own education requirements for umpires, referees, and other sports officials. Some states do not require formal education, while others require sports officials to have a high school diploma.
Umpires, referees, and other sports officials may be required to attend training sessions and seminars before, during, and after the season. These sessions allow officials to learn about rule changes, review and evaluate their own performances, and improve their officiating.