Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials

What Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials Do

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials preside over competitive athletic or sporting events to help maintain standards of play.

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Work Environment

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials work indoors and outdoors. They often work irregular hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays. Officials working outdoors are exposed to all types of weather conditions.

How to Become an Umpire, Referee, or Other Sports Official

Educational requirements vary by state and local sports association. Although some states have no formal education requirements, other states require umpires, referees, and other sports officials to have a high school diploma.

Pay

The median annual wage for umpires, referees, and other sports officials was $28,550 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of umpires, referees, and other sports officials is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects are expected to be good at the youth and high school levels.

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 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.

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials held about 22,800 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of umpires, referees, and other sports officials were as follows:

Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries 19%
Performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries 13
Civic, social, professional, and similar organizations 11
Educational services; state, local, and private 9
Self-employed workers 8

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 sports require officials to run, sprint, or jog for an extended period of time.

Because sports officials must observe play and often make split-second rulings, the work can be filled with pressure. Strong disagreements and criticism from athletes, coaches, and fans can result in additional stress.

Work Schedules

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials often work irregular hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays. Many work part time.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of umpires, referees, and other sports officials.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Athletes and Sports Competitors

Athletes and sports competitors participate in organized, officiated sporting events to entertain spectators.

No formal educational credential $51,370

Coaches and Scouts

Coaches teach amateur or professional athletes the skills they need to succeed at their sport.

Bachelor’s degree $34,840

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

National Association of Sports Officials

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

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Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/umpires-referees-and-other-sports-officials.htm (visited ).