Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials

Summary

umpires referees and other sports officials image
Umpires, referees, and other sports officials preside over competitive athletic or sporting events.
Quick Facts: Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials
2012 Median Pay $23,290 per year
Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012 17,500
Job Outlook, 2012-22 8% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 1,300

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. They detect infractions and decide penalties according to the rules of the game.

Work Environment

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials work indoors and out, in all types of weather. They often work irregular hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.

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

Educational requirements vary according 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 $23,290 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of umpires, referees, and other sports officials is projected to grow 8 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job prospects are expected to be good at the youth and high school levels.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of umpires, referees, and other sports officials with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about umpires, referees, and other sports officials by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

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 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 sports officials must anticipate play and position themselves where they can best see the action, assess the situation, and determine any violations of the rules.

Sports officials typically rely on their judgment to call out 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 group. 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 decisions. These decisions sometimes result in strong disagreement expressed by opposing team players, coaches, and spectators.

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

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 17,500 jobs in 2012. About 9 percent were self-employed.

The industries that employed the most umpires, referees, and other sports officials in 2012 were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals31%
Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries18
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private14
Performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries14
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations10

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials work indoors and out, in all types of weather. Some workers must travel on long bus rides to sporting events. Others, especially officials in professional sports, travel by air.

Because sports officials must observe play and often make split-second decisions, 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 sports officials often work irregular hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.

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.

Educational requirements vary by state and are sometimes determined by the 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. Training requirements also vary by state and the level and type of sport. All sports, however, require extensive knowledge of the rules of the game.

Education

Each state and sport association has its own education requirements for umpires, referees, and other sports officials. Some require no formal education, while others require sports officials to have a high school diploma.

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

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

To officiate at high school athletic events, umpires, referees, and other officials must 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.

Some local associations may require officials to attend monthly association meetings.

Training

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials may be required to attend training sessions and seminars before, during, or after the season. These sessions allow officials to learn about rule changes, review and evaluate their own performances, and improve their officiating. Other associations require officials to attend annual training workshops before renewing their officiating license.

Advancement

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 levels. Those that wish to advance to the collegiate level must typically officiate at the varsity high school level for many years.

For some umpires, referees, and other sports officials, working in professional sports is the biggest advancement. Some officials may advance through the high school and collegiate levels to reach the professional level. 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. In this system, umpires begin their professional career officiating in the minor leagues and typically need 7 to 10 years of experience before moving up into the major leagues.

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

Other Experience

Umpires, referees, and other sports official must have immense knowledge of the rules of the game they are officiating. Many officials gain the knowledge of the game by attending training sessions or camps that teach the important rules and regulations of the sport.

Some officials may also have gained this knowledge through years of playing the sport at some level. However, previous playing experience is not a requirement to become an umpire, referee, or other sports officials.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Umpires, referees, and other sports officials must have good communication skills because they inform athletes on the rules of the game and settle disputes between competing players. Some sports officials also must communicate violations and infractions to opposing team players, coaches, and spectators.

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 determine any violations during play. In some sports, such as diving or gymnastics, sports officials must also be able to clearly observe an athlete’s form for imperfections.

Stamina. Many umpires, referees, and sports officials are required to stand, walk, run, or squat for long periods during games and events.

Teamwork. Because many umpires, referees, and sports officials work in teams to officiate a game, the ability to cooperate and come to a mutual decision is essential.

Pay About this section

Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials

Median annual wages, May 2012

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Athletes, coaches, umpires, and related workers

$28,580

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials

$23,290

 

The median annual wage for umpires, referees, and other sports officials was $23,290 in May 2012. 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 $17,040, and the top 10 percent earned more than $52,370.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for umpires, referees, and other sports officials in the top five industries in which these officials worked were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals$25,140
Performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries23,970
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar
organizations
23,400
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private20,230
Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries19,610

Umpires, referees, and sports officials often work irregular hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Job Outlook About this section

Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Athletes, coaches, umpires, and related workers

14%

Total, all occupations

11%

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials

8%

 

Employment of umpires, referees, and other sports officials is projected to grow 8 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Rising participation in high school and college sports may increase demand for these officials.

High school enrollment is 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 more students participate in sports, the demand for umpires, referees, and other sports officials may increase.

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

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

Demand for umpires, referees, and sports officials is also projected to grow as population growth increases the overall number of people participating in organized sports.

Job Prospects

Overall job prospects for umpires, referees, and sports officials are expected to be good at the youth and high school levels. Those with prior officiating experience will have the best job opportunities.

However, competition is expected to be strong for the college and professional levels. Many people are attracted to working in sports, and the collegiate and professional levels typically have few job openings and low turnover.

Employment projections data for umpires, referees, and other sports officials, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials

27-2023 17,500 18,800 8 1,300 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

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 Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Athletes and sports competitors

Athletes and Sports Competitors

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

High school diploma or equivalent $40,060
Coaches and scouts

Coaches and Scouts

Coaches teach amateur or professional athletes the skills they need to succeed at their sport. Scouts look for new players and evaluate their skills and likelihood for success at the college, amateur, or professional level. Many coaches are also involved in scouting.

Bachelor’s degree $28,360
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/umpires-referees-and-other-sports-officials.htm (visited October 24, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014