Bureau of Labor Statistics

Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials

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
2020 Median Pay $28,940 per year
Typical 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, 2020 20,200
Job Outlook, 2020-30 29% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 6,000

Summary

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.

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 $28,940 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

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.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for umpires, referees, and other sports officials.

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

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 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.

Work Environment

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 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.

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

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. Officiating sports requires extensive knowledge of the rules of the game.

Education and Training

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.

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

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.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

To officiate at 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 game. Some states and associations may require applicants to attend umpiring or refereeing classes before taking the exam or joining an association. Other associations require officials to attend annual training workshops before renewing their officiating license.

For more information on licensing and certification requirements, visit your state’s high school athletic association website or the National Association of Sports Officials.

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 level. Those who wish to advance to the collegiate level must typically officiate at the varsity 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. 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. Baseball umpires begin their professional careers officiating in the minor leagues and typically need 7 to 10 years of experience there before moving 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 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 have gained much of their knowledge through years of playing the sport at some level. However, previous 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 the rules of the game, discuss infractions, and settle disputes.

Decisionmaking 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.

Pay

Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials

Median annual wages, May 2020

Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers

$47,080

Total, all occupations

$41,950

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials

$28,940

 

The median annual wage for umpires, referees, and other sports officials was $28,940 in May 2020. 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 $18,750, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $63,480.

In May 2020, 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 $33,820
Amusement, gambling, and recreation industries 27,780
Educational services; state, local, and private 26,220
Civic and social organizations 26,120

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

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

Job Outlook

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

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

Occupational Title

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials

SOC Code27-2023
Employment, 202020,200
Projected Employment, 203026,200
Percent Change, 2020-3029
Numeric Change, 2020-306,000
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

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 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Athletes and sports competitors Athletes and Sports Competitors

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

No formal educational credential $50,850
Coaches and scouts Coaches and Scouts

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

Bachelor's degree $36,330

Contacts for More Info

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.

Related BLS articles

Career Outlook:Interview with a Baseball Umpire

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

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

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 September 13, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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