Umpire, Referee and Other Sports Official Career Description


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

What they do

Umpires, referees, and other sports officials detect infractions and decide penalties according to the rules of the game.

They 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 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.

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, and other Sports Official

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.

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.

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.



The median annual wage for umpires, referees, and other sports officials was $28,550 in May 2019. 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 $18,310, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,490.

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. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 1,800 new jobs over the 10-year period. As the population grows, so will the overall number of people participating in organized sports.


Similar Job Titles

Basketball Referee, Commissioner of Officials, Director of Officiating, Diving Judge, Horse Show Judge, Major League Baseball Umpire, Referee, Softball Umpire, Sports Official

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More Information

The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field.  Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas.  As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.


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Video Transcript

These are the people sports fans love to hate. Professional and amateur sporting events require impartial officiating to make sure all the rules are followed. Umpires, referees and other sporting officials keep a close eye on the game to keep all play fair. The responsibilities vary depending on the sport. Before game-time, these officials may inspect the grounds and equipment and even examine players. They check that safety and event regulations are observed and that eligibility requirements have been met. Once the action starts, they may keep track of time, scores and stats. They often serve as judges. You need a sharp eye and the ability to focus intently on the action while tuning out the distractions all around. Be prepared to be out in all sorts of weather, often at night, weekends and holidays. Umpires and referees detect infractions of the rules, often stopping the action to call the problem and assess appropriate penalties on the spot. This can cause some heated arguments. Umpires, referees and other sports officials may serve groups ranging from community leagues to school or college athletics departments to professional teams. This can be a high-stress job. You must be able to make quick decisions. 20/20 vision and quick reflexes are important. A cool head and a strong command of the rulebook are essential. Getting a job in sports is rarely a slam-dunk. The field is so popular that competition is fierce. Most jobs in this field are part-time, and entry-level salaries tend to be low. While there is no education requirement to enter the field, pursuing more training and professional certifications can help you get ahead of the pack. And when you do, you’ll have the best seat in the house!


Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH,
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