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Umpire and Referee Job Description, Career as an Umpire and Referee, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school, training school, and passing score on officiating exam; teaching certificate in some cases

Salary: Mean—$27,850 per year

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Umpires and referees, as well as other sports officials, can usually be identified by their striped shirts. They control the progress of athletic and sports events, look for violations of rules and regulations during play, and impose penalties on teams or players when necessary. Some sports officials such as boxing referees may work independently, while others, including football and baseball umpires, work in groups.

About a third of all umpires and referees work in private educational services. Others work in amusement, gambling, and recreation industries, including gymnasiums, health clubs, and other sports facilities. Less than ten percent of umpires and referees work in the spectator sports industry.

Education and Training Requirements

Each sport has specific requirements for umpires, referees, and other sports officials. Almost all require at least a high school diploma or its equivalent, good vision, and quick reflexes. Umpires and referees must have a thorough knowledge of their game and its rules and regulations. Most umpires and referees were athletes at some point in their lives.

Umpires and referees usually start out as volunteers for intramural, community, and recreational league competitions. Those who wish to officiate at high school athletic events must pass an exam on the rules and register with the state. College referees must be certified by a training school for officials and be evaluated during a probationary period. Some larger college sports conferences have other qualifications, including residence in or near the conference boundaries and several years of experience as an official at high school, community college, or other college conference games.

Standards are higher in professional sports. In baseball, for instance, those who want to officiate at minor or major league games must attend professional umpire training school. Two schools have been approved by the Professional Baseball Umpires Corporation for this training. Top graduates are selected for further evaluation while officiating in a minor league. Umpires then usually need eight to ten years of experience in various minor leagues before being considered for major league jobs. Similarly, in professional football umpires and referees must have at least ten years of officiating experience—five of them at a collegiate varsity or minor professional level. The National Football League has clinical psychologists interview applicants to determine their ability to handle stressful situations. Candidates in all professional sports can expect a thorough background check.

Getting the Job

Interested individuals with the proper credentials can apply directly to the school district or academic league of their choice. At the middle school or high school level they may be required to work as a teacher of physical education or another subject. Those who want to work as an umpire or referee at a country club, tennis club, camp, or gym should apply directly to the facility. Professional umpires and referees usually get jobs based on credentials and affiliation with a professional association or sports league.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Employment of umpires, referees, and other sports officials is expected to increase faster than average through the year 2014. The public—especially the aging baby boomer set—is interested in playing sports for health reasons and watching sports for entertainment, so the need for umpires and referees will grow. The increasing number of women and girls who are participating in sports will also drive growth in the industry.

Where to Go for More Information

Harry Wendelstedt School for Umpires
88 S. St. Andrews Dr.
Ormond Beach, FL 32174
(386) 672-4879

Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring
12741 Research Blvd., Ste. 401
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 335-5959

National Association of Sports Officials
2017 Lathrop Ave.
Racine, WI 53405
(262) 632-5448

National Basketball Referees Association
c/o Perennial Strategy Group
The Willard Offices
1455 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Ste. 225
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 638-5090

National Federation of State High School Associations
P.O. Box 690
Indianapolis, IN 46206
(317) 972-6900

National Football League Officiating
280 Park Ave.
New York, NY 10017
(212) 450-2000

National Hockey League
1251 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
(212) 789-2000

The best chances for employment will be for those seeking part-time umpire, referee, and other sports official jobs at high schools and recreation centers. With experience and credentials they can advance to officiating at collegiate, minor league, and major league sports. Competition will be stiff for the higher paying jobs at the college level and will be even greater for jobs in professional sports.

Working Conditions

Officiating is a job for those who love a particular sport and want to see it played by the rules. It can also be quite stressful. People in these positions must react quickly to play on the field or court and often make unpopular decisions. Umpires and referees sometimes face verbal abuse, physical assault, and even lawsuits from athletes, coaches, and fans. In addition, at the lower levels of competition it can be an irregular, uncertain occupation. About a third of all umpires and referees work part time. Some umpires and referees work in world-class facilities; a much larger percentage works at the local recreation center baseball diamond or football field. The job may include a good deal of travel and many days and nights away from home.

Where to Go for More Information

Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities
P.O. Box A
St. Petersburg, FL 33731
(866) 937-7236

P.O. Box 161
Franksville, WI 53126
(262) 632-8855

Earnings and Benefits

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for umpires and related workers was $27,850 in May 2004. Earnings vary by level of education, certification, and geographic region. Because many umpires and referees are self-employed, they must pay for their own expenses, health insurance, and other benefits. Those who work full time in professional sports may receive paid expenses, health insurance, paid sick days, and vacations.

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