4 minute read

NFL Referee

Education and Training High school, bachelor’s degree, and ten years of officiating football experience
Average Salary $23,730 per year
Job Outlook Very good

A National Football League (NFL) referee officiates NFL games. The NFL referee is the ultimate authority for rule interpretations in a game. NFL referees maintain control over the game by signaling fouls and ensuring that all the rules and regulations of the game are adhered to. The main focus of NFL referees is to ensure a smooth flow of the game by adopting a fair stance and ensuring the players’ safety. NFL referees anticipate play and accordingly position themselves to get the best view of the action so as to access each situation and determine if any regulations have been violated. NFL referees are supposed to announce penalties committed by the players and give appropriate signals depending on the situation.

Education and Training Requirements

There are no specific educational requirements to become an NFL referee, though it is expected, that they would have passed high school and would have a bachelor’s degree. NFL referees need to have at least 10 years of officiating experience in football games. Of these 10 years, 5 years should have been spent officiating major college level games.
A major criterion for getting hired as an NFL referee is that they should be in an excellent physical condition and should be members of accredited football associations or have prior football experience as players or coaches.

Getting the Job

To become an NFL referee, a thorough knowledge of the rules and regulations of the NFL is required. NFL referees should understand each and every rule stated in the NFL rule book. NFL referees also need to be mentally and physically tough. They constantly need to run around the field with the players and position themselves in a way to get the best view of the action happening on the field and make the necessary calls. This requires a lot of physical strength.
NFL referees should also be mentally strong. Before getting the job, all the selected finalists are put through a series of psychological tests to determine the level of intelligence and the ability to react to stressful situations.
At the time of applying for the NFL referee position, candidates are also required to share their officiating schedule. As part of the selection process, NFL scouts come uninformed to observe the prospective candidates while they are officiating various games. They observe whether the candidates have the capability to succeed as NFL referees.
NFL referees need to make quick, on-the-spot decisions, which are bound to be thoroughly scrutinized by competitors, spectators, and coaches. Therefore, NFL referees need to know all the rules of the game, like the back of their hands. They need to be good leaders to manage the entire team and at all times be in absolute control of the game.
It is very important to have years of experience in officiating games. NFL referees usually start off officiating in schools and then graduate to the college level. Experience helps in building confidence and brushing up the knowledge about the game.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

The job prospects for an NFL referee are quite good as the careers of professional athletes do not last long due to injuries and age. Therefore, there is a constant requirement for replacement, thereby creating more opportunities. However, the competition is keen and very few people manage to get the job.
As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 23% increase in employment opportunities is expected for umpires and referees for the period 2008-2018.
NFL referees work on a contract basis because a regular season spans only 17 weeks. Therefore, most referees and NFL employees take up other jobs during off-season.

Working Conditions and Environment

NFL referees might often have irregular work hours and would need to work on weekends and during evenings. Due to the nature of their work, they are not in a position to please everyone. Many a times, they might be subjected to verbal abuse and physical assaults. They might even get non-fatal, on-the-job injuries.

Salary and Benefits

As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of umpires and related workers were $23,370. With experience, the salary offered increases and in some cases might even go up to $60,000. Apart from the salary, NFL referees are also entitled to medical and dental insurance, health care and dependent care flexible spending accounts, basic life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment insurance, pension, gym reimbursement, paid holidays, and vacation and personal days.

Where to Go for More Information

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

USA Football
45 N Pennsylvania St., Ste. 700
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 614-7750

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHospitality and Recreation