How Much Do NFL Football Referees Get Paid?

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Getting a job as an NFL referee takes years of training and hard work. Once you're in, fans love to jeer at you and mock your bad calls. But the pay isn't bad. In 2019, referees are projected to earn $201,000 for a part-time job.

Being a referee is an important job. You make the calls of the game and watch for penalties and infractions. It can be a high-stress gig, especially when you're working for the NFL, and a gigantic stadium of fans are waiting for your call. And don't expect any love. Fans love to hate a referee if they don't like a call.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

NFL referees preside over approximately 16 games each season, watching closely in order to help maintain standards of play. The average NFL referee salary was $173,000 in 2013, and it is set to rise to $201,000 by 2019, according to Time.com.

Job Description

NFL referees preside over approximately 16 games each season, watching closely in order to help maintain standards of play. According to the rules of the game, they detect infractions and decide penalties.

A seven-person crew typically works a single NFL game, and each crew member has specific duties. During a game, you'll see referees, umpires, down judges, line judges, field judges, side judges and back judges doing their particular jobs in correspondence with the action.

The referees are the managing members of these crews and make the final calls. A few well-known referees include Ed Hochuli, Clete Blakeman and Pete Morelli. Referees are responsible for game flow and they oversee this seven-member crew of officials.

Education Requirements

Officiating an NFL game takes years of training and experience. There is no college degree that will lead you to a career as an NFL official. NFL crews are scouted from lower levels of the sport. A network of more than 65 regional officiating scouts searches the country for officials with the potential to advance to higher levels of football.

These NFL scouts work closely with local, state and collegiate-officiating associations in an effort to develop a pipeline of high school and college football officials across the country. In addition, the league holds grass-roots clinics and programs that introduce young men and women to football officiating.

These outreach and scouting efforts have led to a pool of about 4,000 officials at all levels that have been observed and evaluated. Scouts continue to track the progress of these 4,000 candidates, and any who stand out from the pack may win the chance to move up and officiate at higher levels of football.

A select few high-performing prospects may earn their way into one of these programs:

  • NFL Officiating Development Program (ODP)
  • Legends Officiating Development Program (LODP)

Salary

The average NFL referee salary was $173,000 in 2013, and it is set to rise to $201,000 by 2019, according to Time.com. The NFL season only lasts about half the year, and many NFL referees have other careers. However, in 2017, the NFL hired 21 full-time game officials in an effort to improve every aspect of the position.

Job Growth Trend

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for referees and other sports officials is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026. Because the NFL is the elite position in this job, growth is slower at this level and job opportunities are scarce.

Only 124 officials referee football games at the highest level. But no one can do the job forever. The NFL’s Officiating Department is continuously at work developing a robust talent pool so that a new generation of officials will be ready to step up and do the job when needed.

References

About the Author

Heather Skyler is a business journalist and editor who has written for wide variety of publications, including Newsweek.com, The New York Times and Delta's SKY magazine. She has a bachelor's degree in English from Miami University and a master's degree in writing from the University of Washington in Seattle. Before writing for a variety of publications, she taught business writing in Seattle.