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Become A Sports Official

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Working As A Sports Official

  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Getting Information
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Performing General Physical Activities
  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Make Decisions

  • $24,870

    Average Salary

What Does A Sports Official Do

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.


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 determine 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 primarily employed in other occupations and supplement their income by officiating part time.

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How To Become A 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. All sports, however, require 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.

Some local associations may require officials to attend monthly association meetings.

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.


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 levels. Those who wish to advance to the collegiate level must typically officiate at the varsity high school level for many years.

For some umpires, referees, and other sports officials, working in professional sports is the biggest advancement. Some 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. In this system, umpires begin their professional career officiating in the minor leagues and typically need 7 to 10 years of experience before moving up into the major leagues.

Standards for umpires and other officials become more stringent as the level of competition advances.

Other Experience

Umpires, referees, and other sports official must have immense 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 also have gained this knowledge through years of playing the sport at some level. However, previous playing experience is not a requirement to become an umpire, referee, or other sports officials.

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 and settle disputes between competing players. Some sports officials also must communicate violations and infractions to opposing team players, coaches, and spectators.

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 determine any violations during play. In some sports, such as diving or gymnastics, sports officials must also be able to clearly observe an athlete’s form for imperfections.

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 teams to officiate a game, the ability to cooperate and come to a mutual decision is essential.

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Sports Official jobs

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Sports Official Typical Career Paths

Sports Official Demographics


  • Male

  • Female

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Asian

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • French

  • Mandarin

  • Chinese

  • Italian

  • German

  • Cantonese

  • Swedish

  • Russian

  • Portuguese

  • Serbian

  • Japanese

  • Greek

  • Hindi

  • Arabic

  • Tamil

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Top Skills for A Sports Official


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Top Sports Official Skills

  1. Indoor Soccer
  2. Softball Games
  3. Volleyball Games
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Trained in flag football, indoor soccer, outdoor soccer, floor hockey, basketball and volleyball.
  • Officiate high school football, baseball, and softball games at the Varsity and JV levels.
  • Officiated basketball, softball(A.S.A slow pitch and fast pitch), flag football and volleyball games.
  • Officiated basketball games and score kept for all other intramural sports.
  • Assured that players remained safe and unharmed by strong enforcement of game rules while allowing game to be enjoyed.

Top Sports Official Employers

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