The Average Salary of a Professional Referee

by Filonia LeChat ; Updated July 27, 2017
Referees make judgment calls on game play.

Determining which players are in, out, safe and home falls to the sometimes-padded shoulders of a professional referee. Referees, who are often the target of athletic fans’ ire and disagreement with their calls, keep a game moving and ensure players play by established rules. As they work their way to the plate, net or basket, referees keep average salaries as a “goal” in mind.


Referees across the country played ball with an average national salary of approximately $28,490 in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics wages study. Referees for gambling organizations earned at a higher rate, taking in approximately $31,450. Just behind the gambling industry and still over the national average, elementary and secondary schools also paid slightly higher annual mean wages at $31,370.


Choosing the state to earn a referee salary could be the difference between a home run and a strike out. The Department of Labor’s top paying state, New York, offered double the national wage at $56,570 to its referees. Also paying much higher was Michigan at $48,270, Pennsylvania at $44,610 and Vermont at $42,200.


Scoring a salary as a referee may be as simple as having played the sport in college or recreationally or through a bachelor’s degree in exercise science or another related field. Referees also must undergo certification before reffing professional games and have experience reffing at a lower level such as high school, college conference or minor league games.


Seeking out a salary as a referee is considered a “good call” by the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, as the organization predicts a 10 percent growth in the field with 1,700 new jobs added through the year 2018. The BLS suggests tapping high schools as the best potential for professional referee salaries.

About the Author

Fionia LeChat is a technical writer whose major skill sets include the MS Office Suite (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Publisher), Photoshop, Paint, desktop publishing, design and graphics. LeChat has a Master of Science in technical writing, a Master of Arts in public relations and communications and a Bachelor of Arts in writing/English.

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