How to Become an NFL Referee


The National Football League (NFL) is the nation’s highest level of professional American football and the NFL is considered one of the world’s top professional football leagues. NFL referees are responsible for making sure the games flow smoothly, so they must maintain a fair stance in order to guarantee the safety of all players. Highly experienced officials are needed to manage all football games during every season. Learn how to become an NFL referee and find out the average NFL referee salary, too.

What does a NFL referee do?

NFL referees are the chief officials at professional football games and maintain control over the game. Referees enforce official NFL rules, make sure that the game progresses, and call out penalties when players break the rules. They also keep track of the game and play clocks. When a penalty occurs, the NFL referee makes an announcement and explains the penalty to both team captains. You’ll notice how NFL referees are constantly repositioning themselves in order to get the best view of the game and appropriately evaluate all situations. They often stand approximately 10 yards behind the quarterback to look out for illegal actions. In the case of a disputed play, the referee reviews the play on replay monitors to make the final decision. Since the NFL season only consists of about 16 games, NFL referees are considered part-time employees and often pursue other employment opportunities during the off-season.

What kind of training does a NFL referee need?

To become an NFL referee, there are no minimum education requirements. Many referees, however, do have a bachelor‘s degree. Before landing this coveted position, NFL referees must have sufficient experience in officiating football games. The National Football League requires at least 10 years experience in officiating football, with a minimum of five years experience serving in a minor professional or college varsity position. NFL referees must also achieve membership in accredited football officials’ organizations or have previous football experience, either as a coach or player. Many aspiring NFL referees begin their careers working at high school and college levels, attending football refereeing conventions to improve their skills and network with other officials. Certifications and training can be obtained from organizations such as USA Football

What are the prospects for a career as a NFL referee?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of umpires, referee, and other sporting officials is anticipated to rise 20 percent by the year 2020, considered faster than average for all jobs. The increase in the amount of athletes who participate in the NFL will ultimately spark the demand for referees. Those who just enjoy being part of the game in general may also enjoy becoming a referee in other capacities.

Expect extreme competition as the position of NFL referee is one of the most sought-after sporting careers available. Job options will be most favorable for individuals with extensive experience officiating football games.

NFL Referee Salary: How much do NFL referees make?

The annual NFL referee salary differs widely depending on many extenuating factors, including experience and total amount of games officiated during a specific season. Under an eight-year collective bargaining agreement signed between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association and covering the 2012-19 seasons, the average compensation for NFL referees was increased from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019. Beginning 2017, NFL referees will be provided with retirement benefits, including an annual league contribution averaging more than $18,000 per official, and increasing to more than $23,000 in 2019. An NFL referee only receives pay for the games he or she actually oversees. However, under the 2012 collective bargaining agreement, the NFL has the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field.

A career as an NFL referee is an optimal choice for those with a genuine passion for playing and watching American football. NFL referees must be in excellent physical condition and consistently maintain overall emotional composure. They must have the innate authority to control a fast-paced and sometimes stressful game. Those interested in becoming an NFL Referee may also be interested in learning how to become a sports official.

Take the Next Step…

Are you serious about becoming an NFL referee? Then you need to get the required skills and training to do it! To start your new career, first you must decide what school you want to enroll in, so you need to gather info about potential schools. Use the  College Mouse Degree Search tool  to find the right course and college for you, and get started towards your new dream job today! After you sign up for your course, make sure you fill out and submit the FAFSA so you can take advantage of any financial aid currently available to you!

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