Is Being A Referee A Full-Time Job?

It’s impossible to underestimate just how important referees are to sport.

The main job of a referee is to regulate the game, and although this is crucial to sports being played as fairly and as smoothly as possible, refs often go unnoticed.

Is Being A Referee A Full-Time Job

But the difficult calls they have to make pull them into focus, as this usually makes a huge difference to the end result. 

Not only do referees have to be focused on the game at all times to ensure they make the right calls, they also have to stay pretty fit to keep up with the athletes!

So you might be wondering how they get compensated for their efforts and if being a referee is indeed a full-time job.

Well, a referee for an NCAA basketball game is compensated pretty well. Their salary ranges between $10,000 to over $200,000 per season. That’s quite a big difference, so why is this? We’ll answer that and many more questions below! 

What Is A Referee’s Schedule Like?

You may be surprised to know that most referees have full-time jobs besides officiating sports. For example, the famous NCAA basketball referee John Higgins works around the clock!

During one season, he traveled nearly 5,000 miles in three days while refereeing three separate games. He joked that he was a ‘professional traveler’ and that compared to traveling, the task of refereeing was easy.

But as well as refereeing, he owns and operates two businesses. 

The NCAA basketball season lasts around five months, and most referees will officiate between 70 and 100 games during this time. That works out to around 20 games a month.

Referees are basically their own bosses, meaning they can take on as many games as they want. However, if a referee turns a game down, it reduces their chances of being asked to officiate other games.

Because referees are independent contractors, they don’t receive any benefits from the NCAA. This means that if they have to take time off due to illness or injury, they will not receive any compensation.

As well as no health coverage, they don’t receive pensions either. So many referees will take on other full-time jobs in order to receive health insurance and to secure their retirement. 

Breaking Down A Referee’s Salary

If you’re a top-tier referee, you can expect to make up to $2,000 for a regular-season game, but if you’re in the smaller conferences, you’re not going to make as much. 

Across the board, the average salary for NCAA referees is around $33,000 before taxes. Some might think refereeing might not be worth it for that amount of money, but some referees love it so much that to them, it is worth it.

However, some referees in small conferences can make up to $50,000 as a part-time job. So they can do a more lucrative job, and still get the rush of officiating a game. 

But what about power conference referees? These are referees that officiate games for the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, and Sec. Well, they can earn up to $2,000 per game, as well as have their travel and hotel expenses paid for.

However, power conference referees have a high profile, which impacts their privacy and puts them under scrutiny from the fans and the media. But some might argue their salary makes up for that.

Referees that are fortunate enough to officiate the first three rounds of an NCAA basketball tournament will earn around $1,000 per game.

Meanwhile, those who officiate NCAA Regional games can earn $1,400 per game, and those who officiate Final Four contests earn about $2,000 per game.

Is Being A Referee A Full-Time Job (1)

How Much Do NCAA Football Referees Make?

Now that we’ve had a close look at how much NCAA basketball referees make let’s take a look at how much college football referees make. 

NCAA football is one lucrative sport, and while an NCAA football season lasts just one-third of an NCAA basketball season, the referees are still compensated well. 

The average salaries are pretty similar, despite the workload for college football referees being a lot less than college basketball refs.

NCAA football referees can earn between $11000 and $300,000 per year. Referees just entering the power conferences can earn around $800 per game, with their hotel and travel expenses covered. 

How Much Do NBA Referees Make?

There is a lot of difference between an NBA referee and an NCAA basketball referee. NBA referees officiate full-time seven months out of the year.

The NBA is made up of 30 teams who play 82 games every season, and this doesn’t include pre-season and the playoffs. This means that an NBA referee could be traveling up to 25 days every month.

While working seven months a year doesn’t sound like a bad deal, the NBA schedule is full-on and can take quite a physical toll. However, they are compensated well for this.

An entry-level NBA referee earns $600 per game and can take home around $250,000 a year. You will also get a pay rise as you progress through the game.

For example, senior officials can earn up to $500,000 a year. Plus, referees get performance-based ranking bonuses. So the better you are at reffing, the more you get paid. 

How Much Do Other Referees Make?

Let’s take a quick look at what referees officiating other professional sports earn. NFL referees can earn around $205,000 a year, Major League Baseball umpires can earn around $300,000 a year, and NHL referees can earn $275,000 a year.

Final Thoughts

Being a referee isn’t an easy job. It is physically demanding, and you often have to deal with abuse from the crowd if you make a call they don’t like. But arguably, the compensation you receive makes it all worth it.

It’s easy to forget how essential referees are to sports, especially as they try to keep a low profile during the game.

Unless you are a professional, high-ranking referee, you’ll receive little publicity, and unlike players, managers, and coaches, no referees hold pre- or post-game conferences. 

But we hope this article has shed some light on referees’ salaries and working patterns.

Steven Anderson