NFL Referee Salary

Last Modified Jun 01, 2023 05:28 GMT

NFL referees play a crucial role in every game. They are responsible for enforcing the rules and maintaining the order of a game. Seven officials operate on the field during professional and most college football games. Football officials, also commonly known as referees, have specific duties and a specific name based on each of their positions. Common positions include - referee (which is the lead member of the officiating team), umpire, head linesman (or down judge), line judge, field judge (or back umpire), side judge, back judge, and center judge. The referee is sometimes referred to as head referee or crew chief as he or she is responsible for the general supervision of the game.

nfl referees

How much do NFL referees make?

Salaries for everyone involved with the National Football League (NFL) remain on a steady incline, including the infamous NFL referees. Depending on role and seniority, pay for the NFL officials vary. Most of them earn a considerable amount. The NFL referees also earn a substantial pension plan on top of a base salary. Pension plans are stipulated to be converted to 401(k) programs shortly.

Officially, an NFL referee’s salary is undisclosed. However, for context, we can estimate how much an NFL ref earns based on the pay figures in the expired NFL CBA. From these figures, it has been found that an NFL referee earned an average of $205,000 as of 2019. The year before where officials earned $149,000 on average, this was actually a substantial increase from the salary.

Under a new CBA which has been signed by the NFL and the NFL Referees Association, the officials are going to earn more money from now on. The exact figures are not disclosed to the public. Reports indicate that officials could make bonuses between $1,500 and $5,000 per playoff game. Referees also get a 401K but no other benefits from their role.

The league pays its officials a flat-base rate plus a payment per game. Typically, on multiplying by 16 through the year, one can calculate in-season game check totals. The average official banks a six-figure salary in part-time work through the season, according to Tom Gerencer of Money Nation. Referees, by earning more than half a million dollars after a 16-game slate on an average, stand atop the financial food chain. Beyond games, officials attend functions and practices to improve their in-season performances by gaining a better understanding of existing rules and new regulations approved every year, which justifies the base payment. Referees also receive large bonuses for officiating postseason games, which are more than double their per-game pay.

How to become an NFL referee?

Earning a spot in the National Football League as a referee takes time and experience. If one has years of experience, advanced knowledge of the game, and open schedules, there are more chances for acceptance to the NFL.

Below are the requirements for NFL referees -


Even though there are no specific education requirements for working in the NFL as a referee, a bachelor's degree in any major is generally expected at the least. And if that is in the fields Sports Health, Sports Management or a related field, it is found to be better suited for the role.


Candidates for the NFL referee role need extensive experience on the field as one of the major requirements. At least 10 years of officiating in football games are required by the NFL. Of those 10, at least five should include major college games.

Good health

Since the role requires individuals to be on their feet for long periods of time, often running, the candidates must be in good physical health. It’s an advantage if one has previous experience as a Football player or coach as they are seemingly more prepared for the role.

The following steps outline how to become an NFL referee:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

Most NFL referees have a college-level education, although it is not a major requirement. Those with sports-specific backgrounds have a greater chance of entry into this role.

2. Obtain training

Programs are offered by colleges, officiating organizations, and third-party training schools for aspiring referees who have a deeper understanding of rules and gameplay and also specific lessons on ethics, good sportsmanship, expectations and practices of referees, and interacting with coaches on the field.

3. Obtain state registration

To begin their sports careers officiating high school-level games most referees would require registering within the state they practice. Most registration processes include a written exam. Candidates need training as mentioned in the previous step to qualify for this exam.

4. Gain experience

The next step involves getting on the field after gaining proper training, education, and registration. After beginning at the high school level, most referees either move on to colleges or leagues. However, before gaining enough credibility or connections for roles at higher levels, most remain at the high school level for three to five years.

5. Earn certification

Certification is earned by attending special training sessions. All additional credentials are taken into consideration, even if it is not a major requirement for the NFL. Those with special certification might have greater chances for employment by the NFL.

6. Get noticed

Most referees meet the basic eligibility requirements for the NFL after officiating college games for at least five years. The league sends scouts to games in secrecy to seek out new talent. Referees always need to work at their best, to the highest standards of the game and of themselves to get noticed by these scouts. The NFL checks the frequency of their work along with their officiating schedule for the past three seasons like schools, dates, game locations and positions worked when considering certain individuals.


What is the average salary of an NFL referee?

Refereeing in the NFL is not a full-time job as the season does not last all year. However, starting in 2019, the average NFL referee salary was set at $205,000 per year. This was an increase of around $56,000 from their previous amount. After a series of lockouts and protests, the NFL and the Referees Association agreed-upon this higher compensation for all game officials. In comparison, the average referee outside of the NFL makes around $16.26 per hour.

How much do NFL Referees earn during the Playoffs?

Although NFL referees earn a flat rate as ther salary. They earn bonuses during Playoffs. The bonus usually varues between $1500 to $5000 per playoff game.

How much do NFL Referees earn during the Super Bowl?

The Super Bowl is the most important game for a team and it is also one of the toughest games to officiate for a referee. Referees have a lot of responsibility upon their shoulders during a Super Bowl and it is also one of the biggest paydays for any referee officiating the game.

As per an NFL referee earns anything between $30,000 to $50,000 for officiating a Super Bowl game.

What is the Difference Between NFL Referees and Officials?

The general term used for an entire seven-person crew that works a single game is that of "officials". For each member of the squad, specific duties are outlined by the NFL operations site. Referees, umpires, down judges, line judges, field judges, side judges and back judges have unique responsibilities in correspondence with the action. Referees manage these crews and make the final calls on infractions. They are responsible for game flow and generally oversee their group of officials. These managers have more earnings than the other six members of their crew.


Q. Who is the highest-paid NFL referee?

A. Brad Allen and Walter Anderson are the highest-paid NFL referees for the 2020-21 season. Sarah Thomas is one of the best-paid women referees in the NFL. According to a TSM Sportz report, a women referee earns a maximum of $1.5k for an NFL match and $5k maximum if they get selected for the Super Bowl.

Q. How much does a referee make in the Super Bowl?

A. An NFL official’s postseason salary is substantially greater than their regular season income. According to one source, $5,000 was the biggest payment for the one-time game. In addition, if picked to officiate the Super Bowl, an NFL referee may earn up to $10,000 in total.

Q. Is an NFL referee a full-time job?

A. All NFL referees and officials are part-time employees. They're forced into a dark period from the end of each season through mid-May. They're essentially full-time workers during the season.

Q. Do referees get Super Bowl rings?

A. NFL officials are also awarded rings for officiating in the Super Bowl. Only top referees are selected to officiate in the season’s biggest game, and for them, it’s all about the ring as a memory of a special game.

Q. How many female referees are in the NFL?

A. There is one female NFL referee, Sarah Thomas. A native of Mississippi, Thomas’ officiating career began in 2007 as a high school football referee.