WANTED: dependable, smart, athletic individuals for fast-paced, stressful position. Must be mobile enough to move quickly within an area at a moment's notice and learn hundreds of pages of regulations and procedures. Absences are not tolerated. Must be willing to endure copious amounts of verbal abuse from large, intimidating men who earn much a much higher salary; as well as abuse, threats, and occasional airborne objects from individuals who have no respect for or clues about the requirements, burdens, and goals of this position.
Is this a job posting for a customer service representative at the Beverly Hills Department of Motor Vehicles? Actually, it's a starkly accurate description of the typical professional sports official.
When viewed through this lens, it's hard to fathom why anyone would want to be a baseball umpire, football official, basketball referee, or hockey on-ice official. After all, almost everyone has a story about an official they've seen being subjected to various forms of mistreatment by people who would never say similar things in any other situation.
However, thousands and thousands of sports officials go to work almost every day at all levels of sport, from T-ball and youth soccer to recreational softball and hockey to high school and college interscholastic sports. And they also experience a high level of job satisfaction by being a part of a sport they love - all while staying in shape, performing a much-needed service, and enjoying the camaraderie of working as part of a close-knit team to accomplish a goal.
They certainly don't do it for the money.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people whose employment falls under the category of "umpires, referees, and other sports officials" have a median salary of just $23,290 per year. For officials who are married and have two or more children, that's a figure that's below the federal poverty line. The number takes into account all levels of officiating from YMCA sports and city rec leagues on up. The bulk of the officials are employed by municipal agencies and/or stand-alone entities, many of whom seem to be perpetually strapped for cash; and unfortunately, there tend to be more pressing fiscal needs in these agencies than boosting officials' compensation.
That said, there are a select few officials who, after years of hard work and dedication, finally make their way up to the big time: pro sports. And although these jobs come with an unbelievable amount of scrutiny from many different sources, they do benefit from a generous salary when computed on an annual basis. Here is a closer look at how much money that officials earn in all of the U.S. major sports leagues.
5 National Football League
4 National Hockey League
3 Major League Baseball
2 National Basketball Association
1 Sports Officials: A Rare Breed
Keep in mind that the officials you see at pro sporting events represent the best of the best at what they do. And it's impossible to reach the pinnacle of your chosen field without an extraordinary amount of skill, experience and discipline. And while you will very occasionally discover a Tim Donaghy in the bunch, the vast majority of these officials are just typical, hard-working guys (and a few ladies) who take the field, court or rink looking to do the very best job that they can each and every day or night.
So the next time you leave a pro sporting event and begin reviewing everything that happened in the game in your mind, realize this: if you don't think about the officiating, you know that the referees, umpires and officials did their job well.
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