Tony Corrente

How much are NFL referees paid?

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If you’ve ever wondered how big is an NFL referee salary, then you’re not alone. If anything, most people can’t believe they make that much money despite being so bad at their jobs sometimes.

But, in reality, being an NFL referee is one of the toughest jobs in sports. They are under heavy scrutiny week in and week out. Fans insult, jeer, curse them out every chance they have, and their decisions can have a big toll on the outcome of a game or even a season.

NFL referee salary

There are multiple NFL referees for any game. There is the crew chief, umpires, back judges, field judges, line judges, side judges, down judges, and a replay official, which is the only referee that’s not on the field during the game.

Let’s be frank for a second. NFL referees are some of the most hated people in sports. Even when they get a call right, they’re going to be called out and questioned, especially if they favor the “big” team. But, for the kind of money they make, I might as well be cool with enduring that burden.

How much are NFL referees paid?

As per the latest reports, the average NFL referee salary is $205,000 per year. That may not seem like much if you consider that the average yearly salary in the U.S. in 2019 was $51,916.27 and that Patrick Mahomes is making $50 million per year. Then again, we’re talking about a part-time job here.


Also, the NFL referee’s salary went up in 2020 according to the latest CBA agreement, and they also have a $401,000 retirement plan. Take in mind as well that NFL referees aren’t paid during the offseason.

Do NFL referees have other jobs?

As we mentioned before, NFL referees aren’t paid during the offseason.

They’re not full-time employees of the NFL, at least for the most part. Back in 2017-18, the league had 20% of its referees as full-time employees but made them part-timers again for the 2020 NFL season.

How to become an NFL referee?

Making it to the NFL isn’t an easy thing to achieve, not even for referees. When we take a look at the NFL referee qualifications, the league states that all officials must have at least 10 years of prior experience, with five of those years including major college games.

But there’s a lot of previous work they need to do before that. They need to attend multiple courses and get a full grasp of the game of football and all the rules. Then, they need to register on the state and get a certification and just go from there. Most of them start in high school games and then work their way up.


If you’re good at math, then you may have figured out that NFL referees will most likely need around 15 years of prior experience coming from poorly-paid gigs officiating high school games and working multiple jobs to make a living. No wonder why the NFL referee salary is so high once they make it.

What salary does an NFL waterboy have?

So, if all that seems like a lot of work, then you might as well try your luck as an NFL waterboy instead. You’ll be close to the action and have privileged seats for all games. You’ll get to be around the best players in the league, and you’ll make a pretty decent salary as well.

NFL waterboys can make as much as $35,000 per year when they first enter the league but, as it happens with most jobs, that number can only go up as the years go by.

Also, NFL waterboys are often asked to perform other duties that can make that salary even more appealing.

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