How Much Do NFL Refs Make Per Game Or In A Year? 

For close to a hundred years, Americans have lived in the beloved tradition of American football. Parents and schools training their children in the sport, scholarships being awarded based on skill in the game, livelihoods, and communities significantly thriving on the shoulders of the game. The American professional football league, the NFL (National Football League) has been at the heart of it all season after season and as such the selection of its officials is a careful process for each game. Just as the sport is popular, so also are its players and the NFL refs.

There are typically six other officials at each game; the umpire, a field judge, a back judge, a line judge, a side judge, and a headlines man, working together with the referee who is in charge of the officiating crew. The referees see to the overall supervision of the game. They decide scores, fouls, and head all other officials’ activities during the games. Even though they are not as popular as the players, some are just as well known.

It was not until 2017 that the NFL announced its decision to hire 21 full-time game officials of which only 4 were referees. Before then, officials were hired on a contract basis through the seasons and most of them still maintained regular jobs outside seasons which puts no strain on their referee duties as games hold only on Sundays. This affords them the time to have regular jobs and so the question of how much NFL refs pull in is worthy of an answer.

How Much Do NFL Refs Make?

Most notable NFL referees have other jobs and this reflects in their confidence on the field. This includes the likes of Ron Winters who is an associate professor in Phys. Ed at Western Michigan University, Ed Hochuli who also works as a trial lawyer at Jones, Skelton and Hochuli an Arizona law firm, Tony Corrente who is a high-school social studies teacher and Walter Anderson was also a dentist. As regards how much NFL refs make, here is a breakdown:

Income Pay per Game

NFL referees earn an average of $4,000 to $10,000 dollars per game. The selection for each game carefully fixed across the season is done based on the experience of the official and their athletic wits on the field; how fast and accurate they can be as a reflection of their deep knowledge and understanding of the rules.

Pay per Season

Ethan Trex wrote in his article on mental floss that an NFL ref can earn from $25,000 to $75,000 dollars per season considering that each season is about just 17 weeks of each year. More so, it has been set in the margin of $75,000 to over $200,000 depending on a referee’s wealth of experience and tactful skills on the field.

NFL Referees Association representatives and the league signed a contract in 2012 increasing their annual pay to $173,000 dollars by 2013, a noticeable increase from the 149,000 they were paid up until 2011. The annual salary of an NFL referee was expected to rise to nothing less than $205,000 dollars by 2019.

In addition to the salaries of NFL referees, the job description also attracts bonuses which are not publicly known but arise from several sports-related benefits that NFL officials are entitled to. However, only full-time NFL officials, in general, enjoy full working benefits such as health and vacation insurances.

Female NFL Referee Salary

NFL Refs
Sarah Thomas (Image Source)

There may be other American football female referees but Mississippi native, Sarah Thomas is the known female referee who is also one of the 21 full-time NFL officials. In 2013 she was paid 700 dollars for each game, but now as a fulltime NFL official, she is expected to earn as high as her male counterparts.

Rookie and Veteran Referees

The 2013 effective contract was also positive on rookie referees, giving a significant rise also to their annual pay from $75,000 dollars to $78,000 dollars and that of veteran officials from $160,000 dollars to $200,000 dollars from the 2013 season.

NFL officials generally work Sundays during the season which lasts for 17 weeks in the year. This means they have time to run other jobs which most of them do and notably well too. Therefore, the salaries they get will be considered fair in comparison to other sports referees who get paid higher and have more bonuses at their disposal but deal with longer working seasons and games spread across their schedules.


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