How Much Do NFL Referees Get Paid and How Do They Get to the NFL?

Being a referee is a hard job. Despite the constant belief by fans that every single call should be called with 100% accuracy, the referees do not have the benefit of slow-motion replays and close-up camera angles. Not only that, you’re supposed to know and apply an entire rulebook at the drop of a hat. It is an unforgiving job where fans, coaches, media, and players alike may inherently dislike you, and the path to becoming an NFL referee is grueling and unrewarding.

Despite this, hundreds of people choose to get up every Thursday, Sunday, and Monday to perform the job, but does the pay make it worthwhile?

How does one become an NFL referee? 

According to, the road to becoming an NFL official is not an easy one, and it is purposely meant to weed out all of the unqualified candidates in the process. Like players, NFL referees are scouted by a group of 65 regional scouts who are hired by the NFL to get the best of the best. These scouts scour the highest levels of non-NFL football to find people who are qualified to perform their duty at the highest level. 

Candidates are expected to have at least 10 years of football officiating experience and five years at a varsity collegiate level. There are exceptions to be made if the person has been an active part of football as either a player or the coach, but they are required to belong to an accredited football officials association to be considered. 

They are also expected to be in decent physical shape, as running down the field is mandatory to do their job correctly. All of this is considered and run through the officiating department that signs, develop, and eventually decides whether or not a candidate is cut out for officiating at the highest level. 


People tend to focus on individual bad calls that occur throughout the game, but the NFL meticulously studies every play that occurs throughout the game and evaluates the officials in the process. According to a study on the NFL’s official website, there are typically 155 plays in a game, and the officials are usually accurate on 95% to 97% of the calls. 

People may want the referees to be perfect on every call, but the fact of the matter is that even if the referees were able to use every technological advancement at their disposal and dissect every play, they wouldn’t be able to call a perfect game. This is why it is important to have as much experience as the NFL requires and all the clinics and programs that are meant to build them into quality officials. 

How much do NFL referees make?

Figuring out what the different employees in sports make can be hard. While coaches and training staff can get paid top dollar to perform their services, other staples of the game like entertainment often make very little compared to how much the leagues bring in. Are NFL officials among these underpaid workers in the multi-billion dollar sports industry? No, actually. 

NFL referees make a healthy living after all the work they put in to get the job. According to Money, the average NFL referee makes $201,000 a season. This pay can be increased with bonuses that come with postseason games. For example, Super Bowl referees make $11,900 to call the biggest event in American sports. 

Regardless of what people think about the referees in any sport, it cannot be denied that they have a hard and unforgiving job. People may get mad at some of the calls, but a good referee is not calling with those people’s biases in mind, they are doing so with the rulebook.