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There arguably isn’t more of a controversial job than being an MLB umpire, mostly because their judgment must be sound. This isn’t to say umpires don’t face intense scrutiny for being overly subjective in a call.

The profession is very much in demand, especially when working for MLB. Those interested in officiating baseball games may think umpires aren’t paid enough. But you’d be surprised at how much money MLB umpires really make.

MLB umpires are paid very well

All major sports leagues have deep pockets, yet MLB umpires are usually paid more than the average pro ref. When starting out in MLB, umpires make $120,000 per year, according to Mental Floss. Eventually, they can earn up to $300,000 per year.

These figures may seem low compared to pro athletes’ earnings. But it’s still good money. Also, Mental Floss reports that umpires are well taken care of when traveling for games. They receive a $340 per diem for travel expenses, not including flying first class.

So what does an umpire have to do to make this much money? It’s an exclusive club with few open positions.

How MLB umpires move up in the profession

Yes, there is a school for baseball umpires — two in the U.S., to be specific. According to Bleacher Report, these schools are the Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School, plus the Umpire Training Academy. The latter school is mainly for minor leagues, however.

Both universities are located along Florida’s east coast, making them somewhat like a West Point for umpire training. To prove how elite these schools are, only 15%-20% of those in the class move up to more advanced courses. Considering it can cost up to $4,000 for training, it’s a risk for students who are unsure if they’ll make it to graduation.

Those who do move on get assigned to short-season leagues and move up from there. Just like any other career, working one’s way up the career ladder as an umpire can be a journey. For most, it takes a decade or more before being hired by MLB.

To make things more challenging, MLB umpires usually hold onto their jobs for decades. Openings are all too rare.

MLB seems to pay better than other leagues

One thing to note: MLB umpires are likely more competitive because the league pays them better than refs in other leagues. Based on salaries, MLB pays its umpires up to $235,000 per year. Hockey and football referees are often paid $50,000 less, according to Bleacher Report.

MLB does have more annual games, so the pay makes more sense based on the amount of work. At least MLB umpires get four weeks of vacation.

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