How to Become an Umpire, Referee, or Other Sports Official About this section
Education and training requirements for umpires, referees, and other sports officials vary by the level and type of sport.
Educational requirements vary by state and are sometimes determined by the local sports association. Although some states have no formal education requirements, other states require umpires, referees, and other sports officials to have a high school diploma. Training requirements also vary by state and the level and type of sport. Officiating sports requires extensive knowledge of the rules of the game.
Education and Training
Each state and sport association has its own education requirements for umpires, referees, and other sports officials. Some states do not require formal education, while others require sports officials to have a high school diploma.
For more information on educational requirements by state, refer to the specific state athletic or activity association.
Umpires, referees, and other sports officials may be required to attend training sessions and seminars before, during, and after the season. These sessions allow officials to learn about rule changes, review and evaluate their own performances, and improve their officiating.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
To officiate at high school athletic events, umpires, referees, and other officials must typically register with the state or local agency that oversees high school athletics. They also typically need to pass an exam on the rules of the particular game. Some states and associations may require applicants to attend umpiring or refereeing classes before taking the exam or joining an association. Other associations require officials to attend annual training workshops before renewing their officiating license.
For more information on licensing and certification requirements, visit your state’s high school athletic association website or the National Association of Sports Officials.
Most new umpires, referees, and other sports officials begin by officiating youth or freshmen high school sports. After a few years, they may advance to the junior varsity or varsity level. Those who wish to advance to the collegiate level must typically officiate at the varsity high school level for many years.
Some umpires, referees, and other officials may advance through the high school and collegiate levels to reach the professional level. Some sports, such as baseball, have their own professional training schools that prepare aspiring umpires and officials for a career at the minor and major league levels. Baseball umpires begin their professional careers officiating in the minor leagues and typically need 7 to 10 years of experience there before moving on to the major leagues.
Standards for umpires and other officials become more stringent as the level of competition increases.
Umpires, referees, and other sports officials must have an extensive knowledge of the rules of the game they are officiating. Many officials gain the knowledge of the game by attending training sessions or camps that teach the important rules and regulations of the sport.
Some officials may have gained much of their knowledge through years of playing the sport at some level. However, previous playing experience is not a requirement for becoming an umpire, referee, or other sports official.
Communication skills. Umpires, referees, and other sports officials must have good communication skills because they inform athletes on the rules of the game, discuss infractions, and settle disputes.
Decisionmaking skills. Umpires, referees, and other sports officials must observe play, assess various situations, and often make split-second decisions.
Good vision. Umpires, referees, and other sports officials must have good vision to view infractions and identify any violations during play. In some sports, such as diving or gymnastics, sports officials must also be able to observe an athlete’s form for imperfections.
Physical stamina. Many umpires, referees, and other sports officials are required to stand, walk, run, or squat for long periods during games and events.
Teamwork. Because many umpires, referees, and other sports officials work in groups to officiate a game, the ability to cooperate and come to a mutual decision is essential.