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How Much Do College Football Referees Make

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How Much Do College Football Referees Make

College football referees typically make between $1,000 and $3,000 per game, depending on the level of play and conference affiliation. Their annual income can range from $25,000 to $70,000, taking into consideration the number of games officiated and additional game assignments, such as bowl games or playoffs.

College Football Referee Earnings

College football referees play an instrumental role in ensuring fair play and enforcing the rules of the game. They often go unnoticed, but their expertise is crucial for the success of any football match. Their earnings vary based on several factors, including level of play, conference affiliation, and experience.

Factors Affecting Referee Pay

Level of Play

Different tiers of college football competition command different levels of pay for referees. Generally, referees officiating games in the NCAA’s Division I (especially in the Football Bowl Subdivision) earn more than those in lower divisions, such as Division II and III.

Conference Affiliation

The pay rates for referees can also be influenced by the conference they are associated with, as larger and more prominent conferences tend to pay their officials more. For example, referees affiliated with the SEC, Big Ten, or ACC may earn more than those in mid-major or smaller conferences.


Just like in any other profession, an experienced college football referee can expect to earn more than their less-experienced counterparts. As referees gain experience and prove their competency levels, their earnings are likely to increase over time.

Average Earnings per Game

On average, college football referees can earn between $1,000 and $3,000 per game. Referees officiating NCAA Division I games at the FBS level will be on the higher end of the pay scale, while those in lower divisions may earn closer to $1,000 per game.

Annual Income of College Football Referees

The annual income for college football referees can range from approximately $25,000 to $70,000. This estimate takes into consideration the number of games they officiate in a season and any additional assignments they might receive for bowl games, playoffs, or conference championships.

Additional Income Opportunities

Many college football referees also officiate high school football games, which can provide additional income for them. High school games typically pay referees less than college games, but it can help supplement their income, especially for referees at lower levels of college football.

Training and Certification Requirements

To become a college football referee, one must undergo a rigorous training process and acquire proper certification. Prospective referees must attend officiating camps or clinics to learn the rules and mechanics of the game. They must also pass a written test and undergo a background check as part of the certification process.

Referee Associations and Networking

Networking plays a significant role in the career progression of a college football referee. Referees typically join local and national officiating associations to stay connected with their peers and stay informed about job opportunities and rule changes. These associations also offer skill development and educational resources that help referees further enhance their abilities.

Offseason Opportunities

Though college football referee income is primarily generated during the fall season, some referees find officiating opportunities during the spring. College football teams often hold intrasquad scrimmages, and some professional football leagues, such as the XFL or indoor leagues, operate during the spring. Officiating during the offseason provides valuable experience and additional income for referees.

Moving Up the Ranks

Many college football referees aspire to move up the officiating ranks – their ultimate goal being to work in the National Football League (NFL). The NFL hiring process is highly competitive, with only a limited number of officiating positions available each year. However, joining the NFL officiating crew brings significantly higher pay and increased exposure to the game at its highest level.

Job Challenges and Rewards

Being a college football referee is not an easy job. Referees must commit to extensive travel, rigorous physical fitness, and continuous learning to keep up with rule changes and advances in officiating techniques. However, the rewards of being part of the game, the camaraderie among referees, and the opportunity for growth make it a fulfilling career choice for those passionate about football.

FAQ: College Football Referees Salary and Career

In this section, we address some frequently asked questions related to college football referees’ earnings, career path, and upcoming challenges. These answers provide further clarity and insights to better understand the profession.

What qualifications do I need to become a college football referee?

To become a college football referee, you need to attend officiating camps or clinics, learn the rules and mechanics of the game, and acquire proper certification. Certification requirements vary by state and association, but typically involve passing a written test and undergoing a background check.

How do I start my career as a college football referee?

To start your career as a college football referee, begin by gaining experience officiating high school games, attending workshops and training camps, and networking with officials in your area. Joining referee associations and participating in conferences and clinics can help you expand your knowledge and create connections that may lead to college officiating opportunities.

Is there a clear career path for college football referees to the NFL?

While there isn’t a direct or guaranteed path from college football to the NFL, consistently demonstrating excellence in officiating, networking with other officials, and attending high-profile officiating camps can increase visibility and improve the chances of receiving an offer to work in the NFL. The hiring process is competitive, and only a limited number of positions become available each year.

What are the primary challenges faced by college football referees?

College football referees face various challenges, including extensive travel, the need to maintain physical fitness, and keeping up-to-date with ever-changing rules and officiating techniques. They must also maintain a high level of professionalism in the face of public pressure and scrutiny during games.

How do college football referees advance in their careers?

Referees can advance their careers by improving their officiating skills and knowledge, developing a strong network within the officiating community, and consistently performing well during games. Networking with other officials, participating in training programs, and attending high-profile officiating camps can lead to growth opportunities and more significant assignments within college football or potentially at the professional level.

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