Sport Rulebook

Unsung Heroes: The Truth About NFL Referee Salaries

NFL Referee Salaries: How Much Do They Really Make? Football is undoubtedly America’s favorite sport, and the NFL is the biggest football league in the world.

The NFL attracts massive audiences, and it’s the players and coaches who get all the limelight. But there’s one group of professionals who work tirelessly behind the scenes but rarely get the attention they deserve – NFL referees.

As the guardians of the game’s integrity, they play a significant role in ensuring the safety of players and maintaining fair play. But how much do they earn for their hard work?

Let’s dive into NFL referee salaries and find out.

Average NFL Referee Salary

Like most jobs, NFL referee salaries depend on seniority, specific roles played, and highly-attended games. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a Referee is $31,000.

The highest-paid referees can earn upwards of $187,000, while the lowest-paid earn around $17,000 per year. However, these numbers only reflect the regular season games.

NFL referees earn salaries based on a tiered system, with the most experienced referees earning the most money. Senior officials with more than 20 years of experience can earn up to $11,900 per game, while rookie referees make $3,000 per game.

Referees who have acted as officials for more than ten years but less than twenty years can earn up to $8,000 per game.

Variability in Referee Salaries

As mentioned earlier, seniority plays an essential role in determining referee salaries. However, specific positions require particular expertise and offer higher pay.

For example, a head referee, also known as a crew chief, is the person in charge of the officiating crew and earns a higher salary than other officials. Additionally, referees who possess a referee trainer’s credential also earn more money.

Another significant factor that determines NFL referee salaries is the highly-attended games. Referees working prime time games, including Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, Thursday Night Football, and playoff games, earn higher pay than referees working less popular games.

Comparison with Average Workers

Compared to the average annual salary of American workers, NFL referee salaries are significantly higher, even for rookie referees. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for an American worker is around $48,000, which is significantly lower than what referees make.

Additionally, with a high school diploma, which is the minimum educational requirement for NFL referees, most American workers earn significantly less than they do.

Comparison with NFL Players and Coaches Salaries

When compared to NFL players and coaches, NFL referee salaries are relatively modest. According to data from the NFL Players Association, the minimum salary for an NFL player in 2021 is $660,000.

On the other hand, the highest-paid coaches make millions of dollars annually, with some earning as much as $9 million.

Bonuses for NFL Referees

NFL referees receive several bonuses in addition to their regular season salaries. These perks reflect the additional work they perform during the playoffs and the Super Bowl.

Playoff and Super Bowl Bonus

NFL referees earn extra pay for each playoff game they officiate. The official anthem ref can earn up to $7,500 per game, while other officials earn $6,000 per game.

Furthermore, referees who officiate in the Super Bowl game earn a significant bonus. The head referee earns an extra $45,000, and the other referees receive $30,000 each.


Apart from salaries and bonuses, NFL referees also receive a pension from the NFL. The pension amount depends on the number of seasons a referee has officiated and the category of their crew.

A crew that works Super Bowl games or has over ten years of service with the NFL earns more significant pension benefits.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, NFL referees play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of players and maintaining the game’s integrity. Although NFL referee salaries may not be as high as those of NFL players and coaches, they are still significantly higher than the median annual salary of the average American worker.

Additionally, with playoff and Super Bowl bonuses, NFL referees can earn significant income for their work. So, the next time you watch an NFL game, take a moment to appreciate the hard work and dedication of these unsung heroes.

In summary, NFL referees play a vital role in the game and have an average salary of $31,000, with highly experienced referees earning up to $187,000. Specific roles, seniority, and highly attended games also determine their salaries.

Although they earn significantly less than players and coaches, NFL referees get perks like playoff bonuses and pensions. FAQs about NFL referee salaries may cover topics like what determines their salaries, how they differ from NFL players and coaches, and other bonuses they receive.

In conclusion, NFL referees deserve recognition for ensuring fair play and player safety, and understanding their role and compensation can help appreciate their contributions to the sport more fully.

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