Education and training requirements for umpires, referees, and other sports officials vary by the level and type of sport. In all sports, these jobs require immense knowledge of the game, which they usually get from years of experience at lower levels. Some officiating jobs require vocational training.
Each sport has its own requirements for umpires, referees, and other sports officials; some require these officials to pass a test of their knowledge of the sport. Umpires, referees, and other sports officials often begin their careers with a high school diploma and gain needed experience by volunteering to officiate at community and recreational league competitions.
To officiate at high school athletic events, umpires, referees, and other officials must register with the state agency that oversees high school athletics and must pass an exam on the rules of the particular game. For college refereeing, candidates must be certified by an officiating school and be evaluated during a probationary period. Some larger college sports conferences require officials to have certification and other qualifications, such as maintaining a residence in or near the conference boundaries, along with several years of experience officiating at high school, community college, or other college conference games.
For most umpires, referees, and other sports officials, reaching professional ranks is the biggest advancement. In some sports, such as baseball, umpires may begin their professional career officiating in the minor leagues before moving up to the major leagues.
Standards for umpires and other officials become more stringent as the level of competition advances. Attendance at a local or state academy may be a requirement for refereeing a school baseball game. Those seeking to officiate at minor or major league games must attend a professional umpire training school. To advance to umpiring in Major League Baseball, umpires usually need 7 to 10 years of experience in various minor leagues before being considered for major league jobs.
Communication skills. Umpires, referees, and other sports officials must have good communication skills because they instruct athletes and settle disputes between competing players. Some sports officials also must communicate violations and infractions to opposing team players, coaches, and spectators.
Decision-making 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 determine any violations during play. In some sports, such as diving or gymnastics, sports officials must also be able to clearly observe an athlete’s form for imperfections.
Stamina. Because many umpires, referees, and sports officials are required to stand, walk, run, or squat for long periods, having stamina is important.
Teamwork. Because many umpires, referees, and sports officials work in teams, the ability to cooperate and come to a mutual decision is essential.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition