How Much Does an NFL Referee Make?

male football referee on line of scrimmage
skynesher / Getty Images

The NFL doesn’t release salary figures for referees or other NFL officials. However, Sporting News, the oldest sporting publication in the United States, reported that the average salary for referees was $205,000 per season as of 2019. Because the season now has one additional week — the league moved to a 17-game season instead of 16 in 2021 — that amount could have gone up.

A $200,000 annual salary might seem like a lot for what is considered a part-time job, but NFL refs work hard for their money. The following provides insight into how much NFL refs are paid and some of what they do besides officiating to earn that paycheck.

What Is an NFL Referee’s Salary?

The reported average annual salary of $205,000 for NFL refs is likely not too far off the mark. It is estimated that Brad Allen, the 2nd highest-paid ref in the NFL during the 2021-2022 season, earned $250,000, which includes his per-game bonuses. Byron Boston, the 10th highest-paid NFL referee, reportedly makes $205,000 annually.

How Much Do NFL Refs Make per Game?

Sporting News says refs are not paid per game. Instead, they earn a flat salary for the season and may receive per-game bonuses and bonuses for officiating playoff games and the Super Bowl. The average pay-per-game bonus for a ref is estimated to be $2,500.

Make Your Money Work Better for You

How Much Do Super Bowl Refs Get Paid?

A report from Money.com in 2018 said the bonus officials receive for working the Super Bowl could be between $30,000 and $50,000, although it is a well-kept secret and has been the subject of much speculation.

Who Is the Highest-Paid NFL Referee?

The highest-paid NFL referee reportedly is Brad Allen. Walt Anderson did top the list up until the end of the 2021-2022 season when he retired. Both refs made about $250,000 for the 2021-2022 season.

Is Being an NFL Official a Full-Time Job?

Field officials are part-time employees, and many hold other jobs. Veteran referee Ronald Torbert, for example, juggled his work as an attorney with his long career as an official in high school, college and finally the NFL, until he retired from practicing law in 2019. He was the referee for Super Bowl LVI.

NBC Sports said that, as part-time NFL employees, officials do not receive insurance benefits. They are members of the NFL Referees Association, have a collective bargaining agreement and can enroll in a 401(k) plan with a partially matching contribution.

Make Your Money Work Better for You

What Experience Does an NFL Official Need?

The NFL has 155 officials on its roster — from the referees to judges to replay officials — and it’s a select group. The league’s officiating department is charged with working with local, state and collegiate officiating groups to develop a pipeline to the NFL, but it’s a long process.

The NFL has scouts across the country looking for officials at lower levels of the game who have the potential to advance, and about 4,000 officials have been identified. Once they have caught the eye of the NFL office, their progress is monitored, and they might be invited to take part in the NFL Officiating Development Program. Officials in major college conferences seem to have the best chance of moving up.

What Do NFL Referees Do Besides Officiate?

A common question is, “how much do NFL refs make?” A better question is, “how much do NFL refs work?” Fans may assume officials only work on game days through the football season. But NFL refs and all other officials also work during the preseason and between regular season games. 

During the off-season, officials must attend training clinics to prepare for the upcoming season. This preparation includes both written and physical evaluations. Officials also attend preseason training camps to practice officiating practices and games.

Make Your Money Work Better for You

During the season, officials review the previous week’s game footage. Referees, also known as the crew chiefs, often have preparation to do on top of reviewing the previous week’s game. They scout the two teams they will face in the coming week to report back to the other officials on things to watch for during game time.

NFL Officials Work Hard for Those Coveted Positions

On average, an NFL referee oversees 154 plays in an NFL game. The NFL Officiating Department reviews every call an NFL official makes or fails to make. Officials who make too many erroneous calls or miss a high percentage of calls may be demoted. But the best-performing officials get the privilege of officiating the playoff games and possibly the Super Bowl while earning attractive bonuses.

Jami Farkas contributed to the reporting for this article.

Information is accurate as of Oct. 17, 2022.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by any entity covered in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any entity named in this article.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

Share This Article:

Make Your Money Work Better for You

About the Author

Andrea Norris has been in the web publishing business for the past 15 years both as a content contributor and a copy editor specializing in personal finance, frugal living, home and auto topics. She writes both short and long-form content and is well-practiced in SEO keyword research and writing.
Learn More