Remember that time Sarah Thomas made history by becoming the first female official to work an NFL playoff game? What about the blown call that cost a Dallas Cowboys defender a good chunk of change? Better yet, how about the infamous no-call for pass interference in the 2019 NFC Championship Game? All of those things happened just last season, which put referees at the forefront of several debates between football fans everywhere once again.

An NFL referee is either your team’s best friend or its worst enemy. There is no in-between about it. You either love them dearly or hate them unmercifully. The feelings toward NFL officiating will never change, either.

In many ways, it takes a lot to be a referee, and it’s not even a full-time job. They don’t receive days off or get any company health insurance. The NFL also requires them to be physically fit, know the rules and travel to games. Even then, knowing the NFL rulebook inside and out isn’t the same as making the correct call in a split second.

But don’t worry, they get paid like crazy during regular season games and the playoffs.

NFL Referee Salary

According to various sites, including FanDuel, the average NFL referee was set to make $205,000 per year starting in 2019. TWO-HUNDRED-AND-FIVE-THOUSAND-DOLLARS! That average salary is more than some doctors.

RELATED: Pass Interference Now Reviewable by NFL Officials 

For whatever reason, some people, such as ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio, feel like the National Football League needs to pony up even more money to pay referees so the men in the white hats don’t leave the profession during the offseason.

But, honestly, why would anyone really want to leave that part-time job and retire?


With 17 weeks in the NFL regular season, a referee would make $12,058.82 per NFL game this upcoming season. That doesn’t even include the hefty bonus checks game officials receive for working during postseason football games, too.

That annual salary NFL referees make, my friends, is so much money.

NFL Referee List

In 2018, the list of NFL referees included: Brad Allen, Walt Anderson, Clete Blakeman, Jerome Boger, Carl Cheffers, Walt Coleman, Tony Corrente, Shawn Hochuli, John Hussey, Alex Kemp, Clay Martin, Pete Morelli, John Parry, Shawn Smith, Ron Torbert, Bill Vinovich, and Craig Wrolstad.

The NFL had some fresh faces this season, however. As the PFT story and NBC’s Peter King state, seven of the league’s 17 referees have retired in the year-plus, including John Parry, who was the referee for Super Bowl LIII between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams last February.

In 2019, the list of NFL referees included: Brad Allen, Walt Anderson, Clete Blakeman, Jerome Boger, Carl Cheffers, Tony Corrente, Adrian Hill, Shawn Hochuli, John Hussey, Alex Kemp, Clay Martin, Scott Novak, Brad Rogers, Shawn Smith, Ronald Torbert, Bill Vinovich, and Craig Wrolstad.


No matter the trend of NFL referees making a jump to TV, that’s still a ton of money for basically doing about three weeks worth of actual work a few months out of the year. It also paves the way for umpires, head linesmen/down judges, line judges, field judges, side judges and back judges to move up in the ranks.

So whether you only graduated from high school or earned your Master’s degree, you can live the American dream with an NFL referee salary and never have to worry after the big game is over.

That is, unless you blow another call against NFL players.

This post was originally published on April 4, 2019 before updating.

MORE: How Much Money Do NFL Waterboys Actually Make?

With over 10 years of sports writing experience, Brett has covered some of the top local, regional, and national sporting events in the Heartland for both print and digital platforms. He is a graduate of Kansas State University and resides in Austin, Texas.
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