What it takes to become a Referee in the NFL

Do you have what it takes?

To become an NFL referee, individuals typically must meet specific qualifications and undergo a rigorous process. The qualifications and requirements can vary, but here are the general steps and qualifications:

Education and Experience:

A bachelor’s degree from a four-year accredited institution is typically preferred.
Significant experience officiating football games, typically at the high school and college levels.
Officiating Experience:

Candidates must have a strong background in football officiating and a deep understanding of the game’s rules.
Many NFL referees have years of experience working as referees or officials in lower-level leagues and conferences.

Physical Fitness:

NFL referees must be physically healthy to keep up with professional football’s fast-paced and physically demanding nature.
They must pass a rigorous physical fitness test, which includes sprinting and agility drills.

Rules Knowledge:

A thorough understanding of NFL rules and regulations is essential. Referees must be able to make quick and accurate decisions during games.
Classroom and On-Field Training:

Prospective NFL referees typically undergo extensive training, which includes classroom instruction and on-field practice.
They learn to work as part of a crew of officials and understand their specific roles and responsibilities on the field.

Evaluation and Testing:

Candidates are evaluated and tested on their knowledge of the rules and ability to make correct calls during simulated game situations.
Performance in lower-level games and situations is also evaluated.


Building a network and relationships within the officiating community is essential. Knowing current or former NFL officials can be beneficial.

Application Process:

Individuals interested in becoming NFL referees can submit their applications when there are openings.
The NFL often looks for candidates with exceptional skills and experience in officiating.


The NFL selects referees based on their qualifications, experience, and performance in lower-level games.
Successful candidates are offered contracts to work as NFL referees.
Continual Education:

Once selected, NFL referees must attend annual training camps and meetings to stay up-to-date on rule changes and game mechanics.
They are also subject to performance evaluations throughout the season.

It’s important to note that becoming an NFL referee is highly competitive, and very few individuals make it to this level. Most NFL referees have years of experience working their way through the ranks of football officiating before reaching the professional level.