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How to Become a Certified Baseball Umpire: Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a certified baseball umpire. Research the career requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in baseball umpiring. View article »

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Should I Become a Baseball Umpire?

For those who love baseball, becoming an umpire can be a rewarding part-time, or even full-time, position. Baseball umpires are needed at all levels of baseball, from Little League and college to the minor and major leagues. They work in groups to officiate the games and judge the plays. Travel is often required, and work hours may be irregular, including holidays, nights and weekends.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual salary of $24,870 for umpires, referees and other sports officials in May 2015.

Career Requirements

Education Required High school diploma; umpire training school may be required for umpires in minor and major league games
Certification Required to work at the amateur level; available through umpire associations
Experience Several years of experience is typically required to advance to a higher level of the sport
Key Skills Communication, decision-making, good vision, stamina, acute knowledge of the sport
Salary $24,870 (2015 median salary for all umpires, referees, and other sports officials)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

To become a baseball umpire, you'll need at least a high school diploma, but umpire training school and several years of experience may be required to work in minor and major league games. Certification is available through umpire associations and requires work experience at the amateur level. To succeed as an umpire, you'll need good communication and decision-making skills, good vision, stamina, and an acute knowledge of the sport.

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Steps to Become a Baseball Umpire

Let's see what steps you'll have to take to become a baseball umpire.

Step 1: Learn the Game

Aspiring umpires should learn as much as they can about the rules and regulations of baseball by obtaining the various baseball handbooks, including those offered by the Little League, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and Major League Baseball (MLB). Experience from both watching and playing the game is useful for aspiring umpires. Individuals should attend as many games as possible to learn the rules and mechanics.

Talk to other umpires. Interacting with other umpires is a great way to network and learn about the job. Ask these umpires questions about the game and about umpire associations.

Step 2: Assess Physical Health and Character

Umpires need to be in relatively fit condition. They must be able to stand or bend for extended periods of time, as well as withstand various weather conditions, like high temperatures. Umpires are also expected to have 20/20 vision, with or without corrective lenses, according to MLB standards. Alertness, quick thinking and good judgment are crucial aspects of umpiring. Above all, umpires must be able to communicate clearly.

Learn how to work well under pressure. Working as a certified baseball umpire can be a grueling and stressful job, which includes making split-second decisions under a lot of pressure. In addition to physical stamina, umpires need to be confident and mentally stable.

Step 3: Attend an Umpire Training Program

Umpiring at the amateur level, such as Little League, high school and even college, requires the completion of some training. Individuals can attend umpire clinics, which are typically regional and last approximately three days. Clinics might cover MLB, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) or National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) rules. Little League also offers umpire clinics for training specific to its rules and regulations.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

Contacting a local or regional baseball umpire association can provide the necessary information for becoming certified. Individuals who umpire for amateur leagues, including Little League, high school and college, must register with a local or regional association. Exams for certification typically consist of a series of questions related to the rules and regulations of umpiring. To maintain certification, baseball umpires are required to attend yearly clinics and field sessions to stay updated on changes in the game.

Step 5: Advance in the Field

At the amateur level, advancement in the field of umpiring is all about experience. Umpires must spend several years officiating high school level baseball games before they are able to move up to college level sports. Advancing from the high school level to the college level will offer better pay opportunities.

Umpires wanting to officiate at higher professional levels of the sport, such as minor or major league baseball, should consider attending a professional training school, such as The Umpire School or Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring, that prepares amateur level umpires for professional baseball careers. Completion of these programs includes an exam and evaluation period, which determines who is qualified to move into minor league umpiring as preparation for possible work in the major league. Minor league umpires should prepare to work a minimum of 7-10 years officiating minor league games before advancing to the major leagues, according to the BLS.

To become a baseball umpire, you'll need to gain experience in the game, meet physical and skill requirements and complete training.

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