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How to Become a College Football Referee

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It takes years of practice and experience before you can even apply for the job of a college football referee. Like many professions that don’t require certifications or licenses, you have to put your time in the entry-level barrel and work your way up to the college conferences. While certifications can help you learn the rules of the game and signify your readiness, you still need to pass a rigorous application process to referee college football games.

Start in Your Community

Master the game of football and all of its rules and regulations before you moving up through the ranks. To do that, referees typically start with pee-wee and junior leagues in their communities. Volunteer to referee in pee-wee leagues. Join the local chapter of the National Federation of State High School Associations to meet mentors and move into high school refereeing, where you can begin to earn part-time wages and be seen by conference recruiters.

Earn Certifications

While you are taking on part-time gigs through local leagues, take online courses through an organization such as USA Football. The courses prepare you to referee using proper techniques, signals and positioning. Make a video of your performance, so that you’ll have something to show during an interview with a college conference. Attend officiating camps and workshops to build up your resume and network with college-level refs.

Apply for JV Football Jobs

Find out which colleges are hiring junior varsity football referees and ask to be put on the roster. According to Steve Furniss, coordinator of football officials for the Ohio Athletic Conference, each director at the various college conferences looks for refs who have worked at the college level. Refereeing for college junior varsity leagues usually is the final step before getting into the major college conferences.

Prepare for a Call

Once you’ve applied for a conference league referee position, prepare yourself for the interview by continuing to referee games in smaller leagues, attending association meetings and keeping yourself physically fit. Coordinators hiring college football referees will test your skills and knowledge in a written test they devise and by watching you in action. At the interview, you also will be asked for a list of the games you've officiated; evaluations from camps and training programs you attended; and references from senior referees you worked with.


Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

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David Madison/DigitalVision/GettyImages