Umpires play a critical role in Major League Baseball, officiating every game and enforcing the rules. But how much do MLB umpires get paid for their work? What does the career trajectory and job outlook look like for aspiring umpires? This in-depth guide explores MLB umpire salaries, benefits, training, and more.
MLB Umpire Salaries
Umpire salaries in the MLB are based on seniority and experience. According to official 2021 data from the MLB, here is the pay scale:
- First year MLB umpires: $150,000
- Umpires with 1-3 years experience: $175,000
- Umpires with 3-5 years experience: $200,000
- Umpires with 5-10 years experience: $225,000
- Umpires with 10-15 years experience: $250,000
- Umpires with 15-20 years experience: $300,000
- Umpires with 20+ years experience: $350,000
The crew chiefs, who serve as leaders and representatives for each four-person umpiring crew, receive a supplement of between $12,000-$20,000 per year.
So in total, an MLB umpire’s annual salary can range from $150,000 for a rookie up to $370,000 for a long-tenured crew chief.
The salaries are determined through negotiations between the MLB and the umpire’s union, the World Umpires Association. In addition to the strong base salaries, MLB umpires receive generous benefits and perks:
- First-class air travel
- Premium hotel rooms while on the road
- $340-440 per diem for meals and other expenses
- 401(k) plan with 5% employer match
- Pension plan
- Postseason cash bonuses for working playoff games
- Health insurance coverage
So when you combine salaries, benefits, and bonuses, most MLB umpires take home $200,000-$400,000 in total compensation each year.
Career Trajectory for an MLB Umpire
Becoming an MLB umpire takes years of hard work, training, and proven success. Here is what the typical career path looks like:
Attend Umpire School
There are two umpiring schools that have partnerships with the MLB – The Umpire Academy and The Harry Wendelstedt School for Umpires. Aspiring professionals complete a 5-week intensive training program covering rules and mechanics. Only about 35% of students graduate with recommendations to continue pursuing umpiring.
Work in the Minor Leagues
After umpire school, most graduates start working in the lower levels of the minor leagues. The pay is much lower at this stage – around $2,000-$4,000 per month. But it provides crucial experience working behind the plate and on the bases in professional games. Umpires work their way up through increasing levels of the minors based on performance.
Get Promoted to AAA
The top performers in AA ball will eventually get promoted to the Triple-A level. Salaries increase to around $10,000-$15,000 monthly in AAA. Consistently excellent officiating at this highest level of the minors is essential to get noticed and considered for MLB promotion.
Each year, the MLB selects a handful of AAA umpires to join the major league staff. The MLB prioritizes umpires with at least 5 years of minor league experience. New MLB umpires go through weeks of preseason training before working their first games.
Once in the majors, the career trajectory shifts to gaining experience and seniority. With each passing year, an ump will receive higher profile game assignments and salary increases. After about 10 years, an umpire may be promoted to crew chief status.
The most accomplished MLB umpires with 20+ years of major league service eventually are strong candidates for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Job Outlook for MLB Umpires
The job outlook for MLB umpires looks strong, driven by new expansion teams and retirements:
- Retirements: Over the next decade, many current MLB umpires will retire as they reach age 55 or complete 30 years of service. This will create openings for new umpires.
- League Expansion: With new MLB teams added in future years, the league will likely need to hire more umpires to cover the increased number of games.
However, the path is still extremely competitive. Each year, the MLB hires just a handful of minor league umpires to fill openings in the majors. Candidates must demonstrate pristine integrity in addition to sound rules knowledge and mechanics.
But for those who put in the hard work and training to master the intricacies of baseball officiating, an MLB umpiring career is both challenging and rewarding.
Frequently Asked Questions About MLB Umpire Salaries
Here are answers to some of the most common questions about MLB umpire salaries and career paths:
How much do MLB umpires make per game?
Umpires receive a season salary, not a per-game rate. Salaries range from $150,000 for rookie umpires to over $350,000 for crew chiefs. This salary covers working MLB regular season games, spring training, and potential playoff games.
Do MLB umpires get paid extra for playoff games?
Yes. Umpires chosen to work during the playoffs and World Series receive cash bonuses for each game worked. The amounts vary based on the game importance, but bonuses can add over $20,000 extra for working a World Series.
Who is the highest paid MLB umpire?
Veteran crew chiefs with 20+ years of MLB experience are the highest paid umpires, with salaries around $350,000-370,000 per year. Joe West, who retired after the 2021 season, was MLB’s highest paid umpire at $400,000.
Do MLB umpires get paid during the offseason?
Umpires receive year-round pay, with salaries determined on an annual basis. Umpires do not only get paid during the regular season. The offseason salary allows them to train and prepare for the next season.
Do MLB umpires receive vision insurance?
Yes. Because umpires rely heavily on excellent vision for their jobs, MLB provides coverage for laser eye surgery procedures to improve vision when needed.
How much does an MLB umpire trainer make?
The head trainers or crew chiefs who evaluate and mentor minor league umpires earn around $100,000-$150,000 per year. Once promoted to the MLB, annual salaries exceed $200,000.
How long is the offseason for MLB umpires?
The typical offseason for MLB umpires runs from November through January – about 3 months. During the offseason umpires relax, recuperate, and conduct normal training and prep for the next season.
Who determines MLB umpire salaries each year?
The World Umpires Association union negotiates umpire salaries, benefits, and contract terms with the MLB central office each year. The current CBA runs through the 2024 season, with the next round of negotiations in 2025.
Do MLB umpires receive postseason performance bonuses?
Yes. Umpires earn an extra cash bonus for working each playoff series, with higher amounts for later postseason rounds. By working the entire postseason, an ump can earn an extra $20,000 or more beyond their salary.
Key Takeaways About MLB Umpire Salaries
- Salaries range from $150,000 for rookie umpires up to $350,000+ for crew chiefs.
- Benefits like first-class travel, per diem, and pension plans add over $100,000 in extra value.
- Postseason bonuses reward umpires for high-pressure playoff assignments.
- The career path starts in umpire school, advances through the minor leagues, and reaches the pinnacle with an MLB promotion.
- Strong job outlook forecast due to retirements and league expansion creating new MLB openings.
- Top performers with unwavering integrity and a mastery of rules have the best shot at making the majors.
So while the road is challenging, the financial and professional rewards of an MLB umpiring career make it an appealing choice for dedicated candidates with a passion for the game.