Becoming a tennis umpire seems like a great job for anyone who enjoys the sport. It is a chance to get a close look at quality play while making money. While the job is not for everyone, it is an option for those willing to move up the ranks and put in the effort. However, before ever getting started, knowing earning opportunity can help make a career decision.
How much do tennis umpires make? Low-level tennis umpires at the professional level tend only to make about $30,000-$40,000 per year. Once an umpire gains experience and moves up the badge level, they can begin to double or even triple that amount by umpiring in Grand Slams and other big tournaments.
Low Level Earning Opportunities
Tennis played at low levels or casually does not depend on umpires at all. This can be frustrating for people looking to earn experience, as opportunities are not as fruitful as one might think. When they do pop-up, the earning opportunities are very low, but it is part of the process for any aspiring umpire.
For international tennis umpiring, there are three levels of certification. An umpire can’t participate in any international tournaments before passing Level Three. Once that happens, a chair umpire earns a bronze badge that opens up the door for some very low-level tournaments.
At these tournaments, it is more about the experience than earning a lot of money. There is quite a variance in pay, but some tournaments pay as low as $20-$30 per hour. These are for very low-level tournaments, and it can be hard for umpires to get to these tournaments since they often occur in remote locations.
Getting up to a silver badge is when many umpires feel like they can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The rates go up, the umpiring opportunities are greater, and it is a chance to make umpiring a full-time profession.
To have success at the silver level, consistency is the key. Not only do umpires need to show up consistently to tournaments to perform, but they need to show consistency making calls. At the end of each year, the ITF, ATP, and WTA analyze umpires and decide based on what they find when crunching numbers and comparing notes.
The most challenging thing about the silver level is that everyone there is working towards a goal. Unfortunately, there are only a few spots at the gold level, so even pretty good umpires get stuck at this level for years. It takes a great performance at the silver level, but that is when umpires start to get some great opportunities.
Reaching Gold Badge Status
There are roughly 30 to 35 gold badge umpires every year who get the top matches to call. More than likely, it is almost always going to be a gold badge umpire calling a featured match on a show court at a major tournament.
They get paid the most money, face the most scrutiny, and even become known to fans. Since each umpire has a slightly different personality, how they interact with players can create a reputation. Gold badge umpires can make up to $100k/year.
Umpires at this level will look for full-time contracts with the ITF so that they can have a little more stability. While some might still be considered self-employed, it is nice to have a deal set up so that there is a level of consistency throughout the year.
The limit on spots makes it very competitive as far as staying sharp and maintaining gold status. Umpires who face many complaints might end up being dropped down or used for lower-level matches if they do not keep their consistency.
Pay At The Grand Slams
The four Grand Slams each year are considered the premier events in tennis. It is the goal of every umpire to call matches, and it leads to the biggest payday.
On average, Grand Slam events pay umpires three to four times the amount of money they earn on tour at other stops. The rates go up almost every year, as Grand Slam organizers are trying to do what they can to keep umpires satisfied during the entire two weeks.
The best gig in tennis? Many believe it is Wimbledon. They are more often than not, the highest paying Grand Slam. They also do a great job keeping umpires happy with accommodations and other perks that make them look forward to those two weeks in the summer every year.
Is The Pay Worth The Effort When Becoming a Tennis Umpire?
There are two different ways that the majority of people look at umpiring in tennis. Some think that these people are very underpaid, considering how much heat is thrown their way whenever something goes wrong. They indeed get a lot of blame for missing calls, even if they get almost everything right throughout an entire match.
Others believe that the job they do is becoming more and more irrelevant, considering all the technology that is becoming available. Not only that, but they also have people who are taking care of the lines for them at major tournaments.
The chair umpire gets the most amount of money by far, but they oversee how the match is called. They might make a few calls and even overrule from time to time, but not enough in the eyes of some to justify the job compared to just using technology instead.
The Future of Tennis Umpiring
Technology has been used in tennis for quite a few years now, helping umpires make the correct call with tough decisions. An umpire’s job is still very important at this point, but some believe they are replaceable.
The reason why it would make sense with tennis is that there are no subjective calls. The ball is either in or out, and a machine will be able to measure very closely in that regard. If they start having the ability to do that in real time, it will make a difference in tennis. This type of tech could fully replace umpires at some point.
Umpires are pretty indifferent about technology right now, as there are positives and negatives from every angle. Using Hawk Eye definitely helps, but it is mostly to confirm calls now.