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Referee vs. Judge: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A referee and a judge are both professionals who preside over legal proceedings. Both positions require excellent knowledge of the law, but there are some key differences between the two. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between a referee and a judge, and we provide helpful tips for those interested in pursuing a career in law.

What is a Referee?

A Referee is an official who presides over a sporting event to ensure that the competitors are following the rules of the game. They also keep track of the score and keep the players safe. Referees are often assisted by other officials, such as umpires or linesmen. In some cases, the Referee may consult with these officials to make a decision about a call. Referees also have the authority to issue penalties, such as yellow or red cards in soccer, or free throws in basketball. They may also stop the game if there is an injured player or a dangerous situation on the field.

What is a Judge?

Judges preside over legal proceedings, such as criminal and civil trials, and render decisions in accordance with the law. They may also oversee pretrial proceedings, such as bail hearings and suppression hearings. Judges typically hear cases in a courtroom and are responsible for maintaining order during proceedings. They may also issue rulings on motions, issue warrants and sentence defendants. Judges typically have a law degree and experience working as a lawyer. In some jurisdictions, they may be appointed by the government, while in others they may be elected by the public.

Referee vs. Judge

Here are the main differences between a referee and a judge.

Job Duties

Referees and judges share some job duties, such as attending sporting events or performing musical recitals. They may also attend other types of performances, depending on their specialty. For example, a judge may only work in venues that host singing competitions or beauty pageants, while a referee may only work in venues that host soccer matches or basketball games.

Another difference between the two professions is that referees have more active job duties than judges. A referee must actively participate in a performance or sporting event, which means they need to run around the playing field or court throughout the competition. Judges usually have more passive job duties, such as evaluating performances or watching sports from the audience or stands.

Job Requirements

There is no one specific educational path to become a referee or judge. However, most referees and judges have at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as law, criminal justice or political science. Some also have a master’s degree or higher. Many professionals in these fields start their careers in other positions, such as lawyers or police officers, before becoming referees or judges.

Work Environment

Referees and judges work in different environments. Referees typically work at sporting events, such as football or basketball games, where they can use the facilities to help them perform their duties. Judges may also work at sporting events but usually work in courtrooms. They may travel between locations for work, depending on their job requirements.

Judges often work long hours, including weekends and holidays. This is because of the nature of their jobs, which require them to be available when needed. Some judges may have regular schedules with set hours, while others may work irregular shifts. The environment that a judge works in depends on the type of courtroom they’re working in. For example, a criminal judge may work in a secure courtroom with security guards present.


Both referees and judges need to have excellent communication skills. They both preside over proceedings, whether they are athletic contests, court cases or other events, and need to be able to keep order while maintaining a fair and impartial attitude.

Both referees and judges also need to have good people skills. They often have to interact with a variety of people, including those who may be upset or emotional about the outcome of the event. In some cases, they may need to diffuse tense situations.

Referees typically need to have a good understanding of the rules of the game they are officiating. They also need to be able to make quick decisions and have good stamina, as they are often on their feet for long periods of time. Judges, on the other hand, need to be able to understand and apply the law. They also need to be able to listen attentively and pay attention to detail.


Referees can earn an average salary of $44,236 per year, while judges can earn an average salary of $95,752 per year. The average salary for both positions may vary depending on the level of education, experience and the state in which you work.


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