The simple answer is yes, they are, but in a hierarchical structure, based entirely on ability, all tennis umpires start at the bottom of the profession. In Britain, to become a line umpire, or line judge – that is, a person responsible for calling a ball ‘In’ or ‘Out’ – they must pass basic training at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) before ‘running the line’ at local, county and regional tennis tournaments. A line umpire typically earns around £20,000 per annum.
However, for line umpires who excel, the LTA offers a further accreditation course, which includes a written examination on the Rules of Tennis, which introduces them to life as a chair umpire. Once accredited, in the professional game, chair umpires typically earn around £30,000 per annum, although at the higher end of the scale, a main umpire, or ‘designated official’, can earn upwards of £50,000 per annum.
Tennis umpires’ pay made the news in September, 2018, after a protracted argument between Serena Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos during her defeat by Naomi Osaka in the U.S. Open final. After a series of code violations, including calling Ramos ‘a liar’ and ‘a thief’ – for which she was later fined $17,000 – Williams still took home $1,850,000 in prize money; Ramos, one of the highest-rated chair umpires in professional tennis, received just $450, the daily rate paid by the United States Tennis Association (USTA).