Rae grew up in Aberdeen, Scotland. During his youth he attended football matches with a tape recorder to work on his commentary. At 15 he began his professional broadcasting career calling games for a radio station that broadcast to local hospitals. In 1986, BBC Radio Scotland announcer David Francey suffered a knee injury and Rae, a 19-year old student at the University of Aberdeen who had sent the BBC a copy of his radio work, substituted for him on the call of a Scottish Premier Division game between Kilmarnock F.C. and Dumbarton F.C..3 The network was impressed and hired Rae to call the Rous Cup match between rivals England and Scotland the following week.4 The BBC then hired him as its Scotland soccer correspondent, a job he held for five years. Rae was the 1987 British Sports Broadcaster of the Year.5
Rae moved to the United States in anticipation of the 1994 World Cup. FIFA hired him as a press officer and he oversaw the World Cup games that were held at Foxboro Stadium. Rae met his wife Beth Powers while working on World Cup preparations and the two would later settle in Beverly, Massachusetts.5
After the World Cup, Rae joined ESPN International, where he called Eredivisie and Campeonato Brasileiro Série A games. His role later expanded to calling more than 150 games a year and hosting a weekly studio-based soccer discussion show, PressPass.5 He also writes a column called "Rae's Say" for ESPNsoccernet.
Rae is fluent in German and speaks several other languages partially. Rae has been known to call consulates to confirm that he has the correct pronunciation of a player's name.5
In June 2010, he was in South Africa to commentate on 12 matches at the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals for ESPN USA partnered by Robbie Mustoe and Ally McCoist. In the summer of 2010 it was announced that Rae would be making the move back to the UK to continue commentating on a wider basis for ESPN's London-based channel.
- "Boston.com Local Search - Boston Globe Archives".
- Hannah, Roger (29 July 2009). "Pay-per-phew TV". London: The Sun.
- Webster, Jack (28 April 1986). "Three of a kind". The Glasgow Herald. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
- Broadfoot, Darryl (28 July 2009). "Rae ready to make another transatlantic crossing". The Herald. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
- Gasper, Christopher L. (23 June 2005). "Great Scot: Rae on top of world". The Boston Globe.
- Mahoney, Ridge (25 September 2009). "Backline: ESPN's Derek Rae blazes new trail". SoccerAmerica. Retrieved 12 June 2012.