Arbitration Degree and Certification Program Overviews

Arbitrators look at evidence and make decisions that assist in business and personal conflict resolution, often at a much lower cost than other legal options. Training is available through associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees, while arbitration certificate programs can add valuable skills to those who already work in the field. Read on to learn about common courses, prerequisites and continuing education options.

Essential Information

Arbitrators examine evidence and apply laws, regulations, and policies before making impartial decisions. Advanced degrees and years of experience in conflict resolution usually are required to work in arbitration. Requirements vary by state, but there is a national license of arbitrators. Individuals can get an introduction to the profession through associate's degree programs. Bachelor's degree studies offer a more in-depth look at the profession, while master's degree and certificate programs offer advanced training, often to people already working in the field.

Associate of Arts in Labor Studies

Students interested in arbitration careers can pursue an associate's degree in labor studies, human resources, or business management, all of which may include courses in conflict resolution, negotiation, or arbitration. These programs can help prepare students for four-year degree programs in conflict resolution. A high school diploma or GED is required to enroll.

Program Coursework

Associate's degree programs provide general education coursework in critical thinking skills, quantitative analysis, the arts, and social, behavioral, and natural sciences, as well as the humanities. About a third of the coursework is concentrated in the labor studies core and includes:

  • History of the American labor movement
  • Politics of labor
  • State and national labor laws
  • Administrative practices
  • Occupational safety and health
  • Shop stewards
  • Handling grievances
  • Arbitration
  • Collective bargaining

Popular Career Options

Graduates with strong skills in active listening, problem solving, diplomacy, persuasion, and communication may pursue entry-level jobs as facilitators, ombudsmen, and conciliators. Job titles might include:

  • Human resource specialist
  • Lead organizer
  • Peace Corps or AmeriCorps member

Continuing Education

Professional associations provide career information, conferences, training, and certificate programs, and events that can enhance employment opportunities. Most associate's degree holders who wish to work as arbitrators will pursue a bachelor's degree program in conflict resolution, negotiation, or peace-building.

Bachelor of Arts in Negotiation, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding

Students in this program examine the fundamentals and theories of conflict resolution to prepare for careers in domestic and international arbitration. Most programs are designed to meet the needs of working professionals and full-time students, offering both online and on-campus options. Programs may offer options and specializations in cooperation and conflict resolution or environment and security. Admissions may also require submission of a biographical essay, letters of recommendation, and an oral interview.

Program Coursework

Study abroad, internships, electives, practicums, seminars, and lectures offer alternative methods for learning the core topics of conflict resolution. Common class topics include:

  • Intro to mediation
  • Theory and practice of negotiation
  • Conflict interventions
  • Group facilitators
  • Conflict between cultures
  • Urban economics
  • Violent and nonviolent conflict

Popular Career Options

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) explains that arbitrators are usually business-people with expertise in a particular field or attorneys ( Many others, however, work in human resources, management, public interest organizations, peace organizations, foreign service, military and other government positions. Examples of job titles for graduates may include:

  • Latino community development coordinator
  • Research programs coordinator
  • Coordinator of contract administration

Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation

Students in this program learn to address, analyze, and effectively resolve conflicts. Students are prepared for careers in dispute resolution. Students examine conflict theory and learn to apply contemplative decision-making skills and management abilities to dispute resolution. Many master's degree programs are offered in whole or in part as certificate options to working professionals.

Education Prerequisites

Specific degrees are not required, but admissions decisions are based on an applicant's academic background and submission of transcripts and relevant test scores. Schools often require resumes, essays, letters of recommendation, and personal interviews. Applicants must have completed a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. In the case of working professionals enrolling in certificate programs, schools don't always require an undergraduate degree.

Program Coursework

These degree programs can usually be completed in 18-24 months and a certificate can be can be earned in as little as 6-12 months. Program requirements may include a capstone project, practicum or other original research project. Students in these programs can expect to take courses in topics that may include:

  • Negotiation and mediation
  • Managing conflict in schools and churches
  • Marital disputes
  • Culture, identity, and conflict
  • Disputes and the legal system
  • Ethics and resolution
  • Organizational culture and behavior

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS,, approximately 38% of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators held government jobs in 2012, be they on a local, state, or federal level. The rest worked for insurance companies, law offices, labor organizations, and other public and private enterprises. Median annual wages in May 2012 earned by arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators were reported as $61,280 by the BLS.

Continuing Education

Doctoral degrees are available for advanced practitioners, aspiring tenure-track college and university educators, researchers, organization administrators, program evaluators, consultants, and theoreticians. These programs provide additional research opportunities as well as additional advanced coursework.


Certificate programs for working professionals generally can be found wherever degree programs exist. Courses and length of programs vary considerably. Content may be specific to a profession, discipline, culture, or geographic area. Organizations such as the Association for Conflict Resolution, the American Arbitration Association, and the Global Arbitration Mediation Association also offer a variety of educational and training opportunities.

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