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 licensure 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. Program fields include labor studies, human resources, business management, conflict resolution, negotiation and arbitration. Students may have the option for specialization in areas like cooperation and conflict resolution or environment and security.
Degree programs require a high school diploma or equivalent, and graduate degree programs require a bachelor's degree, as well as other application materials. Bachelor's degree programs may be offered in an online format and are typically 4 years in length. Graduate degree programs can usually be completed in 18-24 months, and a certificate can be earned in as little as 6-12 months. Graduate students may be required to complete a capstone project, practicum or an original research project.
Associate of Arts in Labor Studies
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
- Occupational safety and health
- Collective bargaining
Bachelor of Arts in Negotiation, Conflict Resolution and Peace building
Students in this program examine the fundamentals and theories of conflict resolution to prepare for careers in domestic and international arbitration. Study abroad, internships, electives, practica, seminars, and lectures offer alternative methods for learning the core topics of conflict resolution. Common class topics include:
- Theory and practice of negotiation
- Conflict interventions
- Group facilitators
- Conflict between cultures
- Urban economics
- Violent and nonviolent conflict
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. 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
- Ethics and resolution
- Organizational culture and behavior
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.
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.
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.
Popular Career Options
Graduates of associate degree programs 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
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) explains that arbitrators are usually business-people with expertise in a particular field or attorneys (www.bls.gov). 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
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the majority of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators held legal services or government jobs in 2015 either on the local or state level. The rest worked for insurance companies, law offices, labor organizations, and other public and private enterprises. The BLS reported median annual wages in May 2015 earned by arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators as $58,020.
Students looking to study arbitration can choose from associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree programs, as well as certificate programs, to learn the art of negotiation and conflict resolution. Career options for graduates will depend on their level of education, but work is often available in legal services or the government.