Become a Mediator: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a mediator. Research the education requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in dispute resolution.

Should I Become a Mediator?

Mediators attempt to resolve conflicts between parties before the dispute ends up in court. Mediation can keep disputing parties amenable, prevent costly trial expenses, and relieve overtaxed court systems. These professionals might work with individuals, families, governmental entities or corporations; for example, they might serve as liaisons between businesses and workers. Participation in mediation is voluntary for the parties involved in the dispute. Although mediators can make suggestions regarding ways to solve disputes, their advice is not legally binding. Travel to neutral mediation sites is sometimes required. Many mediator positions are part-time, and those who wish to work full-time may need to pursue other types of employment.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree required; some employers or states may require a master's degree or Juris Doctor (J.D.)
Degree Field Conflict resolution, public policy, law
Licensure and/or Certification Requirements vary by state and position
Experience May be required
Key Skills Decision-making, listening, and critical-reasoning skills
Salary $57,180 (2014 median salary for all arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Step 1: Understand the Job

Mediators can work for a judicial system or be self-employed; thus, they can be salaried employees or earn fees on a per-case basis. Their hours can be irregular, and they might be required to travel to mediation sessions. These sessions are typically private, so discretion and confidentiality are essential for those working in this field.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Mediators usually need a bachelor's degree to begin their careers. Bachelor's degree programs in mediation and conflict or dispute resolution are available at some universities. These programs typically include courses in interpersonal communication, psychology, and negotiation strategies. Sometimes, a certificate in mediation can be earned alongside a bachelor's degree in another discipline. An aspiring mediator also might earn a bachelor's degree in a different field with the expectation of attaining additional education.

Step 3: Go to Graduate School or Law School

Educational requirements for mediators vary depending on their work setting and specialty. Some mediators are attorneys, while others have an advanced degree or postgraduate certificate in dispute management, conflict resolution, or mediation. Some master's degree programs, particularly in business or psychology, offer a concentration in dispute resolution. Aspiring attorneys must complete a three-year law school program after earning a four-year bachelor's degree.

Step 4: Receive Training in Mediation Practices

State-sponsored programs, educational institutions, mediation associations, and commercial mediation centers offer mediation training. Training programs can run from a few days to several weeks; they might be conducted online, in classrooms, or through home-study materials. Coursework often covers negotiation skills, research techniques, communication, and diversity training.

College graduates also might consider pursuing a postgraduate certificate program in mediation. Programs generally require 12 credits, of which three or more might include an internship or practical experience. Applicants are usually able to choose a specialization, such as organizational conflict or family relations.

Success Tip:

  • Participate in an internship or externship. Completing an internship or externship can provide aspiring mediators with real-world work experience. Additionally, individuals who perform well may be able to obtain permanent employment with the cooperating business or agency after graduation.

Step 5: Become Certified or Licensed

The federal government, states, municipalities, organizations, and corporations have different requirements for mediators. Some require professional or state certification, while others require state licensing. Federal agencies often have their own professional accreditation standards or programs for mediators. Some states offer mediator certification through local community colleges or certification centers. Requirements for certification or licensing might include completing an approved mediation training program and accumulating mediation experience.

Step 6: Attend Industry Events

Conferences are held regularly by organizations which operate to inform both the public and industry professionals in issues regarding conflict resolution. Professionals may consider joining an organization such as The Association of Conflict Resolution (ACR), which offers members discounts to such events, as well as access to industry publications and job listings.

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