Alternative Dispute Resolution Degree Program Info

Oct 10, 2019

Essential Information

Alternative dispute resolution allows multiple parties to negotiate a disagreement in satisfactory terms. Students pursuing graduate certificate and master's degree programs in this field learn negotiation techniques, study group dynamics and learn about crisis intervention.

Both graduate certificate and master's degree programs require that applicants hold a bachelor's degree. It can be in any subject, but many certificate and master's degree programs require experience in law, mediation or a similar field. A graduate certificate program requires less than a year of study, while a master's degree program in negotiation and dispute resolution can take a year or two. Students in master's degree programs may have to complete a thesis or a capstone project, as well as gain experience in the field. Some of these programs hold classes on the weekends or in the evenings, as well as online, to accommodate working students' schedules.

Individuals who complete certain training and experience requirements can apply for credentialing as mediators from several professional organizations.

Dispute Resolution Graduate Certificate

A certificate in negotiation and dispute resolution is intended for any individual who is interested in learning how to mediate resolutions between disagreeing parties. Programs often allow students to select a particular concentration or a set of elective courses in areas such as anthropology, psychology, politics or law. Some examples of alternative dispute resolution coursework might include:

  • Sociology of dispute resolution
  • Crisis intervention
  • Practical reasoning techniques
  • Group dynamics
  • Negotiation techniques
  • Arbitration

Master of Science in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution

Students enrolled in a master's degree program in negotiation and conflict resolution learn how to see disagreements from multiple viewpoints and understand the intellectual and emotional complexities of the individuals involved in disputes. Most degree programs in the subject include classroom lectures covering theory, techniques and dispute resolution models. Also included are applied practice hours, wherein students can put those techniques towards actual dispute resolutions.

Some examples of these types of course subjects are listed below:

  • Advanced conflict resolution
  • Advanced mediation and negotiation
  • Social networks and communication
  • Alternative resolution strategies
  • Environmental and healthcare conflict resolution
  • Ombuds practice

Popular Career Options

The careers open to graduates of certificate programs in dispute resolution are similar to those available to graduates of a master's degree program in the field. An advanced degree in conflict or dispute resolution can provide several different types of professionals with a competitive edge in their respective fields. Some career fields open to those with such an education include:

  • Law (with a Juris Doctor degree)
  • Legal mediation and political mediation
  • Public school peer mediation and guidance counseling
  • Corporate negotiation and mediation and human resources
  • Mediator and dispute specialist
  • Contracts negotiator and lease negotiator

Certification and Continuing Education

The International Academy of Dispute Resolution offers board certification to students who complete three mediation training sessions through the association. Additionally, interested individuals must submit three letters of recommendation, proof of at least 25 completed mediations and a written recognition by the academy's Credentials Committee. The American Center for Conflict Resolution Institute offers similar certification and credentials to professional mediators.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job openings for mediators, arbitrators and conciliators are expected to increase by 8% from 2018-2028 ( The BLS also noted that these professionals earned a median salary of $62,270 as of May 2018.

The skill of alternative dispute resolution can be learned through graduate degree and certificate programs and is likely to come in handy when individuals are seeking careers in law, mediation or a number of other fields.

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