Degree and Certificate Programs in Negotiation: Program Overviews

Oct 13, 2019

Negotiation is a skill used for conflict resolution, from arguments among family members to labor relations issues to disputes between countries. Education is available through bachelor's degrees, post-bachelor's certificates, and master's degrees.

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Essential Information

Students in negotiation programs explore topics such as negotiation theory, mediation for families, and inter-cultural communication. Those interested in applying can choose an undergraduate or graduate degree or certificate program.

Admission to bachelor's degree programs will require students to have completed high school or earned a GED; applicants will also likely need an acceptable GPA and ACT or SAT scores. A master's degree program will require students to have a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and acceptable GRE scores. Graduate certificates usually only require that a bachelor's degree be completed first.

All of these programs include an internship or fieldwork component. Bachelor's degrees will likely also feature the creation of a career portfolio, and master's degrees will include a thesis or capstone project. Graduates of these programs have the skills necessary to pursue careers in law, politics, and management, among others.

Bachelor's Degrees in Negotiation

There are few bachelor's degree programs in negotiation. Those that do exist are generally interdisciplinary and may incorporate multicultural and minority studies, business administration, or social movement courses. Some programs are designed specifically as a fast-track to a master's program in negotiation and conflict resolution.

Undergraduate students in negotiation will take a number of negotiation-specific courses, such as collaboration technology and negotiation theory, which might also include the following topics:

  • Communication among cultures
  • Conflict resolution basics
  • Decision making and judgment
  • Organizational development
  • Research in conflict resolution, negotiation and peace building
  • Strategic management

Graduate Certificates in Negotiation

Graduate certificate programs in negotiation are designed to prepare students to advance in or begin a career in conflict resolution. Students are taught to negotiate, mediate, and resolve conflicts in a variety of situations. Some certificate programs are interdisciplinary, encouraging both a theoretical foundation and practical skills.

Certificate programs usually require 12-15 credits. Many programs require that three of those credits be fulfilled through field work, a practicum or research. Students may be able to choose from courses such as the following:

  • Consumer counseling techniques
  • Dispute resolution alternatives
  • Introduction to collective bargaining
  • Labor relations law
  • Mediation theory and practice
  • Small group communication

Master's Degrees in Negotiation

Although a master's degree is not a requirement in the field of negotiation, an increasing number of schools offer these programs. Students complete more coursework than they would in a certificate program, and more time may be devoted to field work or research. Some master's programs in negotiation are available online.

Negotiation master's candidates generally must fulfill 33-40 credits. In addition to advanced mediation and collaborative law, other required courses might cover:

  • Basics of ombudsman practice
  • Mediation for couples and families
  • Online dispute resolution
  • Negotiation in health care
  • Research design and analysis
  • Resolution methods for environmental conflict

Popular Career Options

Jobs for those with negotiation skills aren't limited to professional arbitration positions in conflict resolution settings. Graduates of post-bachelor's certificate programs in negotiation also might find work in the following careers:

  • Law clerk
  • Legal assistant or paralegal
  • Private investigator
  • Title searcher and examiner

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups together three jobs - arbitrators, conciliators, and mediators - that require negotiation skills. The BLS reported in 2018 that these workers held roughly 7,700 jobs in the country. The median annual salary of these professionals was $62,270 in May 2018 (

Continuing Education

Baccalaureate graduates might wish to take further courses in negotiation through a graduate certificate or master's degree program. Some professional organizations also offer continuing education classes. These include the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR), the American Arbitration Association (AAA), and the Mediation Training Institute International (MTI).

There are a variety of state regulations related to negotiating careers. Some states require licensure for mediators, while others mandate registration or certification. On the federal level, the navy offers certification for mediators who meet specific requirements.

Some professional organizations offer credentialing programs; however, it can be tricky to know which groups offer recognized credentials. Legitimate programs typically are offered by state, regional, or national associations or local court systems. A few states have certification programs that were created by statute and have regulatory boards.

Negotiators in training can earn a bachelor's degree or build on their existing skills through a graduate certificate or master's degree program. Completing one of these programs prepares graduates for a number of jobs and can help qualify them for professional certification as well as licensure in states that require it.

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