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How to Become a Conflict Resolution Specialist

Research the requirements to become a conflict resolution specialist. Learn about the job description and duties, and then read the step-by-step process to start a career in conflict resolution.

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Should I Become a Conflict Resolution Specialist?

Conflict resolution specialists can include mediators, arbitrators and conciliators. Conflict resolution, which may be referred to as dispute resolution, is the process of resolving a conflict outside of court by addressing the needs of two or more parties. The primary goal of this process is to achieve a satisfying outcome for each party. These sessions may take place with individuals and families as well as businesses and community organizations. Travel to neutral locations is sometimes required. Some conflict resolution specialists fill part-time hours with this profession and seek other occupations in order to work full-time.

Conflict resolution specialists come from a wide range of occupational backgrounds and educational levels. A bachelor's degree in a related field is sufficient for some positions, whereas a law degree or master's degree might be required for other positions.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Varies; prior education can be supplemented by certificate, graduate and professional degree programs
Degree Field Conflict resolution, dispute resolution, conflict management, law or another related field
Experience Experience in a particular or related field is common
Training Mediation training may be required for some positions
Key Skills Critical-reasoning, writing, listening, reading comprehension and decision-making skills; familiarity with general office technology, such as Office suite software
Salary $57,180 (2014 median salary for arbitrators, mediators and conciliators)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine, Various state court systems.

Step 1: Learn About Conflict Resolution

There are many theories and opinions about conflict resolution and which methods work best. There are also increasingly common alternatives to conflict resolution, such as conflict transformation. Additionally, mediation is a fast growing part of the legal system, and those interested in conflict resolution should decide which method they feel is most in line with their views on conflict.

While most certificate programs prepare students to work as a conflict resolution specialist, there are organizations, such as the Association of Conflict Resolution (ACR), which offer programs in specific conflict resolution areas, including family mediation and divorce mediation. Some additional areas of conflict resolution may involve labor unions, business resolutions and other disputes.

Success Tips:

  • Choose a conflict resolution method. Since there are a variety of methods for resolving disputes and other forms of conflict, it's important to explore the various theories and practices to arrive at a system that works effectively.
  • Select an area of expertise. Those interested in focusing on a specific industry may want to earn a degree in that area. Another option is to intern or volunteer to gain direct experience in that field.

Step 2: Earn a Degree

Since many conflict resolution specialists are self-trained or have certificates, pursuing a degree may be the next logical step to career enhancement. For students interested in working in this field, completing an undergraduate or graduate program is a possible option. In addition to college or university conflict resolution certificate programs, some institutions have two-year master's degree programs in dispute resolution or conflict management. While some mediators have a law degree, master's degree programs in public policy, law and related fields also provide relevant backgrounds.

Step 3: Obtain Required Training

Training for conflict resolution specialists is available through independent mediation programs, national and local mediation membership organizations and postsecondary schools. To practice in state or court-funded mediation programs, these specialists must usually meet specific training or experience standards, which vary by state and court. Most professionals in this field complete a 40-hour basic course. Some people obtain training through volunteering at a community mediation center or by co-mediating cases with an experienced mediator.

Step 4: Stay Current by Joining a Professional Organization

Professional organizations, such as the American Arbitration Association and ACR, can offer conflict resolution specialists with additional education and resources.

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