How to Become a Labor Mediator: Education and Career Roadmap

Explore the requirements to become a labor mediator. Learn about the job description and duties, and review the step-by-step process that can help you start a career as a labor mediator.

Should I Become a Labor Mediator?

A labor mediator works to maintain peaceful, productive relationships between employers and employee representatives, many times during the collective-bargaining process. These mediators might arrange meetings to discuss conflicts and assist in resolving conflicts by acting as neutral third parties.

They may have to travel to meet for mediations. Most of the available work in this field is part time. Mediators might supplement their income by working as attorneys for other clients.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Minimum of a bachelor's degree, but many possess a Juris Doctor
Degree Field No specific field of study required on the undergraduate level
Licensure None required; those who also work as attorneys must be licensed
Experience Varies, but may include 2-5 years' experience with labor contract negotiations or five years of experience in arbitration and mediation procedures
Key Skills Complex problem-solving, decision-making, listening, negotiation, critical-thinking and persuasion skills. Knowledge of labor, economic and management trends, collective bargaining procedures and labor organization operations; familiarity with labor laws.
Salary (2014) $57,180 per year (median salary)

Sources: Federal and state job listings found in October 2012, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ONet.

Step 1: Graduate from an Undergraduate Degree Program

Most employers of labor mediators require that applicants possess a minimum of a bachelor's degree. No specific field of study is required to work as a mediator. However, bachelor's degree programs in labor studies are available and might provide aspiring labor mediators with knowledge of the history and politics of labor relations, the history of labor movements, the legal framework of labor-management relations, the economics of work and industrial psychology. This knowledge could prove beneficial when working to mediate disputes between employers and labor unions.

Success Tip:

  • Earn a certificate in mediation. Many schools offer mediation certificate programs to undergraduate students. Classes in these programs focus on issues such as conflict management, communication and negotiation procedures. Completion of one of these programs could impress potential employers.

Step 2: Work in Labor Relations

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), prior to working as a mediator, most individuals gain experience in a field such as labor relations. Labor relations specialists usually need a bachelor's degree in labor relations or a related field. They might negotiate labor contracts, organize labor dispute policies and resolve disputes between employers and employees.

The field of labor relations is sometimes combined with human resources (HR). Because of this, a position as an HR specialist is another entry-level career option for aspiring labor mediators. These positions usually require a bachelor's degree.

After several years of working as a labor relations or human resources specialist, an individual might be able to work up to the position of human resources or labor relations manager. These positions often require a bachelor's degree and work experience.

Success Tip:

  • Consider certification. Private companies offer mediation certification programs. These programs provide instruction in civil procedure, legal terminology, court practices and mediation techniques. Being certified might make an individual eligible to advance to a career as a mediator faster in addition to impressing labor mediator employers.

Step 3: Work as a Labor Mediator

After gaining basic experience in the field of labor relations or human resources, individuals can advance to a labor mediator position. Employers of labor mediators often require that candidates have at least a bachelor's degree and several years of work experience in labor relations and negotiations.

Step 4: Consider Earning an Advanced Degree

Many employers prefer to hire labor mediators who possess a master's degree. Master's degree programs in mediation and dispute resolution are available. Courses in these programs cover topics such as conflict analysis, collaborative practice and conflict resolution, mediation ethics and organizational negotiation. Most programs include fieldwork experiences.

As the BLS notes, many mediators are lawyers. Usually, to become a lawyer, an individual must graduate from law school and pass a state's licensure exam, commonly called a bar exam. Law school generally takes three years to complete.

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