Arbitrators work to help individuals and organizations solve disputes out of court. If you're interested in a career as an arbitrator or arbitration lawyer, you can enroll in a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Dispute Resolution or a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Dispute Resolution program. Coursework in both of these programs highlights subjects such as negotiation, conflict psychology, litigation and commercial arbitration.
To apply for a two-year M.A. program, students must hold a bachelor's degree in a related field. Other requirements include acceptable scores on the Graduate Records Examination (GRE), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), Law School Admission Test (LSAT) or Miller Analogies Test (MAT). Students must also submit three letters of recommendation. Before graduating, students are expected to fulfill an internship requirement.
Admission to this degree program requires a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from an accredited institution. Other requirements include graduate school transcripts and professional references.Prior to graduation, LL.M. students must complete an externship or independent study and submit a graduate thesis.
Master of Arts (M.A.) in Dispute Resolution
The Master of Arts program emphasizes advanced studies in family, workplace and health care dispute resolution. Students will be expected to evaluate different types of individual and organizational conflicts and learn mediation and bargaining techniques through role-play. Studies in communication theories help students develop the interpersonal skills necessary for working with people involved in conflicts. Coursework in psychology helps students understand how conflicts arise among social groups and how power, gender and social identity contribute to violent and non-violent conflicts.
Through the program, students take core courses in adjudication, negotiation and mediation, along with electives. Coursework includes conflict and dispute resolution theories and practices, ethical issues and third-party dynamics. Other common course topics include:
- Conflict psychology
- Settlement agreements
- Mediation training
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Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Dispute Resolution
This degree program is for students who already have a law degree and are looking to specialize in arbitration. In the program, students learn about international dispute resolution, public policies, negotiation theories and employment, education, entertainment and health care industry disputes. They also learn how to interview and counsel people involved in disputes and to prepare for trial if the arbitration process fails. The lawyering process is a major area of focus, with a heavy emphasis on the ethical and professional responsibilities of practicing lawyers.
Coursework includes extensive arbitration and mediation studies in both national and international affairs. Students have the opportunity to choose electives in select topics related to the field, including employment or labor disputes, intellectual property, mass torts or ombuds. Other courses in this degree program may include:
- Commercial arbitration
- Mediation clinic
- Appellate advocacy
- Environmental dispute resolution
- Conflict and communication
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), arbitrators, mediators and conciliators held 6,380 jobs in 2015, and this number was projected to grow about 9% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The mean salary for these professionals in May 2015 was $69,060 per year.
Lawyers held over 609,930 jobs in the United States in 2015, according to the BLS, and this number was projected to grow by 6% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.com). The mean annual salary for a lawyer in 2015 was $136,260.
After graduating, you can go on to pursue a Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution. While there are no national licensing requirements for arbitrators, Florida, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia offer certification programs. You can also pursue continuing education courses through the American Arbitration Association.
If you hold a J.D., you can take the state bar examination to become a licensed attorney. Requirements vary by state, but most states do require continuing education credits to maintain competency and licensure.
In summary, students who want to get a master's degree in arbitration can pursue either an M.A. or LL.M., depending on their previous educational background. These degrees prepare students for professional work in the field or further educational opportunities.