Careers in Arbitration, Mediation, and Alternative Dispute Resolution
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators facilitate negotiation between disputing parties to help resolve conflicts outside of the court system.
What they do
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators typically do the following
- Facilitate communication between disputants to guide parties toward mutual agreement
- Clarify issues, concerns, needs, and interests of all parties involved
- Conduct initial meetings with disputants to outline the arbitration process
- Settle procedural matters such as fees, or determine details such as witness numbers and time requirements
- Set up appointments for parties to meet for mediation or arbitration
- Interview claimants, agents, or witnesses to obtain information about disputed issues
- Prepare settlement agreements for disputants to sign
- Apply relevant laws, regulations, policies, or precedents to reach conclusions
- Evaluate information from documents such as claim applications, birth or death certificates, and physician or employer records
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators help opposing parties settle disputes outside of court. They hold private, confidential hearings, which are less formal than a court trial.
Arbitrators are usually attorneys, business professionals, or retired judges with expertise in a particular field. As impartial third parties, they hear and decide disputes between opposing parties. Arbitrators may work alone or in a panel with other arbitrators. In some cases, arbitrators may decide procedural issues, such as what evidence may be submitted and when hearings will be held.
Arbitration may be required by law for some claims and disputes. When it is not required, the parties in dispute sometimes voluntarily agree to arbitration rather than proceed with litigation or a trial. In some cases, parties may appeal the arbitrator’s decision.
Mediators are neutral parties who help people resolve their disputes. However, unlike arbitrators, they do not render binding decisions. Rather, mediators help facilitate discussion and guide the parties toward a mutually acceptable agreement. If the opposing sides cannot reach a settlement with the mediator’s help, they are free to pursue other options.
Conciliators are similar to mediators. Although their role is to help guide opposing sides to a settlement, they typically meet with the parties separately. The opposing sides must decide in advance if they will be bound by the conciliator’s recommendations.
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators usually work in private offices or meeting rooms. They may travel to a neutral site chosen for negotiations.
The work may be stressful because arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators sometimes work with difficult or confrontational individuals or with highly charged and emotional situations, such as injury settlements or family disputes.
How to become an Arbitrator, Mediator or Conciliator
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators learn their skills through a combination of education, training, and work experience.
Education is one part of becoming an arbitrator, mediator, or conciliator.
Few candidates receive a degree specific to the field of arbitration, mediation, or conflict resolution. Rather, many positions require an educational degree appropriate to the applicant’s field of expertise, and a bachelor’s degree is often sufficient. Many other positions, however, require applicants to have a law degree, a master’s in business administration, or some other advanced degree.
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are usually lawyers, retired judges, or business professionals with expertise in a particular field, such as construction, finance, or insurance. They need to have knowledge of that industry and be able to relate well to people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Mediators typically work under the supervision of an experienced mediator for a certain number of cases before working independently.
Training for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is available through independent mediation programs, national and local mediation membership organizations, and postsecondary schools. Training is also available by volunteering at a community mediation center.
There is no national license for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators. However, some states require arbitrators and mediators to become certified to work on certain types of cases. Qualifications, standards, and the number of training hours required vary by state or by court. Most states require mediators to complete 20 to 40 hours of training courses to become certified. Some states require additional hours of training in a specialty area.
Some states require licenses appropriate to the applicant’s field of expertise. For example, some courts may require applicants to be licensed attorneys or certified public accountants.
The median annual wage for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators was $63,930 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,420, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $123,730.
Employment of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 600 new jobs over the 10-year period.
Arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution methods often are quicker and less expensive than trials and litigation. In addition, many contracts, including employment, customer, and real estate contracts, include clauses requiring complaints and disputes to be decided through mediation or arbitration.
Similar Job Titles
Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinator (ADR Coordinator), Arbiter, Arbitrator, Divorce Mediator, Family Mediator, Federal Mediator, Labor Arbitrator, Labor Mediator, Mediator, Public Employment Mediator
Human Resources Manager, Equal Opportunity Representative and Officer, Human Resources Specialist, Management Analyst, Insurance Sales Agent
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Arbitration Association
- American Bar Association
- Association for Conflict Resolution
- Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
- Association of Labor Relations Agencies
- Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service
- International Academy of Collaborative Professionals
- International Institute of Conflict Prevention and Resolution
- Labor and Employment Relations Association
- National Academy of Arbitrators
Magazines and Publications
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Many people involved in legal disputes prefer to resolve their differences in a meeting room instead of court… to save costs or maintain a more informal, flexible atmosphere. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators facilitate dialogue between disputing parties… to help resolve conflicts without entering a court room. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators hold private hearings to clarify the issues and interests of all involved, and encourage parties to find areas of mutual agreement. Though closely related, the three work somewhat differently: Arbitrators hear and decide disputes. They are usually attorneys, retired judges, or business professionals with expertise in a particular field. Their cases may be legally —or voluntarily— referred for arbitration. Mediators are neutral parties who facilitate discussions to reach a satisfactory agreement. If no agreement is reached… they may choose different options… often the court system. Conciliators are similar to mediators, except that they typically meet with the parties separately, and then make recommendations. Most arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators work full time, in either legal services, government, or non-profit organizations, and may travel to different sites for negotiations. Most people who work in these fields have education in another field, such as law or business management, or experience in an industry related to the dispute. Advanced degrees or certificates in dispute or conflict resolution may qualify candidates for some positions.