Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are usually lawyers or business professionals with expertise in a particular field.
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators learn their skills through a combination of education, training, and work experience.
Education is one part to becoming an arbitrator, mediator, or conciliator. However, few 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, may require applicants to have a law degree, a master’s in business administration, or other advanced degree.
Some colleges and universities offer a certificate program in conflict resolution or a 2-year master's degree in dispute resolution or conflict management, or a 4- or 5-year doctoral degree program. Applicants may use these programs to supplement their existing educational degree and work experience in other fields.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are usually lawyers, retired judges, or business professionals with expertise in a particular field, such as construction or insurance. They need to have knowledge of that industry and be able to relate well to people from different cultures and backgrounds.
Although there are no state requirements for mediators working in private settings, mediators must typically meet specific training or experience standards to practice in state-funded or court-appointed mediation cases. Qualifications and standards vary by state or by court. However, most states require mediators to complete a 40-hour basic course in mediation and a 20-hour advanced or specialized training course.
Some states require mediators to work under the supervision of an experienced mediator for a certain amount of cases before becoming qualified.
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.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
There is national license for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators. State requirements vary widely. Some states require licenses appropriate to applicant’s field of expertise. For example, some courts may require applicants to be licensed attorneys or certified public accountants.
Critical-thinking skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must apply rules of law. They must remain neutral and not let their own personal assumptions interfere with the proceedings.
Decision-making skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must be able to weigh the facts, apply the law or rules, and make a decision relatively quickly.
Interpersonal skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators deal with disputing parties and must be able to facilitate discussion in a calm and respectful way.
Listening skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must pay close attention to what is being said in order to evaluate information.
Reading skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must be able to evaluate and distinguish the important facts from large amounts of complex information.
Writing skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators write recommendations or decisions on appeals or disputes. They must be able to write their decisions clearly so that all sides understand the decision.