Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators help resolve conflicts outside of the court system by facilitating negotiation and dialogue between disputing parties.

Duties

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 or 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, or physician or employer records

Arbitrators, mediators, or 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 or business people with expertise in a particular field. They hear and decide disputes between opposing parties as an impartial third party. 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 mandatory and required by law for some claims and disputes. Other times, the parties in dispute voluntary 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 make 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. Their role is to help guide opposing sides to a settlement. However, they typically meet with the parties separately. The opposing sides must decide in advance if they will be bound by the conciliator's recommendations. The conciliator typically has no authority to seek evidence or call witnesses. These workers typically do not write decisions or make awards.

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Work Environment

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators held about 8,400 jobs in 2012. Many work for state or local governments or in the legal services industry.

The industries that employed the most arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators in 2012 were as follows:

State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 29%
Legal services 17
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 10
Health care and social assistance 6
Finance and insurance 4

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators usually work in private offices or meeting rooms. They may travel to a neutral site chosen for negotiations.

Work Schedules

Some arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators work part time and may also have other occupations or careers.

Education and Training

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators learn their skills through a combination of education, training, and work experience.

Education

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.

Training

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.

Personality and Interests

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators typically have an interest in the Helping and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Helping or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as an arbitrator, mediator, and conciliator, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators should also possess the following specific qualities:

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators was $61,280 in May 2012. 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 $34,100, and the top 10 percent earned more than $137,350.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators in the top five industries in which they worked were as follows:

Legal services $109,470
Finance and insurance 59,730
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and
similar organizations
58,280
State and local government, excluding education
and hospitals
57,370
Health care and social assistance 42,210

Many arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators work part time and may have other occupations or careers.

Job Outlook

Employment of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is projected to grow 10 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution methods are often seen as faster and less expensive than trials and litigation. In addition, many contracts, including employment, customer, and real estate contracts, may include clauses requiring complaints and disputes to be decided through mediation or arbitration.

However, employment growth of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is expected to be moderate. Because many arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators work for state or local government, budgetary constraints may limit employment growth. Also, in some cases or industries, litigation is either unavoidable or its benefits are still preferred over other types of conflict resolution.                  

Job Prospects

Because arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators deal extensively with legal issues and disputes, those with a law degree should have better job prospects. In addition, lawyers with expertise or experience in one or more particular legal areas, such as environmental, health, or corporate law, should also have the best job prospects.

For More Information

For more information about arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators, visit

American Arbitration Association

Association for Conflict Resolution

FAQ

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The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. We recommend the Career Personality Profiler assessment ($29), the Holland Code assessment ($19), or the Photo Career Quiz (free).