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What You Can Expect in a Mediation Career Become a mediator to work in the world of alternate dispute resolution.

mediator meeting with small group of people

The Basics

What you’ll do: A mediator meets confidentially with each side to help clarify concerns, complaints, and mediation goals. The parties and mediator then work in a series of private meetings to explore all possible solutions, and come to a mutually acceptable outcome.

Where you’ll work: Private offices, meeting rooms of corporations, law firms; travel is mandatory in this position. Some mediators work from home.

Degree you’ll need: Juris Doctor or master’s degree recommended.

Certification: Highly recommended through the American Arbitration Association.

Median annual salary: $66,130*

Top-paying states: District of Columbia, New Jersey, California, Illinois, Wisconsin

Negotiate a Mediation Career

Mediation and arbitration are forms of alternate dispute resolution—low-cost alternatives to expensive litigation. Mediators attempt to resolve legal disputes out of court before adverse parties go to trial. In mediation, two sides of a conflict agree to come together with a neutral third-party mediator to resolve their differences.

If mediation is unsuccessful, the parties are free to return to litigation, but this is often avoided as both sides had entered into mediation in the hopes of resolving the conflict before incurring the expense of litigation.

Mediated Arbitration (Med-Arb)

Another form of mediation is Med-Arb. This method combines the practices of mediation and arbitration.

A neutral third party mediates a dispute until the parties reach an impasse. At this point, an overseer issues an arbitration decision on the cause of the impasse or other unresolved issues. The disputing parties agree in advance whether the same person—or a different one—will conduct both the mediation and arbitration processes.

Mediator Education Programs

Training for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators usually consists of a 2-year master’s program in dispute resolution or conflict management, or a 4-to-5 year doctoral program.

Many mediators have a law degree (JD), but master’s degrees in criminal justice, public policy, and related fields also provide good backgrounds for prospective arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators.

However, depending on your current experience or education, there are many mediation training programs that last as little as a day or a week. Once you get your mediation certification, these shorter mediation training programs are a great way to get deeper knowledge or acquire new skills that will help you in your practice.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 2019 Edition; Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience, and a variety of other factors.