Arbitrators, conciliators, and mediators help solve conflicts in many settings. They bring fair resolutions to disputes, helping parties avoid court. These professionals work in finance, healthcare, international relations, and legal services, and their numbers continue to grow. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs in this field will grow by 10% between 2016 and 2026 -- a faster rate of expansion than the average profession in the U.S. Additionally, mediators and arbitrators earn a median annual salary of more than $60,000.
While pursuing a master's degree in conflict resolution, students learn about the root causes of conflict, theories of conflict, and the practice of dispute resolution. Classes cover religion, politics, conflict analysis, governance, and security studies. Students graduate with a theoretical understanding of human aggression and peace, a greater sense of their own role in conflict, and the skills needed to help disputing parties resolve differences peacefully.
Should I Get a Master's in Negotiation and Conflict Management?
Earning a master's in conflict resolution can lead to an interesting, well-paying, and meaningful career. Mediators and negotiators work in many fields, including family law, healthcare, finance, public policy, and environmental protection. As corporate deals become increasingly complex, international relations grow strained, and more families take their disputes to court, the need for arbitrators continues to grow. Professionals in this field can serve as fact finders, facilitators, union representatives, and attorneys. These jobs often appeal to individuals who possess a thorough understanding of human behavior and strong interpersonal skills.
While professionals interested in advancing their careers often choose to pursue an online degree in conflict mediation, recent college graduates may prefer to continue their education in a brick-and-mortar setting. By studying on campus, students can interact with faculty, attend career fairs, and establish friendships with other learners more easily. However, online and on-campus students can typically access the same alumni networks and corporate contacts.
A master's degree in mediation and conflict resolution teaches students about corporate social responsibility, youth culture, economics, and interstate and intergroup conflicts. Learners also acquire knowledge related to conflict resolution strategies, practices, and analytical methods. While working towards their degree, students can join clubs or organizations that emphasize conflict resolution, human rights, international relations, and social justice. As graduation approaches learners can also access their school's career center, receiving help in the form of resume formatting, job search strategies, and interviewing tips.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Negotiation and Conflict Management?
A master's degree in conflict resolution can lead to careers in mediation, analysis, and negotiation. Mediators can help settle disputes between consumers and corporations, create agreeable contracts between multiple parties, and address shortcomings in public policy to create a more just society. These professionals work in nursing homes, corporate offices, government agencies, and law offices. People who possess a knack for helping others find mutually beneficial solutions can enhance these skills by earning a master's in conflict resolution.
- Contract Negotiation Manager
Working in a variety of industries, contract negotiation managers hire individuals who can address differences between parties of a contract. These professionals communicate, bargain, and make concessions to assure that each stakeholder's interests stay protected.
Median Annual Salary: $95,111*
- Policy Analyst
Policy analysts work for government agencies and nongovernmental organizations, helping implement, adjust, and replace current laws and policies. These professionals need an academic background in legal research and policy development. They should also hold a thorough understanding of how political actors work together, engage in conflicts, and resolve disputes.
Median Annual Salary: $56,271*
- Research Analyst
Research analysts examine data and extract meaning from their findings to help their employers make data-based decisions. These professionals work in both private and public sectors and understand financial and statistical analyses. These individuals should also possess strong presentation and technical writing skills.
Median Annual Salary: $53,526*
These professionals help settle disputes between organizations and individuals who use an organization's products or services. The presence of an ombudsman may be especially helpful if the balance of power between parties is unequal. Ombudsmen work for corporations, government agencies, and nonprofits.
Median Annual Salary: $56,860*
- Senior Management Consultant
These high-level executives work just below senior management directors. As seasoned team members, they may help mentor junior staff, train clients about business development, and recommend business improvements for companies. Consultants with program management, business analysis, and IT backgrounds can earn especially high salaries.
Median Annual Salary: $99,534*
How to Choose a Master's Program in Negotiation and Conflict Management
A master's degree requires a significant investment of time and money, including hundreds of hours of study and thousands of dollars spent on tuition payments, books, and transportation. Many students also take out loans to cover the expense of a graduate degree. When making an investment of this size, students should consider many graduate program variables. For example, how long does a program take to complete? Does a program offer full-time and part-time options? Does a school readily accept transfer credits?
Applicants should also consider a program's curriculum, including the classes and concentrations available. In a practice-oriented degree like conflict management, students typically need to gain hands-on experience in a supervised setting outside the classroom. Does a school help students find interesting and helpful internships? What kind of capstone requirements does a program use, and do students write a thesis or complete an applied research project? The answers to these questions can help aspiring grad students find the program that best fits their needs.
For most graduate students, cost represents another major factor. Individuals should decide what they can afford to spend and consider each school's overall expenses before enrolling. Learners who choose an online program may save money on housing and transportation, although they may pay more in technology fees.
Programmatic Accreditation for Master's Programs in Negotiation and Conflict Management
When considering potential schools, students should carefully look at each institution's accreditation status, which can greatly affect their campus experience and the value of their degree. Attending an accredited school makes applying for financial aid, transferring coursework, and securing a job after graduation much easier. Accreditation comes in two main varieties: institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation applies to an entire university or college and is awarded by regional or national accreditation agencies. Regional accreditation tends to be more prestigious, whereas trade schools and for-profit institutions tend to hold national accreditation. Alternatively, programmatic accreditation only applies to a specific program or department at an institution.
Many schools consider negotiation and conflict management a social science or humanities discipline and offer it through one of those departments. In these cases, programmatic accreditation does not usually apply. However, if a school includes its master's degree in conflict resolution as part of its law school, students should look for accreditation from the American Bar Association (ABA). While students who plan to pursue a Juris Doctorate and sit for the bar exam should find a program that holds ABA accreditation, most mediators need not consider this type of recognition.
Master's in Negotiation and Conflict Management Program Admissions
Admissions policies and standards vary significantly between graduate schools. Applicants seeking a spot at a highly competitive institution may need to demonstrate excellent academic and research skills, while those applying to less demanding schools should face less stringent requirements. Application deadlines also vary, with some institutions enforcing strict deadlines and others using rolling admissions processes.
Students usually rank potential institutions based on several factors, including cost, program reputation, program length, and curricular options. To make sure they secure a place in at least one program, students generally submit admissions packets to 3-8 schools. Although filling out applications can take a lot of time, students should apply to several schools because they may not receive an acceptance letter from their first-choice institution.
- Bachelor's Degree: Graduate students must hold a bachelor's degree. However, to enroll in most master's in conflict resolution programs, this degree need not be in any specific topic.
- Minimum GPA: Many graduate programs ask that applicants hold a GPA of 3.0 or higher, although this varies by university and program. Some schools allow exceptional standardized test scores to offset a low GPA.
- Required Courses: While students with an academic background in political science, sociology, or psychology may receive preference, individuals do not typically need to complete specific undergraduate prerequisites to pursue a master's degree in conflict resolution.
- Application: The initial application form for a graduate school may take less than an hour complete, but the essay and resume portions typically require significantly more time and work.
- Transcripts: Students should contact all postsecondary institutions they attended and request that their transcripts be sent to prospective graduate schools. The exact cost and process varies, so applicants should check with the registrar's office at their school.
- Letters of Recommendation: Prospective students typically need to secure 2-4 letters of recommendation for their application packet. Students should give their letter writers several weeks to complete and submit these documents.
- Test Scores: Some master's in conflict resolution programs require students to submit their GRE scores. Schools set their own minimum acceptable GRE scores for admission.
- Application Fee: Most graduate schools charge an application fee, which typically ranges from $50-$85, although the fees at some schools may exceed $120. Students who demonstrate financial need can sometimes apply for fee waivers.
What Else Can I Expect From a Master's Program in Negotiation and Conflict Management?
Students pursuing a master's in negotiation and conflict management take a series of core classes and can sometimes concentrate in a single area of conflict resolution. This degree often leads to career opportunities in legal mediation, international relations, corporate social responsibility, and humanitarian relief.
Courses in a Master's in Negotiation and Conflict Management Program
Individuals who earn a master's degree in conflict resolution complete a multidisciplinary program that draws from international relations, political science, sociology, psychology, and economics. Many programs share similar core coursework, such as the classes listed below, although the overall curriculum can vary depending on a program's emphasis.
- International Human Rights
Students in this course discuss the roles of nation states and different methods to protect and expand human rights. Learners also look at topics like terrorism, religious freedom, and multiculturalism.
- Post-Conflict Reconstruction
In this class, participants learn about rebuilding societies after conflicts have ended and peace agreements have been brokered. Participants analyze the complex relationships between various actors, including international donors, private security companies, and service providers.
- International Organizations in Dispute Resolution
Students investigate international organizations and consider their potential roles in dispute resolution. These organizations include the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the International Monetary Fund.
- Conflict Transformation
This course begins by defining conflict and looking into why it occurs at all levels -- from small interpersonal disputes to massive international conflicts. Conflict transformation begins when those involved in a dispute determine their own roles in the conflict and reexamine their relationships. Students exit this course with strong peacebuilding skills that reach beyond superficial resolutions.
- Foundations of Conflict Analysis
Learners in this class combine theory, research, and practice to investigate the inner workings of conflict analysis. Coursework includes conflict theories, models, and modes of practice.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Negotiation and Conflict Management?
Full-time learners pursuing a master's degree in mediation and conflict resolution typically take two full years to graduate, and graduate degrees in this field consist of at least 30 semester credits. Some programs require students to proceed through a pre-formatted series of courses as a cohort, which means learners cannot speed up or slow down their timeline to graduation. Additionally, learners who fail to pass a class may struggle to earn their degree on time.
Alternatively, in more traditional programs, students can sometimes choose to take more courses per term and graduate faster. Students may also elect to enroll part time if they possess family or work commitments. The time a student takes to complete their internship or capstone requirements may also influence a program's overall length.
How Much Is a Master's in Negotiation and Conflict Management?
The tuition associated with a master's degree in conflict resolution varies widely but typically ranges from $15,000-$40,000 depending on several variables. These factors include the cost per credit hour, in-state versus out-of-state tuition rates, and the total number of credits required. Public institutions often charge resident students much less, while private schools generally charge rates on the upper end of the tuition scale.
Other factors also affect the total cost for a degree in conflict management. For example, veterans and active duty members of the military often pay reduced tuition and qualify for special grants, scholarships, and tuition remissions. Some schools also boast liberal transfer policies, allowing students with previously earned graduate-level credit to expedite their graduation timeline.
On-campus students often pay more for room and board, while online students may need to pay larger technology fees for each course they take. Additionally, while digital learners can avoid costs related to commuting or parking, students who attend classes in person may qualify for work-study positions.
Certifications and Licenses for Master's in Negotiation and Conflict Management Graduates
- International Mediation Institute Certification
IMI provides several certifications for mediators and mediation advocates, including a specialization in intercultural competence. Each certification features minimum requirements, such as a certain number of hours spent working in the field. Applicants must also complete a qualifying assessment program. Additionally, IMI offers certification to coaches, trainers, and assessors.
- Mediate.com - Certified Mediator
To earn certification from Mediate.com, applicants must hold at least 200 hours of mediation case experience, 100 hours of mediation training, and active liability insurance. Certified mediators must also join a qualifying professional organization and take at least 12 hours of continuing education each year.
- National Association of Certified Mediators Certification
Applicants for this certification need to complete 40 hours of advanced mediator training and earn a passing score on a certification test. The test costs $249 and individuals can access an online study guide.
Resources for Graduate Negotiation and Conflict Management Students
A publication of the Research/Action Team on Nonviolent Large Systems Change, this journal contains a plethora of articles, reviews, news, and reports related to peacebuilding, nonviolent change, and mutually respectful human relations.
Distributed by the Center for Peace and Justice Education at Villanova University, this biannual publication addresses contemporary topics in the field and includes scholarly debates. While articles can come from a variety of disciplines, philosophies, and faith traditions, the publisher especially welcomes pieces written in the Judeo-Christian intellectual tradition.
An international organization, CRN serves individuals, committees, and universities committed to teaching conflict resolution skills. The organization provides several free resources, including a trainer's manual, a conflict resolution game, and a guide to training teenagers non-violent resolution techniques.
Published eight times per year, this journal focuses on the research, study, and theory of human conflict. Topics range from war and peace to interpersonal and organizational conflict. Recent peer-reviewed articles in the journal covered voting trends at the UN in five anglophone democracies and public attitudes toward private military companies.
Joining a professional association in negotiation and conflict management provides students and professionals with access to publications, conferences, and online libraries that discuss new developments in the field. Many organizations also post jobs boards and publish member directories, helping young professionals and students network and discuss career strategies.
NADN confers membership by invitation only. Arbitrators and mediators with experience in commercial and civil conflict resolution make up the organization's membership. NADN hosts a directory of members, an online library of resources, and a training retreat. The academy boasts chapter members in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
The SMA has resolved maritime disputes for more than 50 years, engaging in arbitration and mediation to establish commercially effective legal procedures. Members provide the maritime industry with experienced commercial professionals who can resolve disputes in an impartial and cost-efficient manner. The SMA also publishes a quarterly newsletter and maintains a large online library.
Serving as an advocate for community mediators at the national level, NAFCM promotes public awareness and supports research into community mediation. Membership benefits include access to mini-grants, awards, and networking opportunities.
Committed to the field of mediation, the AAA manages a national roster of mediators, a claims program, and a library of resources. The organization also offers on-demand courses, publishes a dispute resolution journal, and provides regular educational webinars and in-person events. Members practice mediation in construction, government, employment, and labor relations.
ACR assists the field of dispute resolution by hosting conferences, committees, and regional chapters. Members enjoy discounted registration for conferences and access to a career bank and membership directory. The organization also publishes a quarterly digital magazine.