Mediation & Dispute Resolution: Masters, MBA & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in a master's or MBA in Mediation and Dispute Resolution? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's and an MBA and potential careers.
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Study Mediation and Dispute Resolution: Master's and MBA Degrees at a Glance

A master's degree in mediation and dispute resolution can provide you with communication and conflict resolution skills to work as a mediator, conciliator or arbitrator. In these positions, you'll act as a neutral party to solve disagreements through discussion, negotiation and bargaining. Mediators and arbitrators are needed in many industries, such as education, ministry, law, heath care, business and social services. You'll need in-depth knowledge of your field in order to be an effective mediator. In some cases, you may be required to have a juris doctor (JD) degree.

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment of arbitrators, conciliators and mediators would be about average during the 2010-2020 decade, the mean annual salary for these workers was about $76,000 as of May 2011, which was higher than the national average salary for all occupations that same year.

Master's MBA
Who is this degree for? Experienced professionals in any industry who want to move into a conflict resolution role Business leaders who want to learn to manage conflicts within their organization
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Mediator, arbitrator or conciliator ($76,000)*
- Alternative dispute resolution coordinator (unavailable)
In addition to mediator positions, the following business-focused career paths may be available:
- Labor relations specialist ($59,000)*
- Human resources manager ($109,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years full-time 1-2 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - 24-32 graduate credits
- Either a master's thesis or major research project
- About 36 graduate credits
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree for Master of Science or Master of Arts
- JD for Master of Laws
- Bachelor's or master's degree in business field or business courses in marketing, economics, business law and accounting
- Professional work experience
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's in Mediation and Dispute Resolution

You'll be able to find Master of Science degree programs in mediation and dispute resolution in graduate schools and law schools. These programs might also go under the titles of conflict management or applied conflict studies. If you already have a JD, you can enroll in a Master of Laws in Dispute Resolution. Programs offered through law schools, whether they are a Master of Science or a Master of Laws, include additional courses in the legal aspects of mediation. Some schools offer a dual JD and master's degree in dispute resolution.

Many master's degree programs in mediation and dispute resolution are geared toward fully-employed professionals and can be tailored to your specific field, such as health care. Courses are often held in the evenings and on weekends to accommodate work schedules.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can usually be completed in less than two years, and often courses are scheduled for the convenience of working professionals
  • Skills learned in a master's degree program can be applied to many industries
  • Programs can be tailored to your professional field through course electives

Cons

  • A master's degree is not always required to work as a dispute resolution specialist
  • A JD is often preferred or required with dispute resolution training for alternative dispute resolution jobs
  • Many programs require some professional experience

Courses and Requirements

Required courses for a Master of Science in Mediation and Dispute Resolution include both theory and practice in negotiation, facilitation and mediation. You'll also be required to complete a capstone project or a thesis. Other courses include:

  • Communication
  • Psychology
  • Conflict management
  • Ethics

If you are enrolled in master's degree program through a school of law, your courses may include legal aspects of alternative dispute resolution and the legal process. A Master of Laws degree may include clinical courses in mediation and arbitration.

Online Degree Options

Online master's programs in dispute resolution are available, but because of the in-person nature of negotiating, most programs require an on-campus residency or an internship. The course requirements are the same as on-campus programs, with the exception of a course in how to use technology in negotiations.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Although licensure is not required for mediators in any state, some states provide guidelines for mediators and offer a state-level court mediator certification. This certification demonstrates that you have met certain education and experience requirements. There are also professional organizations that offer certification for mediators. An exam and proof of experience is required for professional certification.

Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Mediation and Dispute Resolution

An MBA in Mediation and Dispute Resolution is designed to train business leaders in how to manage conflict in a business atmosphere. These MBA programs contain traditional MBA subjects, such as accounting management, financial management and business law, with additional courses in organizational management, conflict resolution and negotiation.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Good return on investment for an MBA (A 2012 survey concluded that four years after graduating with an MBA, professionals had a 100% return on investment)*
  • Can be completed part-time, full-time, online or on campus
  • Learning to resolve inter- and intra-business conflicts without litigation can save businesses time and money**

Cons

  • A business degree and professional experience may be required
  • Programs may limit enrollment
  • Working in mediation and dispute resolution can be stressful

Sources: *Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 2012 Alumni Perspectives Survey Report, **Graziadio Business Review (Vol. 8, Issue 2, 2005).

Courses and Requirements

Courses in an MBA in Mediation and Dispute Resolution cover business management along with conflict resolution, law and organizational behavior. Some programs require an internship. Business courses generally include:

  • Financial strategies
  • Marketing management
  • Business operations
  • Accounting

Courses in dispute resolution may include:

  • Mediation
  • Workplace negotiations
  • Conflict and communication
  • Commercial arbitration

Online Degree Options

While there are many online MBA programs that include courses in conflict management, there are few online MBA programs with concentrations in conflict management and dispute resolution. The few that are available from accredited schools require the same courses as on-campus programs. A brief on-campus residency may be required.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

While you may be working full-time or balancing work and family while completing your MBA, don't forget the importance of networking with your fellow students. Take advantage of group projects and school social events to meet people in your classes and school. You might even join a graduate student association related to conflict management. Even if you plan to stay in the same job after you complete your MBA, it is good to maintain contacts in your field to collaborate with or to ask advice.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
      • MS in Leadership: Disaster Preparedness & Executive Fire Leadership
      • Master of Public Administration - Government and Policy
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    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Legal Studies
      • Master: Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado Technical University

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    Master's
      • M.S. - Criminal Justice
      • Master: Management - Homeland Security
      • Master of Science in Homeland Security - Emergency Management and Public Health
      • Master of Science in Homeland Security
      • Master of Science in Criminal Justice - Homeland Security
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    4. Johns Hopkins University

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    Master's
      • Master of Science in Regulatory Science
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    5. Indiana Wesleyan University

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    Master's
      • Master of Public Administration - Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice
      • MSM in Emergency Management
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Advanced Counterterrorism & Homeland Security concentration
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Public Safety Administration concentration
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    7. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Criminal Justice
      • MBA - Criminal Justice
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    8. Lewis University

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    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice
      • MS in Public Safety Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Benedictine University

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    Master's
      • MPH - Emergency Preparedness Focus
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    10. Herzing University

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    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Project Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
  • MS in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
  • MS in Leadership: Disaster Preparedness & Executive Fire Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master: Legal Studies
  • Master: Criminal Justice

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Colorado Technical University

  • M.S. - Criminal Justice
  • Master: Management - Homeland Security
  • Master of Science in Homeland Security - Emergency Management and Public Health

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Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Science in Regulatory Science

What is your highest level of education?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • Master of Public Administration - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?

Southern New Hampshire University

  • MS in Criminal Justice
  • MSM in Emergency Management
  • MS in Criminal Justice: Advanced Counterterrorism & Homeland Security concentration

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Criminal Justice
  • MBA - Criminal Justice
  • MBA - Homeland Security

What is your highest level of education?

Lewis University

  • MS in Criminal Justice
  • MS in Public Safety Administration

What is your highest level of education?