Negotiation Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Training Info

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What will you learn in a negotiation degree program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of master's and PhD degrees and potential careers.
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Negotiation Master's and PhDs: Degrees at a Glance

A master's degree in negotiation can prepare you for a career involving conflict resolution. For example, it could prepare you to become a mediator and act as a neutral party helping to resolve financial or legal disputes. It can also prepare you to apply conflict resolution skills to careers in law, business, government and international relations. These graduate degree programs are also often designed for working professionals hoping to advance in their careers.

If you are interested in working as a college professor specializing in mediation, you will likely want to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in negotiation and conflict management. A doctoral program can also prepare you for positions in policy administration, research and consultation.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Individuals and working professionals interested in becoming mediators Individuals interested in pursuing positions in research, academia or public policy
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Mediator or arbitrator ($76,000)*
- Mediator working in government ($64,000)*
-Mediator working in law ($100,000)*
- Mediator working in business or labor ($70,000)*
- Postsecondary teacher ($74,000)*
- Consultant (salary unavailable)
- Policy analyst (salary unavailable)
Time to Completion - 16 months to three years - About five years
Common Graduation Requirements - Core negotiation courses
- Electives in a specialized field of your choice
- Thesis or capstone project
- Seminars
- Dissertation
- Admission to candidacy
Prerequisites - Undergraduate degree
- Previous work experience sometimes required
- GRE scores or writing test
- Bachelor's degree
- Possible foreign language requirement
Online Availability Yes Yes

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

Master's Degree in Negotiation

Graduate degree programs in negotiation, mediation and conflict resolution are most typically offered at 4-year universities, through schools of continuing education, political science, international affairs and business. These programs can be offered via a traditional format to students who hold an undergraduate degree, or through an executive or part-time format to working professionals who are looking to earn a master's degree while maintaining a full workload. Some programs provide a broad overview to different types of negotiation tactics and strategies, while others allow you to focus on specialized types of conflict resolution, such methods particularly related to labor, law, family or intercultural conflict.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A master's degree in negotiation can prepare you for careers in a wide variety of industries
  • You will not need licensure to work in this field
  • Having a graduate degree can give you an edge over job competitors who have only a bachelor's degree or postsecondary certificate in mediation

Cons

  • Graduate programs aren't necessarily required for a career in mediation
  • You may also need a law degree to work as a mediator in the legal field
  • You will likely need business experience in addition to a degree to work as a mediator

Courses and Requirements

Most master's degree programs in negotiation include core courses in conflict resolution as well as elective courses. Some programs also require the completion of a thesis or capstone project. Some common courses included in these programs are listed below:

  • Introduction to negotiation and mediation
  • Intrapersonal dynamics
  • Applied research
  • Social networks and conflict
  • Advanced conflict resolution
  • Alternative dispute resolution
  • Ombuds practice

Online Degree Options

You will be able to find master's degree programs in negotiation offered online through accredited universities. Different schools use different methods to deliver courses online, but many require you to have certain software and may require you to participate in video lectures. These programs are often particularly designed for mid-career professionals who are interested in advancing their education without leaving their jobs.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

If you are interested in working as a mediator in the legal field, you may need to earn a law degree in addition to a graduate degree in negotiation. You may also need to meet specific training standards to work within the court system of a particular state. If you choose to work as a mediator or arbitrator in another industry, you may want to consider joining a professional organization such as the Association for Conflict Resolution. Many states also have their own mediator associations that can provide opportunities for networking and continued training.

PhD in Negotiation

Doctoral programs in negotiation focus heavily on the theories and processes of negotiation and conflict resolution. In these programs, you will likely be required to focus your studies on a specialized area of the field, such as international cultures and conflict or organizational conflict. You will likely also need to complete specific courses and pass exams in order to advance to doctoral candidacy and graduate within five years. These programs can prepare you to become a professor or work as a consultant or researcher.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Doctoral programs allow you to specialize in an area of conflict management that most interests you
  • Programs can be offered full- or part-time
  • Some programs can provide you with the teaching experience necessary to secure employment in academia upon graduation

Cons

  • Doctoral programs involve several years of study and intensive research
  • Postsecondary educators often make less than mediators in many fields*
  • Once you become a professor, it can take you up to seven years to attain tenure

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

Courses and Requirements

PhD programs in negotiation are often divided into foundation courses, core courses, research courses and theory courses. Many often require you to select your own specialization courses. Some examples of commonly found classes include:

  • Micro and macro theories of negotiation
  • Quantitative and qualitative research
  • Intergroup and interpersonal conflict
  • Conflict resolution and peace studies
  • Teaching practicum

Online Degree Options

Although they're rare, some doctoral degree programs in negotiation and conflict management are offered online. More often, these programs provide online courses but also require students to participate in a few in-person sessions.

Stand Out with This Degree

If you want to work as a professor upon completion of your doctoral program, you may want to first gain teaching experience. Consider enrolling in a program that offers graduate teaching assistantships. If you want to work as a consultant or hold an administrative position in government, you will likely want to continue working while earning your degree. For these positions, professional experience can be just as beneficial as an education.

Popular Schools

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  • Stanford, CA

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Northcentral University

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Grand Canyon University

  • DBA - Management

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University of the Rockies

  • Ph.D. in Organizational Development & Leadership - Innovation & Entrepreneurship

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