Arbitration Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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What kind of job can you get with a master's or PhD degree in arbitration? Find out program requirements, online options and info on courses for arbitration degrees.
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Arbitration Master's and PhDs: Degrees at a Glance

An arbitrator acts as a neutral entity to help two opposing parties settle a dispute outside of court. Oftentimes, arbitrators are lawyers who have received either specialized education or training in negotiation tactics. However, it is possible to work in conflict resolution without having a law degree. For example, you might work as an arbitrator who specializes in business concerns. In either instance, you might want to enroll in a master's or doctoral degree program in arbitration, mediation or conflict negotiation to learn the skills necessary to the field.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of arbitrators and mediators was expected to increase 15% over the 2010-2020 decade, which is about average. Although going to arbitration is less expensive than going to trial, many parties still choose to settle differences through the court system.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Lawyers or business professionals who want to specialize in arbitration Individuals who aspire to work in academia, research of consultation
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Arbitrator working in legal services ($100,000)*
- Arbitrator working in state government ($64,000)*
- Arbitrator working in business or political organizations ($70,000)*
- Same as with master's degree, plus:
- Postsecondary teacher ($74,000)*
- Consultant (salary unavailable)
Time to Completion - 1-2 years - 3-6 years
Common Graduation Requirements - Core courses and seminars
- Master's thesis
- Specialized elective courses
- Possible comprehensive exam
- Core doctoral courses
- Research courses
- Specialization courses
- Dissertation
- Qualifying examination
Prerequisites - Undergraduate degree
- GRE, GMAT or LSAT scores
- Resume
- To enroll in an LL.M. in Arbitration, you must have already completed a law degree
- Undergraduate or graduate degree
- Possible foreign language requirement
Online Availability Sometimes Sometimes

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

Master's in Arbitration

You can choose from a few types of graduate degree programs in arbitration. A Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Arbitration or Dispute Resolution might be ideal if you already hold a law degree from an accredited university and are interested in specializing in arbitration. A Master of Science or Master of Arts in Conflict Management, Negotiation or Conflict Resolution might not prepare you to work in the legal field, but it can provide you with the advanced skills to work as a negotiator in the government or the private sector. Most all of these degree program include core courses covering the theory and practice of arbitration while also allowing you to take electives that highlight your individual interests, whether they be international negotiation or business law. A thesis project is also usually required.

Pros and Cons


  • Many arbitration master's degree programs offer internships with organizations such as the American Arbitration Association.
  • You will earn a higher-than-average salary working as an arbitrator in most industries.
  • You will typically not need a license to work as an arbitrator.


  • You will likely need a 3-year law degree in addition to a graduate degree to work as an arbitration lawyer.
  • You may need to have professional experience in a particular industry in order to work as an arbitrator in that field.
  • You may need to meet specific court- or state-mandated training requirements to work as a mediator.

Courses and Requirements

In addition to taking core courses in arbitration and negotiation theory, you will likely be required to complete electives or a field experience in your chosen area of focus, be it business or cultural conflict. Some common courses you might find include:

  • Business arbitration
  • International and intercultural arbitration
  • Theory and practice of negotiation
  • Alternative dispute resolution
  • Laws and conflict
  • Psychology and conflict
  • Advanced mediation skills

Online Degree Options

While LL.M. degrees in arbitration are not typically offered online, you will be able to find a few master's degree programs in conflict management available in that format. The online programs are often designed for working professionals who are looking to advance in their careers. Students are often required to attend a few on-campus seminars or sessions while completing the majority of their courses online.

Stand Out with This Degree

One way to set yourself apart from job competitors is to select a specialization while enrolled in a graduate degree program in arbitration or conflict resolution. Some programs will require you to choose a concentration, while others will merely recommend that you choose your electives carefully based on your career goals and interests. By focusing on a specialization, such as international conflict resolution, you will be able to build the specific skills necessary to negotiate between parties of different interests/backgrounds regarding government or business concerns. You might also focus your interests in peace and justice, nonviolent social change or business negotiation.

PhD in Arbitration

While a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) can prepare you to work as a professional arbitrator, it can also prepare you to work as a postsecondary professor, researcher or consultant. Most of these programs are designed for individuals who have already earned either a master's or an LL.M. degree, and who are interested in further exploring a particular aspect of conflict negotiation. You will be required to complete a dissertation as well as foundational, elective and research-based courses.

Pros and Cons


  • Many PhD programs provide you with the teaching experience you need to work as a postsecondary teacher.
  • You will often be allowed to focus on a specialization of your choice, such as cultural conflict management or organizational conflict management.
  • Employment of postsecondary teachers should remain steady through the 2010-2020 decade.*


  • Many arbitrators are only required to have a master's degree or post-graduate certificate, so a PhD might be unnecessary.
  • It can take up to seven years to achieve tenure as a professor.*
  • The pay for postsecondary teachers is often less than that for professional arbitrators in the legal field.

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

While enrolled in a PhD program in conflict resolution or mediation, you would learn about the theoretical foundations, historical precedents and analysis of conflict. You would gain an in-depth understanding of a particular aspect of the field, which will eventually result in a dissertation. However, some common core courses include:

  • Theoretical foundations of dispute resolution
  • Practice of conflict resolution
  • Conflict analysis
  • Quantitative and qualitative research
  • Intergroup conflict
  • Teaching and training practicum

Online Degree Options

Very few universities offer PhD programs in conflict resolution and arbitration online; however, they are available. While in these programs, you may be required to attend some in-person courses and seminars. However, the majority of classes will be offered through a Web-based format, and you may face software requirements.

Stand Out with This Degree

One way to get the most out of a PhD degree is to complete a student teaching practicum or a graduate teacher assistantship. Having experience in front of a classroom should provide you with a leg-up over competition when seeking a career in academia. Within a teacher assistantship, you should learn how to develop curriculum and teach course materials in a university setting. Some schools also provide practicum experiences as part of their PhD programs. These allow you to put negotiation theory into practical use in real-life settings.

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