Negotiation & Conflict Management Degrees: MBA, PhD & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a negotiation and conflict management degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an MBA and PhD degree and potential careers.
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Studying Negotiation and Conflict Management: Degrees at a Glance

If you're already an experienced professional, earning an MBA with a concentration in Negotiation and Conflict Management can help you advance your career in areas ranging from human resources and labor relations to finance and management. Some negotiation and conflict management MBA degrees may also help you meet the requirements to become a mediator. A PhD can qualify you for a university teaching career, but earning one isn't required for most practical positions in business administration or mediation.

Your job prospects will depend on many factors, including your level of experience and your career field. For instance, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that job growth for labor relations specialists will increase at a faster-than-average rate between 2010 and 2020 (20-28%). However, job growth for mediators, arbitrators and conciliators is only expected to be average, at about 15% during this time period.

MBA Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Individuals with a bachelor's degree and some work experience who want to advance their careers Those who want to conduct research and teach in a university setting
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) Experience is required for most positions, and a bachelor's degree is sufficient for some jobs:
- Mediator, arbitrator or conciliator ($60,000)*
- Labor relations specialist ($54,000)*
- Human resources manager ($99,000)*
- Financial manager ($107,000)*
- Top executive ($167,000)*
Same jobs as for the master's degree, as well as the following:
- Postsecondary business professor ($75,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years full-time, 18 months to 5 years part-time Usually about 5 years, although some students can finish in 3 or 4
Common Graduation Requirements - Usually no special requirements other than coursework - Written and oral exams
- Dissertation
- Practicum
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree
- Knowledge of basic business principles gained through prerequisite courses like accounting and finance (some programs allow you to substitute work experience for prerequisite courses)
- Work experience is required for some programs
- Same as the requirements for the master's degree, except some programs stipulate that applicants must have a master's degree and meet a GPA requirement
Online Availability Yes Yes

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

MBA in Negotiation and Conflict Management

Most MBA degree programs with concentrations in negotiation and conflict management or conflict resolution will require you to take core business courses, as well as 3-5 courses in your concentration area. Completing this degree program may open up new career opportunities for you in your current field, since an MBA is preferred or required for high-level positions in some industries. However, these positions usually require work experience in addition to education.

Pros and Cons


  • Earning an MBA may improve your career prospects if you're an experienced professional in a business field
  • The median salary for all MBA holders is higher than that for bachelor's degree holders*
  • Taking courses in conflict resolution through an MBA program may help you meet the requirements to work as a mediator


  • Earning an MBA in Negotiation and Conflict Management can take 1-5 years
  • On average, it costs about $100,000 to earn an MBA**
  • If you're not planning to get a job specifically relating to conflict resolution, a concentration in your area of specialization (human resources, finance, labor relations, etc.) might be more helpful

Sources: *Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (2005) and **Forbes (2006).

Common Courses and Requirements

Most MBA programs in negotiation and conflict management require you to take core business courses in areas like accounting, finance, marketing, economics and statistics. In addition, you'll take courses like these in your area of specialization:

  • Organizational conflict
  • Mediation techniques
  • Conflict management
  • Facilitation and negotiation theory

Online Degree Options

There are several options available if you'd like to earn your MBA in Negotiation and Conflict Management online. The programs that are available are typically geared toward adults who are working full-time, and many can be completed entirely online. Course requirements are generally the same as those for on-campus programs.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

If you're hoping to leverage your MBA to get a new or better job, there are a few ways you can stand out:

  • Impress your professors by participating actively in classroom discussions - this will give them the confidence to refer you for jobs later on
  • Take advantage of site visits and corporate presentations to make contacts in your industry
  • Create opportunities for yourself by arranging informational interviews with employers of interest
  • If you don't have work experience in the field you want to enter, you should get some by finding an internship

If you're interested in becoming a mediator, be aware that the requirements vary widely by state and by the type of mediation you'd like to do. What will help you stand out for one type of job may be required for another. For some jobs, getting experience as a volunteer mediator or completing a relevant training course may give you a leg up.

PhD in Negotiation and Conflict Management

It's possible to earn a PhD in Conflict Analysis and Resolution or a PhD in Management with a concentration in Conflict Management; however, you might also consider enrolling in a management PhD program that simply offers negotiation and conflict management coursework and employs faculty with relevant research interests. If you choose a management PhD program, you'll take core business and research methods courses, as well as specialized classes in your concentration. To earn a conflict analysis PhD, you'll take courses focused exclusively on this topic and you'll also complete a practicum. Regardless of the type of program you choose, you'll have to write a dissertation in your field of interest. An accelerated program can be completed in as little as 3 years, but the typical time to PhD completion is about 5 years.

Pros and Cons


  • A PhD qualifies you to compete for tenure-track university positions
  • You may have the chance to conduct research in negotiation and conflict that influences practices in business and arbitration organizations
  • Your PhD program may offer you a living stipend while you're completing your studies


  • Most business and mediation jobs don't require a PhD
  • Business professors earn lower median salaries than many other business professionals, such as human resources managers, financial managers and top executives
  • Since you might have to go to school full-time and attend classes on campus, it could be difficult to continue in your current job while earning your PhD

Common Courses and Requirements

You can expect to take several research methods courses that will prepare you for your dissertation work. These will usually cover both qualitative and quantitative methods, as well as general research design procedures. If you're in a management PhD program, you'll also take core courses in areas like organizational behavior and change management. All students will take conflict resolution courses like these:

  • Strategic management
  • Conflict intervention
  • Philosophy and sociology of conflict

After you've completed your coursework, you'll usually have to pass a written comprehensive examination and an oral defense of your dissertation proposal. Once you've met these requirements, you'll be cleared to work on your dissertation.

Online Degree Options

Online study is available for those hoping to earn a PhD related to negotiation and conflict management. Such programs may offer mentoring and an accelerated plan of study that will allow you to finish your degree more quickly than you could in a brick-and-mortar program. Some online PhD programs require periods of temporary residence on campus.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

No matter what area your PhD is in, the strategies you'll use to stand out on the academic job market are very similar. It's helpful to attend conferences that are relevant to your field of study, and either present your work or serve on a panel. You can also take advantage of the opportunity to network with experts in your field, especially if they're employed by a university that you'd like to work for someday. Publishing is also an important consideration for potential employers. If you don't get the opportunity to publish your own work while you're in grad school, at least try to co-author a paper with a professor or work as a research assistant.

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