7 Careers in Dispute Resolution

If you’re interested in helping parties negotiate and manage conflict, you might want to pursue a master’s in dispute resolution or a related legal studies degree. Those who study this field learn about problem solving, listening, relationship building and communication. Dispute resolution professionals work with diverse clients in a variety of settings, including corporate offices, nursing homes and schools.

The demand for dispute resolution professionals such as arbitrators, mediators and conciliators is high. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected employment of arbitrators, mediators and conciliators will grow a faster-than-average 8% from 2019 to 2029.

Getting a master’s degree in dispute resolution can help you move into the field if you currently work in a different industry.

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Here are 7 dispute resolution careers you might consider if you have a master’s or higher degree.

1. Arbitrator

Arbitrators hear and decide disputes based on evidence both parties present at a hearing. They often have legal backgrounds but prefer to work in casual spaces, like boardrooms. Like attorneys, arbitrators prepare statements and make arguments for their clients. In some cases, arbitrators can work on a panel with other dispute resolution professionals.

According to the BLS report on arbitrators, mediators and conciliators, there were over 7,000 arbitrator, mediator and conciliator jobs in the U.S. in 2019. However, more than 600 positions are expected to be added in these fields by 2029. Median pay for arbitrators, mediators and conciliators was $63,930 per year in 2019, the BLS reported.

2. Mediator

Mediators use interpersonal and negotiating skills to help conflicting parties decide on an agreement. If mediation does not lead to a deal, the parties may go to court.

Unlike arbitrators, mediators cannot make binding decisions. Their job is to facilitate discussion between the opposing parties by guiding them to make their own decision.

Pay for mediators can vary by industry. For example:

3. Conciliator

Conciliators are similar to mediators. But, while mediators meet in the middle with both parties, conciliators meet with conflicting parties separately, then recommend solutions. Before each party meets with the conciliator, they will usually decide if they will be bound by their recommendations.

4. Contract Negotiation Manager

A contract negotiation manager communicates, bargains and decides on concessions to move toward a written agreement.

Before any arrangement is put in place, contract negotiation managers can research bids and contract drafts to identify risk and areas that will benefit their client. And, they may also review and revise existing contracts.

According to the BLS, there were 526,200 purchasing managers, buyers and agents in the U.S in 2019. Companies that deal with large-scale contracts can use these dispute professionals to deal solely with the contract side of purchasing.

5. Ombudsmen

When complaints are brought against a company or organization, the ombudsman impartially investigates the dispute and recommends how to resolve the conflict. Ombudsmen work in various settings, including government agencies, corporations and nonprofits.

6. Appraisers, Examiners, Claims Adjusters and Investigators

When an insurance claim is filed, it’s up to appraisers, examiners, claims adjusters and investigators to evaluate them. People in this field decide whether an insurance company must pay a claim and, if so, for how much. They examine insurance terms to determine whether a policy covers the loss claimed and decide on the appropriate amount the company should pay.

Appraisers, examiners, claims adjusters and investigators can also negotiate settlements. They also investigate questionable claims to help protect companies from fraud.

According to the BLS report on claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators:

  • The 2019 median pay was $66,540 per year, with the highest paid 10% earning more than $100,400.
  • There were 348,800 claims adjuster, appraiser, examiner and investigator jobs in 2019.

7. Policy Analyst

Policy analysts examine public policies, laws and regulations and determine if they should be adjusted. They also help introduce and implement new public policies based on emerging issues and trends. Because policies are often contested and may cause conflicts between opposing parties, a dispute resolution background is beneficial for policy analysts.

Policy analysts typically work for government or non-government organizations that lobby for policy adjustments. They may also work for businesses to drive policies to benefit the companies.

Grow a Career in Dispute Resolution

The career paths you can take in dispute management with a master’s or higher degree are diverse. Dispute resolution careers are found in every type of organization and industry, from government and the corporate world, to education and nonprofits.

If you enjoy critical thinking, reasoning, decision-making, persuasion, communication and relationships, you might be interested in a career in dispute resolution. A master of legal studies (MLS) program with dispute resolution concentration or a master’s in dispute resolution can help you grow your career.

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Last updated: February 2021