Master’s in Dispute Resolution Programs in 2020

Whether you have a desire to bring justice to vulnerable populations in your community or help large corporations to save time and money when it comes to resolving disputes, there are advanced degree programs that can gear you up to achieve your goals. Most commonly known as a Master’s in Dispute Resolution or Master’s in Negotiation and Conflict Management, this educational qualification teaches you how to analyze conflicts, understand their root cause, and gives you the expertise to negotiate and resolve conflicts through reasoned interventions.

Multiple studies, surveys, and reports have been conducted over the years to highlight the importance of dispute resolution in the fields of commerce, law, healthcare, education and beyond. One notable report was compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2017, Use and Benefits of Dispute Resolution by the Department of Justice. The report reveals that 75% of voluntary dispute resolution or alternative dispute resolution (ADR) procedures in 2017 were resolved, compared to 55% of court-ordered proceedings. This data is based on detailed case reports submitted by the lead trial counsel in all cases in which a private neutral conducted the ADR process in Department litigation across the country. The report also details the amount of money saved and months of litigation avoided from carrying out ADR proceedings in 2017, as well as years before that.

Sponsored Dispute Resolution Programs

PEP LLM Logo

Master mediation and become an effective negotiator with flexible, online programs from Pepperdine Caruso Law’s top-ranked Straus Institute.

The Online Master of Laws (LLM) in Dispute Resolution and Online Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR) will prepare you to solve the most pressing conflicts of today. JD required for the LLM. Bachelor’s required for the MDR.

Jump to the list of Master’s in Dispute Resolution Programs.

What is Dispute Resolution?

Conflicts of varying degrees can come up in just about every professional setting. Dispute resolution is one way to resolve those conflicts. Dispute resolution may involve a number of carefully mediated processes, often taking place outside of court. These processes call for a unique skill set that comprises of soft skills and skills acquired from educational training.

Effective communication and building productive working relationships is key to resolving conflicts. Addressing underlying tensions before they turn into full-blown conflicts is a daily part of the job for someone who leads or engages in dispute resolution proceedings.

The cost of workplace conflicts is high, resulting in lost productivity, lost high-value employees, and lost revenue. This is true today and dates back decades. In its 2008 Human Capital Report (PDF, 791KB), CPP Global found that U.S. employees spend 2.8 hours per week engaged in conflicts, resulting in over $300 billion lost in paid hours per year.

Dispute Resolution Degrees

Earning a degree in dispute resolution can help you to have far-reaching impact in your community and the larger society. A dispute resolution degree or conflict studies and resolution degree may come in the form of a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science. While a bachelor’s degree in dispute resolution may lay the groundwork for a master’s in dispute resolution, most schools will consider prospective students with an undergraduate degree in a related field or even another discipline.

When you choose to pursue a master’s in dispute resolution, you can expect to earn an interdisciplinary degree that will provide the basis in theory around conflict problem-solving in diverse settings, including organizations, communities, and political systems.

Curriculum and Courses Outcomes

Typical dispute resolution undergraduate courses cover topics areas such as conflict resolution values and ethics, conflict resolution psychology, and intercultural conflict resolution. Master’s programs in dispute resolution on the other hand, tend to emphasize leadership skills, and higher-level strategies and processes to effect change in organizations and institutions. Typical dispute resolution graduate courses might include the following and more:

  • Research methods in conflict resolution
  • Foundations in conflict resolution
  • Psychology of Peace and Conflict
  • Thesis writing

Program Length

A bachelor’s degree program in dispute resolution takes four years to complete with full-time study as is the case with most bachelor-level programs. A master’s degree program in dispute resolution generally takes two years to complete full time – requiring around 30-48 credits. Some schools also offer a conflict resolution graduate certificate for working professionals, which takes a year to complete. The credits acquired from the graduate certificate program can then be used toward a master’s degree, if a student wants to continue his or her studies. Other schools offer an accelerated master’s program, in which students earn up to 12 graduate credits in their final undergraduate year.

Types of Masters in Dispute Resolution

There are three common master’s types available to those hoping to kickstart a career in dispute resolution – a Master of Law (LL.M.), designed for people with legal specializations; a Master’s in Dispute Resolution, for anyone pursuing a career as a mediator or negotiator; and a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) for professionals looking for additional skills in resolving conflicts. Students pursuing any one of these degrees may find that they’ll take similar courses, but there are some differences among the three degree offerings.

LL.M. in Dispute Resolution

Designed with lawyers in mind, the Master of Law (LL.M.) in Dispute Resolution can help you to develop skills in negotiation, mediation, arbitration and conflict resolution. A Master of Law in Dispute Resolution typically requires an existing law degree. But some schools will consider applicants without a law degree but substantial experience in alternative dispute resolution. Programs can be completed on campus or online and typically take 2 years to complete.

Master of Dispute Resolution

A Master’s in Dispute Resolution is a degree that can be used to pursue a negotiator, facilitator, or mediator role in a number of fields including policy, health care, law, human resources, and education. This program typically takes two years, with on-campus, online, and hybrid options available. A practicum or capstone project is often required.

MLS in Dispute Resolution Concentration

The Master of Legal Studies (MLS) in Dispute Resolution equips professionals in a variety of fields with knowledge of legal principles and analytical skills to solve problems and resolve conflicts. There are flexible options – both on campus and online MLS in dispute resolution programs – and certain programs even offer special focuses such as divorce and family mediation.

Online Masters in Dispute Resolution

From law schools to state universities, there are a number of online master’s in dispute resolution programs available to you. Online degrees can be an attractive option for working professionals looking to advance their skills in negotiation, mediation, and facilitation across a broad spectrum of industries, while sticking to their full-time work schedule.

These online programs will often offer the same courses as programs on campus and may include a capstone project or practicum involving simulated dispute scenarios. The online degree is typically completed in two years but that might not be the case for you if you are enrolled in a program on a part-time basis.

Sponsored Dispute Resolution Programs

PEP LLM Logo

Master mediation and become an effective negotiator with flexible, online programs from Pepperdine Caruso Law’s top-ranked Straus Institute.

The Online Master of Laws (LLM) in Dispute Resolution and Online Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR) will prepare you to solve the most pressing conflicts of today. JD required for the LLM. Bachelor’s required for the MDR.

Accreditation for Dispute Resolution Degrees

Accredited master’s degrees or certificates from accredited institutions is arguable one way to boost your marketability among employers, industry professionals, and academic institutions should you decide to pursue a doctoral degree. Look for online degree programs in dispute resolution that have been accredited by the Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), the Higher Learning Commission, or their regional accreditor. When seeking out a Master of Law or Master of Legal Studies (MLS) dispute resolution program, look for programs offered by a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). While the ABA does not provide accreditation for any programs or degrees offered by a law school beyond the J.D., a law school must seek the approval of the ABA to offer the additional degrees such as an MLS, and that accreditation lets you know that it is a school and program in good standing with the accrediting body.

How to Choose a Masters in Dispute Resolution Program

While accreditation plays a major role in selecting a program, there are other factors to consider. Know what your career goals are, know what your desired program is offering, and ask yourself how the two align – this is one tactic to help you make your choice.

If you are a working professional looking to sharpen your skills in mediation and conflict resolution, you may be best served by a graduate certificate in dispute resolution. You’ll learn skills useful in a range of business or professional settings such as negotiation, team-building, and problem-solving.

As a lawyer or legal professional, you’ll develop these same skills, presented in a legal framework, through a Master of Law in Dispute Resolution program. Non-lawyers can approach conflict resolution from a legal perspective through a Master of Legal Studies Dispute Resolution program. If you have your eyes set on a leadership role in mediation and negotiation in healthcare, global and social policy, a nonprofit, education or government agency, any one of these degrees could be a fit for you.

Master’s in Dispute Resolution Programs

We have compiled a list of different types of master’s degrees in dispute resolution programs that are offered by ABA-approved law schools.

American University – Washington College of Law

  • University Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Program Name: LL.M. in International Arbitration and Business Law
  • Format: Online, On Campus, or Hybrid
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time
  • Length of Program: As little as one year
  • About the Program: American University’s LL.M. in International Arbitration and Business Law program covers the fundamentals of alternative dispute resolution, international arbitration, business law, and more. Students can focus their studies on various issues in dispute resolution. 

Learn more about the LL.M. in International Arbitration and Business Law at American University.

Arizona State University – Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

  • University Location: Phoenix, AZ
  • Program Name: Master of Legal Studies (MLS) in Conflict Resolution
  • Format: Online or On Campus
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time
  • Length of Program: One Year
  • About the Program: The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law offers a Master of Legal Studies in many focus areas, including conflict resolution. The program is available to applicants who have completed a bachelor’s degree at an accredited institution. A GRE or LSAT score is not required. Students must complete 30 credit hours.  

Learn more about the MLS in Conflict Resolution at Arizona University.

Faulkner University – Thomas Goode Jones School of Law

  • University Location: Montgomery, AL
  • Program Name: Joint J.D./LL.M. in Dispute Resolution.
  • Format: On Campus or Hybrid
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Flexible (Part Time)
  • Length of Program: Three years with J.D.; one year separately
  • About the Program: Faulkner University’s program is designed to enable J.D. students to earn an LL.M. within the traditional three years of law school. Students apply up to 12 credits toward both the J.D. and LL.M. They must complete 100 credits total. 

Learn more about the J.D./LL.M. in Dispute Resolution program at Faulkner University.

Fordham University School of Law

  • University Location: The Bronx in New York
  • Program Name: LL.M. in International Dispute Resolution
  • Format: On Campus
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time
  • Length of Program: Within 24 Months
  • About the Program: Fordham University’s program is for J.D. students or graduates. Students must complete 24 to30 credit hours, including 12 credits of Specialization Distribution Courses approved for the International Dispute Resolution program. Students who wish to complete a second LL.M. specialization can stay a third semester.  

Learn more about the LL.M. in International Dispute Resolution program at Fordham University.

George Washington University Law School

  • University Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Program Name: LL.M. in Litigation and Dispute Resolution.
  • Format: On Campus
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time
  • Length of Program: One year
  • About the Program: Georgia Washington University’s LL.M. program is available to law school graduates. Students in the Litigation and Dispute Resolution LL.M. program must complete 24 credits and maintain a GPA of at least 2.67. 

Learn more about the LL.M. in Litigation and Dispute Resolution program at George Washington University

Ohio State University – Moritz College of Law

  • University Location: Columbus, OH
  • Program Name: LL.M. in Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Format: On Campus
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time
  • Length of Program: One Year
  • About the Program: This LL.M. program is geared toward foreign lawyers who will take classes and interact with American J.D. and LL.M. students. Students also have the option to extend from two semesters to three and complete 30 credit hours.   

Learn more about the LL.M. in Alternative Dispute Resolution at Ohio State University.

Pepperdine University – Sponsored Program

Gain mediation skills needed in today’s workplace and legal landscape with an online degree in dispute resolution from Pepperdine Caruso School of Law.

  • University Location: Malibu, CA
  • Program Name: Online LL.M. in Dispute Resolution
  • Format: Online
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time
  • Length of Program: Complete in as few as 12 months
  • About the Program: Delivered by Pepperdine Caruso School of Law’s top-ranked Straus Institute1, the online LL.M. program prepares lawyers throughout the world to become successful mediators between people, organizations, and even nations in as few as 12 months. Students will translate theory into real-world practice through simulations, mock trials, and on-campus residencies. J.D. required.  

  • Program Name: Master of Dispute Resolution
  • Format: Online
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time
  • Length of Program: Complete in as few as 16 months
  • About the Program: Delivered by Pepperdine Caruso Law’s top-ranked Straus Institute,1 the online Master of Dispute Resolution program gives professionals across the U.S. access to a top-tier education in dispute resolution without having to relocate or pause their career. The program features live online classes, self-paced course work, and in-person residencies.

  • Program Name: Master of Legal Studies – Dispute Resolution Concentration
  • Format: Online
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time
  • Length of Program: Complete in as few as 16 months
  • About the Program: The online Master of Legal Studies program from Pepperdine Caruso School of Law offers a concentration in dispute resolution for students interested in pursuing careers in arbitration or mediation. The concentration incorporates curriculum from Pepperdine Caruso Law’s Straus Institute, which is top-ranked for dispute resolution by U.S. News & World Report.1 

1U.S. News & World Report, Best Dispute Resolution Programs 

Regent University – School of Law

  • Location: Virginia Beach, VA
  • Program Name: Master of Arts in Law in Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Format: Online, Hybrid
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time
  • Length of Program: One to two years
  • About the Program: This Alternative Dispute Resolution program is for individuals who don’t wish to pursue a J.D. but want to learn more about the law. There is no GRE or LSAT requirement. Students must complete 30 credit hours. 

Learn more about the M.A. in Law in Alternative Dispute Resolution at Regent University.

University of Missouri – School of Law

  • Location: Columbia, MO
  • Program Name: LL.M. in Dispute Resolution
  • Format: Online or On Campus
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time
  • Length of Program: One to two years
  • About the Program: This LL.M. program is geared toward lawyers, though non-lawyers with ADR experience are considered for admission. Students must complete 24 credit hours, and the typical student takes two online courses per semester and graduates in two years. 

Learn more about the LL.M. in Dispute Resolution at the University of Missouri.

University of Oregon – School of Law

  • Location: Eugene, OR
  • Program Name: Master’s in Conflict and Dispute Resolution
  • Format: On Campus
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time, Part Time or Accelerated
  • Length of Program: About two years
  • About the Program: Students can earn a master’s degree in conflict and dispute resolution from the University of Oregon’s School of Law. This degree consists of 31.5 course credits with options for electives and additional concentrations.. 

Learn more about the Master’s in Conflict and Dispute Resolution at University of Oregon


  • Program Name: LL.M. in Conflict and Dispute Resolution
  • Format: On Campus
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time
  • Length of Program: One year
  • About the Program: The LL.M. in conflict and dispute resolution at the University of Oregon is a 24 credit, one-year degree that focuses on negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and alternative approaches to managing disputes. Applicants must have earned a J.D. from a U.S. law school or hold an equivalent degree from a non-U.S. program of legal education.

Learn more about the LL.M. in Conflict and Dispute Resolution at University of Oregon

University of Southern California – Gould School of Law

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Program Name: Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR) 
  • Format: On Campus
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time
  • Length of Program: As little as one year
  • About the Program: The MDR program at the University of Southern California does not require a law degree or LSAT to apply. Consisting of 24 units, the MDR begins enrollment in fall or spring semesters and focuses on skills in negotiation, mediation and arbitration.  

Learn more about the Master of Dispute Resolution (MDR) at the University of Southern California


  • Program Name: LL.M. in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
  • Format: On Campus
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time
  • Length of Program: As little as one year
  • About the Program: Open to those with a law degree, J.D. or equivalent, the 24-unit LL.M in alternative dispute resolution at the University of Southern California is designed for ADR professionals who are seeking to design or manage the ADR process more efficiently.

Learn more about the LL.M. in Alternative Dispute Resolution at the University of Southern California.

Washington University School of Law – Sponsored Program

  • Location: St. Louis, MO
  • Program Name: Conflict Resolution Certificate
  • Format: Online
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time
  • Length of Program: One to three years
  • About the Program: Washington University School of Law’s Conflict Resolution Certificate teaches students how to improve their management and problem-solving skills by specializing in key areas of conflict resolution, including negotiation, mediation and arbitration. The certificate is available to students who are enrolled in the Master of Legal Studies (MLS), Master of Laws (LL.M.) in U.S. Law or Dual LL.M. in U.S. Law and Transnational Legal Practice online programs. The Conflict Resolution Certificate helps students develop a deeper understanding of the legal processes involved when negotiating business transactions, find solutions to difficult situations and implement workplace policies to prevent conflict before it starts. GRE/LSAT scores are not required to apply.
    • The MLS program is designed for non-lawyers who would benefit from legal training. It can be completed in as little as one year. 
    • The LL.M. in U.S. Law program is designed for international lawyers who want to develop expertise in the U.S. legal system. It can be completed in as little as one year. 
    • The Dual LL.M. in U.S. Law and Transnational Legal Practice program is for non-U.S.-trained lawyers who want to further their knowledge of legal practice in the U.S. and Latin America. It can be completed in two to three years. 

Willamette University – College of Law

  • Location: Salem, OR
  • Program Name: LL.M. in Dispute Resolution
  • Format: On Campus
  • Enrollment Options: N/A
  • Length of Program: N/A
  • About the Program: The LL.M Dispute Resolution program consists of 24 credits with courses on arbitration and conflict theory. Students earn hands-on experience in Small Claims Court and other externships.   

Learn more about the LL.M. in Dispute Resolution program at Willamette University.

Yeshiva University – Cardozo School of Law

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Program Name: LL.M. in Dispute Resolution and Advocacy.
  • Format: On Campus
  • Enrollment Options: Full Time or Part Time
  • Length of Program: N/A
  • About the Program: The Cardozo School of Law Dispute Resolution and Advocacy LL.M. requires completion of 24 credits, including 14 credits in coursework related to dispute resolution and advocacy. Students must complete work experience, such as a clinics program or externship, related to conflict resolution, as well as a scholarly paper. 

Learn more about the LL.M. in Dispute Resolution and Advocacy program at Yeshiva University.

Frequently Asked Questions about Dispute Resolution

Below is a list of frequently asked questions related to degrees in dispute resolution.

Why do I need a masters in dispute resolution?

A masters in dispute resolution can provide a grounding in the theory and practice of conflict resolution, as well as exposure to practice trends and current practitioners who can provide insights into specialized career paths within the field.

Who should consider a masters in dispute resolution degree?

A master’s in dispute resolution can be used for career advancement, career specialization, or career transition. It can be used to sharpen mediation skills for use in a professional setting, including legal, health, education, or political arenas, and to provide exposure to higher level thinking and leadership positions in global companies and nonprofit organizations. If any of these points resonate with you, a master’s in dispute resolution might be for you.

What background do I need to enroll in a master’s in dispute resolution program?

A master’s in dispute resolution program typically requires an undergraduate degree from an accredited school, with a minimum 2.5-3.0 cumulative GPA, as well as official transcripts, a current resume, two or more letters of reference, and a personal statement. Be sure to check with your preferred university for more specific requirements.

Is dispute resolution a good career option?

Prospects for people in dispute resolution careers – including arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators – are fairly strong. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, these conflict resolution careers are predicted to grow 8%, between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the national average for all occupations. Dispute resolution salaries and conflict resolution salaries are also above national averages. The median income for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators was $62,270 in 2018, with the highest 10% earning more than $124,480.

Information on this page was last retrieved in September 2020.