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Also known as Alternative Dispute Resolution, conflict resolution and mediation is a powerful tool that allows individuals or businesses to settle disputes outside of the courtroom, thus saving a great deal in money, time, and effort put forth to resolve issues upon which the parties can't see eye-to-eye. Also known as mediators, arbitrators, or conciliators, the conflict resolution and mediation specialists serve as neutral parties in disputes, offer suggestions to resolve problems, and ultimately help both parties avoid potentially messy litigation.

A Guide to the Master's Degree in Conflict Resolution and Mediation

When you earn your master's degree in social science in conflict resolution and mediation, you are gaining life skills that have the potential to help others through many serious situations. Whether it is a husband and wife trying to save their marriage, or two large businesses trying to handle a merger as effectively as possible, conflict resolution is a powerful tool.

Negotiation, or the fine art of compromise, is the foundation of all mediation. You will learn about conflict analysis, or how to understand and analyze conflicts with an objective eye. Studies in mediation theory, confidentiality, informed consent, impartiality, and other ethical issues will be part of the degree program. Sensitivity to cultural differences is also a very important part of serving as a mediator.

Degrees in Conflict Resolution and Mediation

Several degrees in conflict resolution and mediation are available, from the certificate level to the PhD. Many students in law school opt for some form of conflict resolution and mediation training, and some choose to earn their certificate through the American Arbitration Association or other professional organizations.

Conflict Resolution and Mediation: Specializations

Your degree in conflict resolution and mediation can offer many career opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in the field of conflict resolution and mediation is expected to grow by 11 percent through 2016, about the equal of the national average for all occupations. You might find yourself working in one of the following areas:

  • Legal services
  • Medical and surgical hospitals
  • Large corporations
  • School systems
  • Universities
  • State government
  • Federal government

Conflict Resolution and Mediation: Skills

Earning a degree in conflict resolution and mediation teaches you the most common methods of conflict resolution, all of which can be applied to any situation in which two parties don't agree. Some of the skills you learn include:

  • Negotiation
  • Arbitration
  • Mediation
  • Mediation-Arbitration
  • Negotiated Rulemaking
  • Early Neutral Evaluation
  • Peer Mediation
  • Community Conferencing

How to Apply for the Master's Degree in Conflict Resolution and Mediation

Perhaps you already know you want to work as a mediator or arbitrator, but you don't know how to get there. Earning your master's in conflict resolution and mediation opens the door to numerous career paths in a variety of industries, but it all begins with finding the right school.

Step One: Find the Right Conflict Resolution and Mediation Program

With so many conflict resolution and mediation degree programs out there, narrowing down potential choices can be a daunting prospect. Start by working through your options methodically, with an eye toward choosing a short list of only the best. These steps can get you on the road to choosing the best master's degree program for you.

Choose Accredited Master's Degree Programs

Accreditation is one of the most important factors in choosing a master's degree program. To earn accreditation, a degree program must meet stringent criteria set forth by an independent accrediting body. The quality of the curriculum, the strength of the faculty expertise, and many other factors go into determining the value of the degree. Whether you opt for a traditional degree or earn a master's degree online, the same rules apply.

Many employers recognize only accredited degrees, and colleges typically do not accept transfer credits from a school that has not earned accreditation. Financial aid is also dependent upon whether you attend an accredited school. There are many reasons to make certain the degree program you choose is accredited!

Resources

  • WorldWideLearn.com. In addition to information on why accreditation is so important, WorldWideLearn offers details on accredited degree programs that might interest you.
  • U.S. Department of Education. The U.S. Department of Education posts a current list of accredited colleges and universities on its Web site. If you are unsure whether a degree program is accredited, visit the site to find out.

Choose Your Format: Online, Campus, or Both

Your master's degree in conflict resolution and mediation is available either online or in an on-campus format. Choosing whether to pursue an online master's degree or classroom instruction depends on what your day-to-day life is like, and what you want to get out of your educational experience.

  • Online Learning. If you opt to earn a master's degree online, you can enjoy the flexible schedules that make online education so popular among busy adults. Online learning offers the opportunity to study almost anywhere, to work at your own pace and on your own time, and to earn your degree while continuing in your current job.
  • Campus Setting. Earning your master's in conflict resolution and mediation through a traditional campus setting has the advantage of one-on-one time with teachers and peers. Learning on-campus also allows for more hands-on teaching, which can benefit those who learn best in the traditional classroom.
  • Hybrid Education. A combination of both online learning and campus time, hybrid learning works well for those who need a flexible schedule, but still prefer to have "face time" with their teachers and peers. Most classes are taken online, but occasional classes--such as a test or particular lecture--are held in the classroom setting.

Resources

  • WorldWideLearn.com. Learn more about online degree programs and campus options--including the pros and cons--at WorldWideLearn.com.
  • School Web sites. Browse school Web sites to learn more about what they offer for the conflict resolution and mediation degree. Occasionally, an online education program offers hands-on classes at a satellite school near you, so check locations to help you determine your options.

Study the Academic Programs

  • Faculty expertise. Look at the faculty who teach at the conflict resolution and mediation program. How many names do you recognize? What is their expertise?
  • Research opportunities. What kind of research opportunities and facilities will there be for you during your time in the master's degree program? If you choose to earn a master's degree online, look into the virtual libraries and other research options available to you.
  • Specialization. If you choose to specialize in a certain area of conflict resolution and mediation, a degree program that offers courses in your specific interest matters a great deal.
  • Curriculum requirements. What will be required of you? What kind of courses are required, which ones are optional, and are there additional courses available if you choose to take them?

Resources

  • WorldWideLearn.com. To learn more about degree programs that interest you, take advantage of the request for information form on WorldWideLearn.com. With just a few clicks, you can have information on each school delivered right to you.
  • School Web sites. A wealth of information can be found on college Web sites. Work your way through the sites, taking notes as you go.
  • Academic journals. Turn to academic journals to learn more about particular colleges and the programs they offer. Pay special attention to the names in the publications. Are any of them on the faculty at the schools you are considering?

Evaluate the Quality of the Degree Program

The quality of an online degree program is determined by many factors. Some programs might be lacking in one area but robust in others. Start with the following criteria and work your way through each degree program, comparing them as you go.

  • History. Look into how long the degree program has been active, and how many classes have graduated thus far. Consider whether you want a more established program, or if you are willing to take the risk on a newer curriculum. Some well-established brick-and-mortar schools offer newer online programs for those who opt to earn a master's degree online.
  • Reputation. Listen to your colleagues. Pay attention to what your peers have to say. If you know someone who has attended a college on your short list, ask about their experience. The old saying is true: Reputation matters.
  • Graduation and placement rate. How many students graduate from the program? What is the placement rate? What does the school do to help ensure students find good jobs?
  • Career support. Does the college follow students after graduation and offer career support to those who need it? How far-reaching is that support?

Resources

  • U.S. News and World Report. The annual rankings of the best schools take into account many factors. The higher the ranking, the better the program. The publication offers an annual list of the best programs in dispute resolution and other areas of law that might be of interest.
  • Statistics. Ask the admissions office for the most current statistics on graduation rate, job placement, student demographics, and more.
  • One-on-one with faculty. If you opt for a traditional campus experience, make a point of visiting the campus and meeting with the instructors who teach conflict resolution and mediation courses. If you opt to earn a master's degree online, consider email as a way to touch base with faculty and peers.

Step Two: Apply to Master's Degree Programs in Conflict Resolution and Mediation

Now that you have narrowed down your short list, it's time to consider what is be required of you in order to enter the master's degree program.

Prerequisites

  • Degree. Most master's degree programs require a bachelor's degree in a related field, but some will take an associate's degree and equivalent work experience.
  • Testing. Entrance into many master's degree programs requires a passing score on the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE. The particular school you choose might require other tests, such as the TOEIC, or Test of English for International Communication, for non-native English speakers.

Application Must-Haves

  • Academic transcripts. The proof of how well you have done in undergraduate school goes a long way toward ensuring your place in the master's degree program.
  • Letters of recommendation. Some master's degree programs require letters of recommendation from colleagues, former teachers, or employers. Be sure to ask for these early to give the writer enough time to complete a polished, glowing letter for your application packet.
  • Personal statements. Many schools want to know why you have chosen conflict resolution and mediation, and what you intend to do with your education when you're finished with your degree program.
  • Work experience. Pertinent work experience always looks good on a college application, and many degree programs look favorably upon it.

Financial Aid Matters

  • Federal financial aid. If you attend an accredited master's degree program in conflict resolution and mediation, you might be eligible for federal financial aid in the form of grants, loans, and the like.
  • Private scholarships. Scholarships are available from private organizations, places of employment, civic groups, and other places interested in the pursuit of higher education. To increase your chances of getting one, search for scholarships that specifically apply to the social sciences.
  • Specialized grants. Look into grants specifically earmarked for conflict resolution and mediation. These might be available from law firms, judicial organizations, and other places that have a vested interest in law and judicial process.

Step Three: Prepare for the Conflict Resolution and Mediation Master's Program

Now that you have narrowed down the list of degree program options and sent out those applications, prepare yourself for the road ahead!

  • Join professional organizations. Membership in a professional organization such as the Association for Conflict Resolution or International Academy of Mediators can give you a firm foundation from which to build your network of colleagues and contacts.
  • Attend conferences. Conferences are one of the best ways to get to know the movers and shakers in your field while you learn about the current trends in conflict resolution and mediation. Conferences are also a great way to network with those you might not see often.
  • Subscribe to journals. The Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution Journal, and the International Journal of Conflict Management are good examples of journals dedicated to the cause of conflict resolution and mediation. Subscribe to journals that interest you, and stay up-to-date on the current news, advances, and research that can have an effect on the future of your job.

Master's Degree in Conflict Resolution and Mediation: The Road Ahead

Conflict resolution and mediation gives you an expert platform from which to help people who would otherwise have to turn to the courts for assistance. With your help, relationships--whether personal or business--can stay healthier, and when problems do arise, they can be worked through with a rational eye to what is the best thing for all parties. Earning your master's degree in conflict resolution and mediation proves you are a dedicated expert in your field, and that bodes well for those who will turn to you for help.

Sources

  • All Psychology Careers: Master's Degree in Mediation and Conflict Resolution
  • Association for Conflict Resolution
  • Best Law Schools Specialty Rankings: Dispute Resolution, U.S. News and World Report
  • Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, U.S. Department of Education
  • Educational Testing Service
  • Global Director of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution Programs
  • How to Get a PhD or PsyD in Conflict Resolution, WorldWideLearn.com
  • International Academy of Mediators
  • Judges, Magistrates, and Other Judicial Workers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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