Conflict Resolution Specialists


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Conflict resolution specialists come from a wide range of backgrounds, but many have experience in law and business, so you should take a college preparatory curriculum that includes classes in business, mathematics, science, psychology, government, social studies, and computer science.

People in this career must be excellent communicators, so it is important to take English, speech, and writing courses. Additionally, participating in the debate club will introduce you to high-pressure situations in which two sides present arguments to support their opinions.

Learning a foreign language—such as Spanish—will allow you to work on cases that involve claimants who do not speak English fluently or at all. Your fluency in a foreign language will also allow you to work in other countries.

Postsecondary Education

Educational requirements vary by employer. Many companies, government agencies, and other organizations require only a bachelor’s degree, while some employers require arbitrators to have a law degree, a master’s in business administration, or another type of advanced degree. Your best educational strategy is to major in a field at the baccalaureate level that you are interested in (finance, business, human resources, engineering, etc.) and also take arbitration, mediation, and other conflict resolution courses. Some CRSs also earn master’s degrees in conflict resolution, dispute resolution, alternative dispute resolution, international arbitration, or a related field. Typical courses in a graduate conflict resolution program include:

  • Advanced Applied Skills Practicum
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Conflict Management Research Methods
  • Conflict Simulation
  • Facilitation
  • Interpersonal Communication in Conflict and Mediation
  • Negotiation Tactics
  • Theories of Conflict and Mediation

Conflict resolution specialists also receive training through independent conflict resolution programs, colleges and universities, national and local conflict resolution membership associations, and government-authorized not-for-profit organizations (such as FINRA).


Many colleges and universities— including American University, Boston University, Emory University, Indiana University, University of Maryland, University of Texas at Austin, and Yale University—offer undergraduate and graduate certificates in conflict resolution, dispute resolution, arbitration, mediation, and related fields. Programs are available in online, in-person, and hybrid formats and typically last six months or one year. Contact schools in your area to learn about available programs.

Other Education or Training

Colleges and universities, online learning platforms, professional associations (such as the American Arbitration Association, Association for Conflict Resolution, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and the National Association for Community Mediation), and for-profit education providers provide in-person and online courses that help conflict resolution specialists develop their skills, build their careers, and stay up-to-date on new dispute resolution strategies and industry developments. The Association for Conflict Resolution offers a variety of educational sessions at its annual conference. Recent sessions included Launching Your Career in the Field: Looking at Trends in Conflict Resolution Work; Marketing Dispute Resolution to Build Your Practice-Tools and Tactics; Overcoming Challenges in Virtual Mediations; and Developing and Cultivating Trust.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The National Association of Certified Mediators offers voluntary certification to new or experienced mediators who meet experience requirements and pass an examination. Visit https://www.mediatorcertification.org for more information.

Some states require CRSs to complete 20 to 40 hours of training in order to become certified to work on certain types of cases.

Conflict resolution professionals may be required to obtain certification or licensing in their original profession. For example, every state requires that lawyers be admitted to the bar of that state before they can practice. An arbitrator who is also a practicing lawyer must also be admitted to the bar of his or her state.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Required experience levels vary by one’s conflict resolution specialty. Some employers may require mediators to have earned a college degree and completed an internship, co-op, or part-time job at an organization that provides dispute resolution services. On the other hand, arbitrators are typically business executives, attorneys, and retired judges with expertise in a particular field—such as finance, construction, shipping, or insurance. As a result, a minimum of three years of experience in one’s chosen field is needed to become an arbitrator, but many employers and arbitration organizations (such as the American Arbitration Association) require applicants for arbitrator positions or rosters to have at least 10 years of experience.

Successful conflict resolution specialists need strong communication and interpersonal skills. They must be good listeners in order to identify the key points that are made by parties involved in the dispute and be able to effectively question the parties to obtain information that they did not provide. This requires patience and strong analytical and critical-thinking skills. They also need strong oral and written communication skills to explain their ruling (if they work as arbitrators) or, if they work as mediators and in other conflict resolution positions, to encourage the parties in the dispute to find common ground and come to an agreement. Conflict resolution specialists must have strong leadership skills and be able to project authority during hearings and mediation sessions because these situations can sometimes become contentious. Regardless of their personal opinions about the behavior or actions of the parties in the dispute, they must strive to be fair, neutral, empathetic, and non-judgmental in order to build trust with the participants. Other important traits include decisiveness, strong time-management and organizational skills, ethics, and respect for the confidentiality of each party in the dispute.