Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Career, Salary and Education Information

What Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators Do[About this section] [To Top]

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators facilitate negotiation and dialogue between disputing parties to help resolve conflicts outside of the court system.

Duties of Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators typically do the following:

  • Facilitate communication between disputants to guide parties toward mutual agreement
  • Clarify issues, concerns, needs, and interests of all parties involved
  • Conduct initial meetings with disputants to outline the arbitration process
  • Settle procedural matters such as fees, or determine details such as witness numbers and time requirements
  • Set up appointments for parties to meet for mediation or arbitration
  • Interview claimants, agents, or witnesses to obtain information about disputed issues
  • Prepare settlement agreements for disputants to sign
  • Apply relevant laws, regulations, policies, or precedents to reach conclusions
  • Evaluate information from documents such as claim applications, birth or death certificates, and physician or employer records

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators help opposing parties settle disputes outside of court. They hold private, confidential hearings, which are less formal than a court trial.

Arbitrators are usually attorneys, business professionals, or retired judges with expertise in a particular field. As impartial third parties, they hear and decide disputes between opposing parties. Arbitrators may work alone or in a panel with other arbitrators. In some cases, arbitrators may decide procedural issues, such as what evidence may be submitted and when hearings will be held.

Arbitration may be required by law for some claims and disputes. When it is not required, the parties in dispute sometimes voluntarily agree to arbitration rather than proceed with litigation or a trial. In some cases, parties may appeal the arbitrator's decision.

Mediators are neutral parties who help people resolve their disputes. However, unlike arbitrators, they do not render binding decisions. Rather, mediators help facilitate discussion and guide the parties toward a mutually acceptable agreement. If the opposing sides cannot reach a settlement with the mediator's help, they are free to pursue other options.

Conciliators are similar to mediators. Although their role is to help guide opposing sides to a settlement, they typically meet with the parties separately. The opposing sides must decide in advance if they will be bound by the conciliator's recommendations.

Work Environment for Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators[About this section] [To Top]

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators hold about 7,800 jobs. The largest employers of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are as follows:

Legal services 16%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 16
State government, excluding education and hospitals 16
Self-employed workers 16
Healthcare and social assistance 7

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators usually work in private offices or meeting rooms. They may travel to a neutral site chosen for negotiations.

The work may be stressful because arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators sometimes work with difficult or confrontational individuals or with highly charged and emotional situations, such as injury settlements or family disputes.

How to Become a Arbitrator, Mediator, and Conciliator[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators near you!

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators learn their skills through a combination of education, training, and work experience.

Education for Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Education is one part of becoming an arbitrator, mediator, or conciliator.

Few candidates receive a degree specific to the field of arbitration, mediation, or conflict resolution. Rather, many positions require an educational degree appropriate to the applicant's field of expertise, and a bachelor's degree is often sufficient. Many other positions, however, require applicants to have a law degree, a master's in business administration, or some other advanced degree.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation for Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are usually lawyers, retired judges, or business professionals with expertise in a particular field, such as construction, finance, or insurance. They need to have knowledge of that industry and be able to relate well to people from different cultures and backgrounds.

Arbitrator, Mediator, and Conciliator Training

Mediators typically work under the supervision of an experienced mediator for a certain number of cases before working independently.

Training for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is available through independent mediation programs, national and local mediation membership organizations, and postsecondary schools. Training is also available by volunteering at a community mediation center.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

There is no national license for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators. However, some states require arbitrators and mediators to become certified to work on certain types of cases. Qualifications, standards, and the number of training hours required vary by state or by court. Most states require mediators to complete 20 to 40 hours of training courses to become certified. Some states require additional hours of training in a specialty area.

Some states require licenses appropriate to the applicant's field of expertise. For example, some courts may require applicants to be licensed attorneys or certified public accountants.

Important Qualities for Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Critical-thinking skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must apply rules of law. They must remain neutral and not let their own personal assumptions interfere with the proceedings.

Decisionmaking skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must be able to weigh facts, apply the law or rules, and make a decision relatively quickly.

Interpersonal skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators deal with disputing parties and must be able to facilitate discussion in a calm and respectful way.

Listening skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must pay close attention to what is being said in order for them to evaluate information.

Reading skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators must be able to evaluate and distinguish important facts from large amounts of complex information.

Writing skills. Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators write recommendations or decisions relating to appeals or disputes. They must be able to write their decisions clearly so that all sides understand the decision.

Arbitrator, Mediator, and Conciliator Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is $59,770. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,550, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $123,930.

The median annual wages for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals $63,630
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 61,830
Legal services 58,340
Healthcare and social assistance 49,430

Job Outlook for Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is projected to grow 11 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations.

Arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution methods often are quicker and less expensive than trials and litigation. In addition, many contracts, including employment, customer, and real estate contracts, include clauses requiring complaints and disputes to be decided through mediation or arbitration.

However, many arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators work for state or local governments, and budgetary constraints may limit employment growth. Also, in some cases or industries, litigation is unavoidable or its benefits are preferred over the benefits gained in other types of conflict resolution.

Job Prospects for Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Because arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators deal extensively with legal issues and disputes, those with a law degree should have better job prospects. In addition, lawyers with expertise or experience in one or more particular legal areas, such as environmental, health, or corporate law, should have the best job prospects.

Employment projections data for Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators 7,800 8,700 11 900


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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