Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Career, Salary and Education Information

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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 thus 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 make 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. Their role is to help guide opposing sides to a settlement. However, they typically meet with the parties separately. The opposing sides must decide in advance if they will be bound by the conciliator’s recommendations. The conciliator typically has no authority to seek evidence or call witnesses, nor do they usually write decisions or make awards.

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

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators hold about 8,400 jobs. The industries that employ the most arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are as follows:

Legal services 19%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 15
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 15
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 5
Finance and insurance 4

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

Arbitrator, Mediator, and Conciliator Work Schedules

Most arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators work full time. However, some may work part time and also may have other occupations or careers.

How to Become an Arbitrator, Mediator, or 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.

Arbitrator, Mediator, and Conciliator Education

Education is one part of becoming an arbitrator, mediator, or conciliator. Some colleges and universities offer certificate programs, 2-year master’s degrees, or doctoral degree programs in dispute or conflict resolution. However, few candidates receive a degree specific to the field of arbitration, mediation, or conflict resolution. Instead, applicants may use these programs to supplement their existing educational degree and work experience in other fields.

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.

Arbitrator, Mediator, and Conciliator Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are usually lawyers, retired judges, or business professionals with expertise in a particular field, such as construction 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

Although there are no state requirements for mediators working in private settings, mediators typically must meet specific training or experience standards to practice in state-funded or court-appointed mediation cases. Qualifications and standards vary by state or by court. However, most states require mediators to complete 20 to 40 hours of training courses. Some states require additional hours of training in a specialty area.

Some states also require mediators to work under the supervision of an experienced mediator for a certain number of cases before becoming qualified.

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

There is no national license for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators. However, as with training requirements, some states require arbitrators and mediators to become certified to work on certain types of cases. State requirements vary widely.

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 $58,020. 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 $32,440, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $118,090.

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

Finance and insurance $63,750
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 61,390
State government, excluding education and hospitals 59,620
Legal services 55,230
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 46,260

Some arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators work part time and may have other occupations or careers.

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

Employment of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is projected to grow 9 percent through 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 800 new jobs over the 10-year period.

Arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution methods often are seen as faster 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.

Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators Job Prospects

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, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators 8,400 9,200 9 800


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

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