Conciliators, mediators and arbitrators facilitate dialogue and negotiation between disrupting groups of people. They help individuals resolve conflicts outside of the court system and help people avoid going to court.
Typically, conciliators, mediators and arbitrators facilitate the following tasks:
- Set up initial meetings with disputants to explain the process of arbitration
- Clarify all parties interests, issues, needs and concerns of everyone involved
- Interview witnesses, agents, or claimants to gain information regarding the dispute
- Establish communication between disgruntled parties to help guide people closer to a mutual agreement
- Take care of procedural matters including fees
- Apply relevant policies, documents, precedents, laws and regulations to obtain conclusions
- Evaluate client information from documents including death and birth certificates, employer records, claim applications and physician records
- Clarify the needs, concerns, interests and issues of all people involved
- Prepare paperwork including settlement agreements to be signed by disputants
- Determine details such as time requirements and witness numbers
Conciliators, mediators and arbitrators are tasked with helping involved opposing individuals to settle their disputes without attending court. They hold confidential, private hearings that are more informal than a court trial.
Often, arbitrators are business professionals, attorneys, or retired judges. They typically have specific experience in a certain field of law. They act as impartial third parties and must decide and listen to disputes between opposing parties.
Arbitrators may work alongside a panel with additional arbitrators, or they may work on their own. In certain instances, arbitrators may tackle procedural issues and come to a decision regarding when the hearings will be held and what types of evidence are allowed to be submitted.
Similar to mediators, conciliators have the main role of helping disputing sides reach a settlement. Generally, they meet separately with each party. The two sides must decide if they will follow the conciliator’s recommendations in advance.
The arbitration process may be legally required to deal with some disputes and claims. Other times, disputing parties can voluntarily agree to arbitration as an alternative instead of proceeding with a trial or litigation. In certain instances, parties may decide to appeal the decision made by the arbitrator.
Mediators are considered to be neutral parties who help individuals resolve their issues. They are different from arbitrators in that they do not make binding decisions.
Mediators help guide parties and facilitate discussion to a mutually agreeable agreement. If the opposing sides can't reach a settlement with the help of the mediator, they have the option to pursue other avenues.
How to Become a Conciliator, Mediator, or Arbitrator
Typically, conciliators, mediators and arbitrators require a minimum of a bachelor's degree to gain an entry-level position. They combine work experience, training and education to develop their skills.
It is uncommon for job candidates to have a specific degree in the fields of conflict resolution, mediation, or arbitration. Many jobs look for education that relates to the applicant's expertise field. Usually, a bachelor's degree is sufficient; however, certain positions require candidates to have a master's in business administration, a different advanced degree, or a master's in business administration.
Typically, mediators work under an experienced mediator and are supervised for a specific number of cases before being awarded the opportunity to work on their own.
There are independent mediation programs, postsecondary schools, mediation membership organizations on a national and local scale and independent mediation programs that allow training for conciliators, mediators and arbitrators. Individuals can undergo training by deciding to volunteer at a community mediation center to gain experience.
It is common for conciliators, mediators and arbitrators to have work experience in a related field. They may be retired judges, lawyers, or other business professionals who specialize in a certain field such as insurance, finance, or construction. These individuals need to have industry knowledge and the ability to relate easily to people from various backgrounds and cultures.
Registrations, Certifications and Licenses
Conciliators, mediators and arbitrators have no national licensing. Certain states however require mediators and arbitrators to be certified if they will be working on specific kinds of cases.
The amount of training hours, standards and qualifications may vary by court or by state. There are often twenty to forty training course hours required by many states for mediators in order to be certified. If someone is training in a specialty area, certain states may require extra hours.
Licenses may need to be appropriate in some states to the applicant's expertise field. For instance, certain courts may require applicants to be certified public accountants or licensed attorneys.
Interpersonal Skills: These professionals are constantly working with disputing parties. They need to be able to discuss any issues respectfully and calmly with each person involved.
Reading Skills: Conciliators, mediators and arbitrators need to discern and evaluate facts from large amounts of complex information.
Listening Skills: Mediators, arbitrators and conciliators have to listen carefully to what is being said to be able to evaluate information.
Writing Skills: Conciliators, mediators and Arbitrators write decisions or recommendations relating to disputes and appeals. Their decisions must be articulated concisely and clearly so that each party can comprehend the decision.
Decision-making Skills: These professionals need to apply rules or the law, weigh the facts of each case and come to a decision fast.
Critical-thinking Skills: Conciliators, mediators and arbitrators are responsible for applying the rules of law. They need to remain neutral and not allow any personal feelings or assumptions to get in the way of the proceedings.
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators held about 6,900 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators were as follows:
- Local government, excluding education and hospitals - 19%
- State government, excluding education and hospitals - 16%
- Self-employed workers - 12%
- Healthcare and social assistance - 8%
- Legal services - 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.
Employment of arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators is projected to grow 10 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
About 400 openings for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution methods often are quicker and less expensive than trials and litigation. In addition, many contracts, such as those for employment and real estate, include clauses requiring mediation or arbitration to resolve complaints and disputes.
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.
The median annual wage for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators was $49,410 in May 2021. 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 $29,990, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $110,350.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
- Local government, excluding education and hospitals - $73,610
- State government, excluding education and hospitals - $65,310
- Healthcare and social assistance - $46,640
- Legal services - $29,990