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A mediator, unlike a lawyer, does not represent any of the parties in a legal dispute. Mediators are hired to be neutral, non-biased, negotiators for everyone involved in the dispute. Mediators are facilitators who help opposing parties look at the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments, identify common interests and solve the problem together. Using their training in problem solving, mediators work to help opposing parties mutually resolve their legal dispute without a judge. The services provided by dispute resolution experts, professional negotiators or mediators can be used for careers in legal administration and human resources and within labor unions.

A degree from a two or four-year college or university is not necessary for a career in mediation. In some states a certificate of completion from a mediation course may be the sole requirement, as well as a confidentiality agreement. Mediation courses often include training in negotiation techniques, active listening, conflict management, and how to interpret body language. In fact, there are online courses available to become a certified mediator after taking a 40 hours of mediation instruction. One example, is the program offered by the National Association of Certified Mediators (NASM). This Basic Mediation Course & Mediator Certification Examination is advertised for those with no formal mediation training; cost is $888. Certification requires a 70% pass rate or better.

Those with an undergraduate degree have the option of pursuing a Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution online. Such a program is offered at the Werner Institute at the Creighton University School of Law. This degree prepares you for a specialized career in conflict resolution and allows you to apply what you learn to obtain leadership roles within a variety of industries. Their School of Law is ranked among the nation’s best law schools according to the The Princeton Review annual college guide. An alternative to their online Master’s degree is their online graduate certificate in the same discipline. This can be completed in eight months, encompassing 16 credit hours with a five-day residency requirement.

This is one profession with a law degree for those who do not want the arduous hours of a big law firm. There is a class of mediators who are court-appointed who must  be licensed lawyers in good standing with their state bar. Candidates must have a J.D. degree from an accredited law school; have passed the state’s bar exam; and keep up with attorney fees and state taxes. Some states will accept mediators with a degree in their specialization rather than a law degree. For example, a family court mediator in Florida may have a master’s degree or Ph.D. in social work or behavior sciences instead of a law degree. Other states allow relevant work experience to serve as a substitute for another mediation requirement.

Although many states recommend qualifications for mediators, no state has requirements for the practice of mediation. In any state, a mediator can practice in private settings without being licensed, certified, or listed. Rather than regulate the practice of mediation, states have chosen to create lists of mediators meeting criteria for certain areas of practice. However, the majority, 28 of 50 in 2013, have standards for mediators. Of those 28 states with comprehensive statewide standards, 25 require greater training and experience for those who wish to mediate family disputes than for those who wish to mediate civil disputes. In fact, most states do not have specific rules about what a mediator can tell a court, so it’s very important for you to find out whether the mediator has any authority or requirement to report to a court before mediation begins.

Therefore, you may become a mediator with only a high school education and pass a mediation course. Others may opt to take the higher-education route by obtaining a master’s degree in conflict resolution or similar subject. Whether court-appointed or private practice, the average salary, according to PayScale, is $50,224. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the group of Arbitrators, Mediators & Conciliators median salary at $58,020 with a Bachelor’s degree and 5 years experience.