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15 Alternative Dispute Resolution Careers

The goal of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is to resolve conflicts without turning to traditional methods. In the workplace, ADR can replace traditional equal employment opportunity informal counseling or formal complaints. ADR is also used to settle disputes that would normally be resolved in a courtroom. ADR seeks to help parties focus on the issues, find common ground, and explain their perspectives on the conflict. Ideally, ADR helps all parties reach a mutually-acceptable resolution. What careers are in this field? Here are 15 examples:

Conciliator Arbitrator Mediator
Case administrator Contract negotiator Workplace investigator
Human resources manager Labor relations manager Paralegal
Ombudsmen Customer resolution specialist Marriage and family therapist
Conflict management consultant Appraiser ADR program director

#1. Conciliator

Median salary: $49,410 (BLS 2021)

The presence of a third party is essential to alternative dispute resolution. Conciliators meet with parties struggling to resolve a conflict and help them reach an agreement. Responsibilities can include reviewing information on the situation, meeting separately with clients to hear their perspectives, communicating on behalf of clients, and coming up with solution ideas.

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Most conciliator jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in a field like political science, philosophy, or pre-law. A master’s degree can increase your job opportunities. You’ll also want some job experience as a mediator, lawyer, or a similar career, as well as mediation training. In the United States, some states require specific licensing, so you’ll need to know if that applies to you. Desirable skills include critical thinking, excellent communication, and active listening.

#2. Arbitrator

Average salary: $70,259 (Comparably)

Arbitrators are like conciliators in that they serve as neutral third parties in conflict resolution. However, arbitrators are often officially appointed and may have the power to render a legally-binding arbitration award. Their responsibilities include facilitating communication, analyzing records and documents, interviewing stakeholders, and so on. You’ll mostly see arbitrators working to settle legal disputes outside of court.

Because arbitrators work on legal disputes, most of them are lawyers who have worked for at least a decade. However, being a lawyer is not always required (in the US, it varies by state), so you can work as an arbitrator with a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field and ten years of experience. That said, most employers prefer job candidates with law backgrounds.

#3. Mediator

Average salary: $63,108 (PayScale)

Mediators step in during conflicts and help disputing parties resolve an issue without a full litigation process. While they don’t make binding decisions, a mediator helps parties figure out what they both want and suggests solutions. In legal settings, mediators typically work on injury cases, breach of contract, wrongful termination cases, and family law cases. They never work on cases like criminal lawsuits. Responsibilities include meeting with disputing parties, clarifying what the parties want, and helping them communicate better with each other.

Most mediators will need at least a bachelor’s degree, though some employers ask for a law degree or master’s degree. You’ll also need mediation training. In the US, some states require certification. Necessary skills include excellent communication, active listening, and critical thinking.

#4. Case administrator/administrative support

Average salary: $42,491 (general administrative support / Glassdoor)

There are alternative dispute resolution service organizations, including the American Arbitration Association. These organizations fill many positions in administrative support, such as the role of case administrator. According to the job description on AAA, a case administrator’s responsibilities can include maintaining records, preparing communications, assisting in meetings and calls, and so on.

Administrative support jobs are often entry-level positions, so you may only need an associate’s degree in a relevant field and a few years of experience. Desired skills include excellent written and verbal communication, computer skills, good time management, and organizational skills.

#5. Contract negotiator

Average salary: $68,087 (Glassdoor)

Contract negotiators manage deals for companies or individuals. They evaluate the contract agreements and negotiate terms. They can also serve as advisors, handle grievances, investigate complaints, and serve as mediators. Responsibilities include preparing and finalizing contracts, keeping track of changes in law or policies, and maintaining communication with all involved parties.

Most contract negotiators have a bachelor’s degree in business, management, or finance, though some go on to get master’s degrees. Certifications may also be required. You’ll need excellent communication, critical thinking, time management, and organizational skills, as well.

#6. Workplace investigator

Average salary: $84,301 (ZipRecruiter)

Workplaces can experience challenging issues. Thefts, harassment, or other serious problems need to be investigated. In especially high-stakes investigations, an external investigator may be called upon. These impartial investigators collect information, interview involved parties and witnesses, prepare reports, and issue recommendations.

Most investigators need at least a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business, or another related field. Desired skills include critical thinking, attention to detail, excellent communication, and discretion. Because workplace investigations can have long-term consequences, employers are picky about who they hire as an investigator.

#7. Human resources manager

Average salary: #77,650 (Indeed.com)

HR managers coordinate an organization’s HR department. They have many responsibilities, including managing staff (recruitment, interviewing, hiring, onboarding, etc), investigating employee issues, making sure HR policies are being applied, and providing support to employees. When there’s a dispute in the workplace, the HR manager will be involved.

Human resources managers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in business, organizational development, or human resources. Work experience is also very important; most HR managers have worked in HR for years. You’ll need excellent communication skills, expertise in HR software and your organization’s policies, and excellent organizational skills.

#8. Labor relations manager

Average salary: $104,801 (ZipRecruiter)

Labor relations managers work with labor organizations, individual employees, and businesses. They typically work in HR but focus on labor laws, union practices, and bargaining processes. Their responsibilities include negotiations, researching industry data, communicating about unions and labor laws, and resolving labor disputes.

You’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in a field like human resources or business administration, as well as experience in management and employee relations. Certifications can also help your job prospects. Desired skills include strong communication, time management, problem-solving, and organizational skills. You’ll need a demonstrated knowledge of labor relations laws.

#9. Paralegal

Average salary: $50,363 (PayScale)

To avoid going to court, certain cases can be referred to an alternative dispute resolution. Paralegals step in to research the types of alternative dispute resolutions, perform background checks on third parties, assist with drafting agreements and settlements, and more.

To become a paralegal, you’ll need to complete a paralegal program, which includes advanced degrees and certificate programs. The level of education and training you get affects your job options. You’ll also need to complete an internship and paralegal certification. You can specialize in areas like compliance, business and corporate law, litigation, and more. Employers look for paralegals skilled in communication, organization, time management, and critical thinking.

#10. Ombudsman

Average salary: $73,497 (Zippia)

Ombudsmen are officials – usually appointed by a government or parliament – who investigate complaints and try to resolve them. While they’re appointed, they work with a lot of independence. They often work with broad mandates, but some ombudsmen focus on areas like children’s rights. An unofficial ombudsman may work for organizations like NGOs or corporations. Their responsibilities are similar to mediators, though they often can file complaints against high-ranking officials and organizations and order a legal investigation. Ombudsman rulings are also typically legally-binding once agreed to.

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in human resources, psychology, or a related field. Experience with mediation and conflict management is also essential, as well as communication, critical thinking, and organizational skills. It may also be a good idea to join the International Ombudsman Association.

#11. Customer resolution specialist

Average salary: $33,604 (ZipRecruiter)

Customer resolution specialists work with customers and resolve issues as they come up. They may also research and report persistent issues. Responsibilities include answering and directing phone calls, researching solutions, and handling customer complaints and conflicts with patience.

You may only need a high school degree or GED to work as a customer resolution specialist, though many specialists have at least a bachelor’s degree. You’ll need experience in customer service, as well as knowledge of systems like Salesforce and other customer relationship management tools. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are vital for this job. Employers also want employees with problem-solving skills, good time management, and computer skills.

#12. Marriage and family therapist

Average salary: $88,856 (ZipRecruiter)

Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) can play important roles during divorce and custody cases. A family court judge may even order counseling. A therapist’s responsibilities include observing family dynamics, helping family members communicate, and providing expert testimonies. Therapists also have many of the same skills as mediators, though the issue of impartiality can come if the therapist has already been seeing one of the parties involved in the dispute.

MFTs should have at least a bachelor’s degree, though if you want your own practice, a master’s degree may be required. You’ll also need supervised clinical practice hours and – in most places – a license to practice. You’ll want excellent communication and active listening skills, the ability to remain objective, critical thinking skills, and a knowledge of privacy and ethical concerns.

#13. Conflict management consultant

Average salary: $56,892 (ZipRecruiter)

There are consultant organizations and individuals focused on helping companies resolve disputes. When hired, a conflict management consultant can perform services like interviewing people to identify the issue, analyzing information to provide insight, and suggesting resolutions like training or mediation. Consultants are a great choice for companies with persistent disputes or high-stakes conflict that needs to be addressed immediately.

Consultants typically need at least a bachelor’s degree, though a master’s degree will provide more job opportunities. Consultants also tend to have many years of experience in fields like HR, mediation, and so on. You’ll need the same skills as any ADR professional, such as excellent communication, critical thinking, and active listening.

#14. Appraiser

Average salary: $107,751 (commercial real estate / Salary.com)

Disputes may involve the value of physical objects or property. An appraiser’s job is to find out the real value. Responsibilities can include valuing homes (small or large), writing detailed reports, analyzing purchase contracts, and measuring losses.

There are different kinds of appraisers (such as commercial real estate), so educational requirements vary. Most have at least a bachelor’s degree. Certifications are also needed in most places. You’ll need skills like customer service, attention to detail, problem-solving, excellent communication, and knowledge of various appraisal processes.

#15. ADR program director

Average salary: $81,500 – $87,500 (specific to the Director of ADR Services at the American Arbitration Association)

Many organizations – like government agencies – have dedicated ADR departments. The director’s responsibilities include managing other members of the ADR department, managing and evaluating projects, and meeting with clients.

Because directors are executive-level employees, they typically have advanced degrees and many years of experience in mediation, conflict management, HR, and so on. They have the usual ADR professional skills like excellent communication and active listening, but they also have strong leadership and management skills.