Well, your classes are complete. You are a fully qualified mediator. Can you make a good living mediating? Where can you even find a job as a mediator?
What training do I need to be a mediator?
Technically, you don’t need any training to be a mediator. If you have helped friends, family or even strangers resolve conflicts, you have mediated a conflict. Lawyers, counselors, social workers, managers, and clergy often mediate as part of their jobs. For the purpose of this article, we will be discussing mediation as a job, not as a function of another occupation.
A few universities offer bachelor’s degrees in conflict resolution, peace studies, and negotiation. A few offer Master’s degrees, LL.M. degrees, and even doctorates. Many offer a few classes in mediation, negotiation, and related topics. Some offer certificates after a few classes. There are also organizations that will train you to mediate. Your local courts, college extension programs, and bar associations will probably offer classes. While there are no licenses required for mediation in the United States, many programs require at least 40 hours of training, even for volunteers.
Just as important as basic training is experiencing mediating successfully. Nearly the first thing a potential employer will ask is how many mediations you have done, and in what percentage you were successful. Most degree programs will have externship and clinical programs. Take advantage of them. You need to show that you can successfully resolve high-stress, emotionally charged situations, and there is no better proof than experience. You may co-mediate at first. If so, have your co-mediators write letters of recommendation. If you volunteer, try to get one from the program administrator. Best of all is a brief positive comment from a satisfied party for whom you mediated.
If you have a neighborhood justice center in your area, they will not only train you, they will give you an opportunity to mediate both with a co-mediator and alone. You do not have to have any particular background to take advantage of these programs, which deal with neighbor conflicts, family quarrels, landlord-tenant matters, and small business disputes.
A mediator’s job description
The United States Department of Labor defines mediators as: “neutral parties who help people resolve their disputes… [T]hey 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.” The Department draws a distinction between mediators and conciliators, apparently limiting the former to situations in which the parties never utilize private caucus.
The job outlook for mediation
The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that the number of jobs for arbitrators, conciliators, and mediators will grow at a 10% rate between 2020 and 2030. The expected median income is $66,130. This compares to the median income for all occupations of $41,950, and median bachelor’s degree holder income of $64,896 in 2020.
From this perspective, mediation is a good job with a reasonable income. Of course, many professional neutrals are retired judges, senior attorneys, mental health professionals, or business people with specialized experience. For many of them, mediation is a lucrative second career or a way to supplement their professional income. Such individuals are often highly compensated. Depending on the location, qualifications, and demand, private practice mediators can earn between $300 add $825 per hour. Top mediators can charge even more. As costly as this is, in an era where partners at the most prestigious urban firms bill over $1000 an hour, resolving a dispute through mediation is a cost-effective alternative.
Mediators who use this model are entrepreneurs. They pay office expenses, and their income depends on developing and serving a steady stream of clients. Even mediators who work for large mediation providers like JAMS and The American Arbitration Association have to do a good deal of client development activity to remain successful.
How do I look for a job as a mediator?
Finding a job as a mediator is like finding any other job. Talk to the people you know in the industry. If you don’t know many, change that. Go to seminars, meetings, mixers, and bar associations. Let your desire to join the mediation community show. Use the career office at your school. And of course, use the internet daily to look for job postings. Below are a few websites that could be helpful:
- Indeed – General job search site
- HigherEdJobs.com – Website focused on employment at colleges and universities.
- Mediate.com Jobs – Searching these mediation-related postings requires a paid membership.
- US Federal Government Jobs – not an official government website
- USAJobs – United States Office of Personnel Management website
- ZipRecruiter – a general job recruiting site with mediator positions.
- Government Jobs – not an official government website
Job opportunities for mediators
Suppose you aren’t ready to be an entrepreneur but you are qualified to be a mediator. Where can you find employment?
The majority of mediation jobs are likely to be with some branch of government or the courts. Federal statutes require government agencies to develop policies for the use of ADR, including mediation. Two federal agencies focus on the provision of mediation and conciliation services, employing a number of mediators who are not required to be lawyers. The Federal Conciliation and Mediation Service both resolve conflicts over collective bargaining agreements and those involving federal employee yees and agencies. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is tasked with the mediation of claims concerning violations of Federal civil rights laws.
Many state and federal courts at the trial and appellate levels employ a mix of staff neutrals and trained volunteers. Staff Family Court mediators deal with highly emotional visitation and custody disputes; they must have a counseling background rather than a legal one.
State departments of education and school districts must employ mediation to deal with disputes over appropriate special education placement under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and needed accommodations of students’ and staff disabilities under the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Public and private colleges and universities have the same obligations. They are frequent employers of mediation and conciliation, and will likely turn to it anywhere it might apply, and frequently want administrators with mediation skills.
Counties hire mediators to staff neighborhood justice centers and resolve employee issues.
Private trade associations also hire staff mediators to resolve disputes between two or more members or members and customers.
Mediators can find jobs in federal, state, and local government, schools, and private industries. Employment as a mediator does not require advanced degrees or licenses in most cases.
Employers also value the skills mediators develop in many other jobs. These skills include highly developed critical thinking, negotiation, communication, persuasion, creativity, and the proven ability to handle stressful high-emotion situations. They are valued in situations where the failure to agree could be extremely damaging. So mediators are used as corporate troubleshooters, customer service personnel (usually involving luxury items), advocates, negotiators, risk managers, community liaisons, and even senior law enforcement officials. Other training or experience may be needed, but the skills of a mediator will be a vital part of these jobs and are well worth acquiring and honing.