Conflict Resolution Degree Programs & Schools

Conflict resolution as a concept has been around since the beginning of human interaction but as a legitimate and defined career path, it is still almost brand-new. It's not that conflict resolution degrees haven't existed for some time (they have), it is more that the degrees haven't had clearly specified purposes. Now, Community and Ivy League colleges and universities are offering degrees in the subject.

Conflict resolution arbitrators help people find common ground and resolve problems without going to court. Also called alternative dispute resolution and peace and conflict resolution studies, this specialty prepares people to work as mediators, conciliators and arbitrators.

Bachelor’s Degree in Conflict Resolution

The typical time it takes to complete a Bachelor’s of Science in Alternative Dispute Resolution is four years. This degree is also available as a Bachelor of Arts. Many serious programs ask students to become at least moderately proficient in a foreign language, which obviously means foreign language classes.

There are also core concentrations that are common across the space. They include:

  • Interpersonal
  • Community/organizational
  • International
  • Individualized

Core classes for this degree might include:

  • Negotiation
  • Mediation
  • Theory of conflict resolution
  • Research methods
  • Community conflict
  • Global conflict

Master’s Degrees in Conflict Resolution

The Master’s level degree has several names, including  Master’s in Conflict Resolution, Master’s in Conflict and Peace Studies and Master’s in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution. A Master’s degree is the most common entry point into a career in conflict resolution. Many Master’s programs require that a person complete an internship, fieldwork or work on practical techniques in addition to theoretical models.

Common classes for this degree include:

  • Impartial and unbiased approaches
  • Documenting settlements and agreements
  • Negotiation techniques and strategies
  • Utilizing technology in negotiations
  • Cultural, religious and democratic considerations
  • Mediation and group dialog facilitation

Doctoral Degree in Conflict Resolution

The typical time it takes to complete a PhD in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution or Conflict Analysis and Resolution or Management with a concentration in Conflict Management is three to five years.

Though a PhD is not required for most conflict resolution jobs, it makes a person eligible to teach at the university level and conduct research that influences the field. It equips the graduate with the level of work and skill demanded for dispute management, policy analysis and consulting.

Internships are often part of the curriculum for a PhD. This degree requires completing a dissertation based on extensive and original research.

Typical classes include:

  • Research methods
  • Organizational behavior
  • Change management
  • Strategic management
  • Philosophy and sociology of conflict
  • Conflict intervention

Career Outlook for Conflict Resolution

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, arbitrators, mediators and conciliators make an average of $58,020 a year. The rate of job growth is predicted to increase by 9 percent through 2024. Those who practice in legal professions make an average of $78,170. Those in religious, civic, professional and grant making make an average of $46,260 a year.

There are numerous places to practice in this career field, including child custody cases, health care mediators, corporate disputes arbitrators, internal ombudsman at federal agencies and a conciliator for a state department of labor. They help settle property disputes, do counseling, teach anger management skills and communication skills classes. They work with unions and management, and mediate between businesses. They can work in international security and negotiation.

Learn more about a career in conflict resolution.

Certifications and Licensing for Conflict Resolution Graduates

There are no national licenses for this line of work. Some states require that mediators and arbitrators get certified for specific types of cases. These requirements vary a good deal.

If a person is working in a field where he already has training, states require appropriate certification and licensing. For example, attorneys must be licensed. This is also true of certified public accountants.

People in this field must meet practical levels of training for the jobs they do. Mediators in state-funded or court-appointed cases must have the qualifications and meet the standards set by the court. As a rule, mediators in most states must finish 20 to 40 hours of courses, plus training in specialties as appropriate.

Many mediators in certain areas of court work must also finish a supervised internship under the eye of an experienced mediator before they are considered qualified.

Several mediation associations offer training. This includes the National Association of Certified Mediators and the National Association for Community Mediation.

Other groups include the Association for Conflict Resolution, American Arbitration Association, National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals, and the Professional Mediators’ Association.

Online Conflict Resolution Degrees

There are several online degree programs in the field of Conflict Resolution. Since many people pursuing these qualifications already have a steady job, it is important for them to have the flexibility offered by online classes. Here are five examples.

American University offers two programs in Conflict Resolution: MA in International Relations—International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Concentration, and MA of International Service—International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution concentration.

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania offers a Graduate Certificate in Conflict Management.

Michigan State University offers a Certificate and Diploma in Strategic Negotiation.

Walden University offers an MS in Human and Social Services—Community Intervention and Leadership. It also has an MS in Human and Social Services—Family Studies and Intervention.

Walden University has a PhD in Human and Social Services—Community Intervention and Leadership. It also has a PhD in Human and Social Services—Conflict Management and Negotiation.