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How to Become a Mediator - The Complete Guide

June 5, 2024
4 min read


Reviewed by:

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 6/03/24

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how to become a mediator. 

If you like working directly with people and solving problems, a career as a mediator is an excellent field to pursue. Mediators are hired by governments, legal companies, and private clients to resolve disputes between two or more people. 

Mediation is a growing field with a lot of opportunities. Those who want a dynamic career where no day is the same should seriously consider this profession! Below, we’ll outline key information to help you decide whether mediation is the right path for you.

Steps to Becoming a Mediator

If you want to become a mediator, it is important to know exactly how to get there. Keep reading below as we take you step-by-step through how to become a mediator. 

Step One: Understand What A Mediator Does

Before you begin your journey toward joining this profession, you should have an idea of what a mediator does. 

A mediator is a neutral third party who resolves a dispute between two parties. They bring both parties together to reach an agreement outside of court. Mediation differs from a trial because the decision isn't binding, but it's a good alternative to expensive and lengthy legal battles.

There are many areas of mediation a person can choose from. Some of these areas include:

  • Family mediation
  • Civil mediation
  • Corporate mediation
  • Employment mediation
  • Divorce mediation

Despite what area of mediation you decide to pursue, you’ll still follow the disciplines of alternative dispute resolution (ADR.)

Step Two: Complete an Undergraduate Degree

There is no pre-mediator degree, but there are a few specific degrees that will give you interchangeable skills that mediators need. 

Some degrees you should consider taking are: 

  • English or Communications 
  • Political science 
  • Business 
  • Psychology 
  • Criminal Justice 
  • History 
  • Social work 

These programs will help you fine-tune your communication, writing, analytical, and critical thinking skills. Some people also pursue higher education after their bachelor’s, such as a master’s degree. While this is not necessary, it’s definitely something to think about! 

Step Three: Complete a Dispute Resolution Program

Although completing a dispute resolution program isn’t mandatory to become a mediator, it is strongly recommended. The program can teach you important skills used by professional mediators and can improve your resume and job prospects. 

Colleges that offer dispute resolution programs include classroom learning and then move to real-world practice, to help train future mediators.

Step Four: Take an Advanced Degree

Since mediators often work in high-level roles, an advanced degree can be helpful. Good options for prospective mediators include degrees in:

  • Business
  • Criminal justice
  • International studies
  • Economics

Doctoral or master’s degrees in relevant fields are also beneficial, as they show a deeper understanding of laws and policies. Overall, an advanced degree can lead to better job opportunities and higher salaries.

Step Five: Get Relevant Work Experience

It may be hard to get relevant work experience right off the bat, and if that is the case, look for volunteer opportunities and internships that will look great on your resume. 

While it is not necessary to have a legal background to become a mediator, working in similar positions as students who have set their sights set on law school can be beneficial. 

Aside from giving you experience working in the legal field, these opportunities will help you fine-tune your writing, research, critical thinking, and conflict resolution skills, all of which compliment the skills and experience needed for mediation. 

Step Six: Mediation Certification

Some states may require you to take mediation training before entering the workforce which results in a certification. However, this is not a requirement for every state. 

Either way, we recommend that you seriously consider taking a 40-hour mediation training program—it’s how you can become a certified mediator. Some popular mediation programs include Northwestern University’s mediation training program, which teaches the fundamental and practical techniques needed to succeed in the field.

The National Association of Certified Mediators (NACM) also offers a 40-hour mediation course for certification. Taking a training course will boost your resume and make you a desirable candidate to potential employers. 

What Does a Mediator Do?

So, just what does a mediator do? Responsibilities and day-to-day activities change depending on the area of practice. A mediator’s main purpose is to be a neutral third party in disputes to help both sides come to an agreement. These disputes can involve legal areas such as real estate, tax, family and divorce, healthcare, and more.

It is important to note that a mediator does not make decisions for either party involved. Rather, they are there to help and support each party in making their own decisions. A mediator also does not give legal advice. 

Learning how to properly support these parties comes with practice, which is why part of the qualifications to join a mediator role involve experience and training courses!

Mediator Salary and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics groups the job outlooks for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators. They estimate that there will be a 5% job growth over the next ten years, which is the average growth rate. 

The median mediator’s salary is $71,540 per year. 

FAQs: Becoming a Mediator

If you have more questions about how to become a mediator, we’ve got you covered! We answer some frequently asked questions below. 

1. Do I Need a Law Degree to Become a Mediator?

The requirements to join the mediator profession vary from state to state. However, generally, you do not need to have a JD.

Most states require you to take mediator training, gain experience (usually by shadowing a mediator), and have a bachelor’s degree. While there are no specific requirements for a pre-law undergraduate degree, there are programs that will give you key skills and knowledge to succeed in the legal field. 

While mediators are technically legal professions that don’t need law degrees, you should still have a basic understanding of important legal terminology

If you are interested in getting a law degree, check out law school acceptance rates to help you decide on the best law school for you. 

2. Is Being a Mediator Stressful?

Some people may find being a mediator can be stressful, as mediators deal with conflict, confrontation, and disputes. Because of these tense situations, mediation is hard work and can be emotionally draining for some. 

3. What Are the Requirements to Be a Mediator in California?

The state of California has no required meditation training; aspiring mediators are highly encouraged to partake in the 40-hour training and certification course. 

The training will provide you with the necessary skills and information to succeed in the field of mediation. The training will also give you an advantage over those who have little to no training when looking for job opportunities. 

4. What Qualities Does a Mediator Need?

Mediators come from various backgrounds, from legal to health care to communications. In short, there is no formal background training or program for mediators. However, anyone can be a good mediator if they possess the following skills and attributes:

Active listening skills: As a mediator, you need to actively listen to best understand what each party wants and needs. 

Adaptability: Mediators need to think on their feet and adapt to unpredictable changes in situations. You need to be able to understand and work with a variety of people and their perspectives and adapt to find a solution that works for everyone. 

Conflict Resolution: As you will be working with people in high-stress and sometimes unfavorable situations, the ability to remain calm, and resolve conflict is essential to being a mediator. 

Empathy: Empathy is key to creating and building relationships with people. Building a relationship with your clients is important because it means people will open up to you and be honest with you. As a mediator, you need to know everyone’s side of the story and have all the information to be able to make a fair resolution. 

Patience: Patience ties into empathy and emotional intelligence. Good mediators need patience when building their relationships and trust with clients, when dealing with and meeting clients, and when listening to everyone’s story. 

5. What Is the Difference Between a Mediator and an Arbitrator?

The key difference between a mediator and an arbitrator is the fact that while mediators help two or more parties come to an agreement, an arbitrator has the power to make binding decisions. 

A mediator negotiates and facilitates conversations and decisions between two or more parties, and an arbitrator makes the final decision after listening to the evidence.

Final Thoughts

Mediation is an exciting, unpredictable field that will keep you on your toes. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, it may be the perfect choice for you. 

Whether or not you decide to pursue a career in mediation, best of luck with your future endeavors! 

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