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Careers in Conflict Resolution: An Overview

What are some interesting careers in conflict resolution?

Conflict Resolution skills can lead to many interesting careers! Lawyers, labor union negotiators, contract managers, diplomats, international peacemakers, counselors, criminal justice professionals, mediators and arbitrators all use Conflict Management and Resolution extensively in their careers. To make the most interesting choices available to you, consider earning a certificate or advanced degree in Conflict Resolution.  Specifically consider:

Labor-Management Relations
Whether you negotiate for management or for the labor union, a career in labor-management relations gives you plenty of opportunities to practice conflict resolution! Most labor negotiators come up through the union's ranks, developing 'table experience' along the way.

  • The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that jobs in Labor Relations will grow faster than the average of all careers from 2006-2016.

Community Conflict Resolution
In a community Conflict Resolution career, you meet with all stakeholders to determine where their interests lie, find common interests and help the parties reach agreement. Community conflict management workers could resolve conflicts between:

  • A college or university and the town around it
  • Urban planners and current residents
  • Neighborhood old-timers and new arrivals
  • Diverse religious or ethnic groups

Mediation and Arbitration
These interesting careers involve helping parties resolve differences without going to court. You'll work with breach-of-contract complaints, divorces and other conflict-laden situations.

  • Professional mediators frequently have training in business, counseling or law.
  • Arbitrators, who make legally binding decisions if parties cannot reach agreement, are usually specialized attorneys.

The professional negotiator might talk to a distressed man holding a hostage. She might stand at a podium to teach hundreds of people how to resolve workplace conflicts, get the best bargain on a car or improve their salaries.

  • Police and military negotiators handle crises like armed standoffs.
  • Consulting negotiators help with critical business situations or train employees in conflict resolution.

Diplomacy and Peacebuilding
In this field, resolving conflicts means ending wars and saving thousands of lives. Diplomats may rebuild a traumatized community or nation after a war.

  • Diplomats resolve disagreements and manage new agreements for the benefit of their governments - or for the world, in the case of United Nations negotiators.
  • Development agencies like USAID, non-governmental organizations like the Red Cross or Catholic Relief Fund, and private agencies like the Karuna Center send negotiators to nations and communities in conflict.
Mediator makes U.S. News & World Report's List of "Best Careers of 2009"

For the third year in a row, the career of mediator has made U.S. News & World Report’s list of 30 “Best Careers of 2009.” In selecting the most promising careers of 2009, U.S. News considered job satisfaction, training difficulty, prestige, job market outlook and pay.

U.S. News says that “most mediators love their work, helping people beat their swords into plowshares.” It adds, however, that there are more mediators than there are mediation jobs, in part, because the barriers to entry are so low. U.S. News says the oversupply means that most mediators do not earn a middle-class income for one to five years. It also touches on the importance of embracing marketing by establishing a niche.

U.S. News adds that “success may be more likely in a slow economy as people and businesses seek lower-cost alternatives to attorneys to solve their disputes.”  For example, currently in WI there is “foreclosure mediation” available.

The full report can be found at

What do professionals in Conflict Resolution Actually Do?

Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators (as defined by O*Net) facilitate negotiation and conflict resolution through dialogue. These individuals resolve conflicts outside of the court system by mutual consent of parties involved.  A Sample of reported job titles include: Mediator, Arbitrator, Commissioner, Labor Arbitrator, Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinator (ADR Coordinator), Federal Mediator, Public Employment Mediator, Alternative Dispute Resolution Mediator (ADR Mediator), Arbiter, and Community Relations Representative. 

Overall experience needed includes a minimum of two to four years of work-related skill, knowledge, or experience.  Most occupations in this field require a bachelor's degree, but some do not. (Source: O*Net -

Tasks Performed

  • Confer with disputants to clarify issues, identify underlying concerns, and develop an understanding of their respective needs and interests.
  • Use mediation techniques to facilitate communication between disputants, to further parties' understanding of different perspectives, and to guide parties toward mutual agreement.
  • Set up appointments for parties to meet for mediation.
  • Prepare settlement agreements for disputants to sign.
  • Organize and deliver public presentations about mediation to organizations such as community agencies and schools.
  • Analyze evidence and apply relevant laws, regulations, policies, and precedents in order to reach conclusions.
  • Prepare written opinions and decisions regarding cases.
  • Arrange and conduct hearings to obtain information and evidence relative to disposition of claims.
  • Rule on exceptions, motions, and admissibility of evidence.
  • Determine existence and amount of liability, according to evidence, laws, and administrative and judicial precedents.

Knowledge Needed

  • Strong Communication Skills – knowledge of human perception, verbal and nonverbal communication, interpersonal and group communication, listening, power balancing.
  • English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Law and Government — Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
  • Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles & processes for providing customer and personal services, including customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • Personnel and Human Resources — Knowledge of principles and procedures for personnel recruitment, selection, training, compensation and benefits, labor relations and negotiation, and personnel information systems.
  • Sociology and Anthropology — Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures and their history and origins.
  • Psychology — Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
  • Administration and Management — Knowledge of business/management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people.
  • Education and Training — Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
  • Clerical — Knowledge of administrative and clerical procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and other office procedures and terminology.
  • Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.

Skills Needed – Specifically Strong Communication Skills

  • Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Negotiation — Bringing others together and trying to reconcile differences.
  • Social Perceptiveness — Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
  • Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Persuasion — Persuading others to change their minds or behavior.

Abilities Necessary

  • Oral Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Written Comprehension — The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
  • Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
  • Deductive Reasoning — The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
  • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  • Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.

Work Activities Performed

  • Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others — Handling complaints, settling disputes, and resolving grievances and conflicts, or otherwise negotiating with others.
  • Communicating with Persons Outside Organization — Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.
  • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems — Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
  • Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
  • Thinking Creatively — Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
  • Judging the Qualities of Things, Services, or People — Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.

Work Styles of Professionals in the Field

  • Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
  • Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
  • Self Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
  • Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
  • Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
  • Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations.
  • Analytical Thinking — Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
  • Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
  • Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
  • Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.

National Wages & Employment Trends

  • Median wages (2008) $24.36 hourly, $50,660 annual       
  • Employment (2006) 8,000 employees
  • Projected growth (2006-2016) Average (7% to 13%)         
  • Projected need (2006-2016) 2,000 additional employees

Weblinks for Additional Information on Careers/Jobs in Conflict Resolution

Graduate Programs in Conflict Resolution

An online directory of graduate programs -

Where to Work or Intern in the Field of Conflict Resolution

Many of the resources listed below exist on websites for educational institutions that offer specific programs in conflict resolution, negotiation, mediation, peacemaking, etc.  The sites list organizations and employers where students and graduates in the field have worked.

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