This step by step guide on how to become a mediator is designed to help you understand if mediation might be a good career choice for you. Mediation provides a very unique and significant service which helps result in the resolution of legal disputes in a way that can save people time, money and stress. There are many different types of mediators, such as divorce mediators or family mediators and there is a specific path you need to take if you want to become a legal, certified, court mediator. The process and what to expect is laid out below. The goal of this article is to answer your question: “how can I become a mediator”.
What Does a Mediator Do?
Mediators are trained third-party negotiators who provide services to people involved in legal disputes, either before or after a court case has been filed. The job of the mediator is to help disputants (and their attorneys) find common ground based on shared interests, to lay the foundation for a mutually acceptable compromise that will prevent the need for further legal action. Mediators may be appointed (and sometimes mandated) by judges, or they may be hired privately at the request of one or more individuals involved in a conflict.
Rather than making legal arguments, mediators attempt to resolve legal disputes by convincing the parties involved that it is in their best interests to avoid the high costs and uncertainties of a trial. Good mediators act as peacemakers and are highly skilled at facilitating constructive communication, and they can be quite effective even when the parties involved in a lawsuit are initially reluctant to reach a settlement.
Mediation differs from litigation and arbitration in some key ways. Litigation is time consuming and very costly, both financially and emotionally. So, many people and organizations seek to resolve disputes outside of litigation. Two options are arbitration and litigation, both of which help someone to solve legal issues outside of the courts. The main difference between arbitration and mediation is that mediation leads to a non-binding resolution guided by a facilitator, or mediator. Arbitration is a binding process that replaces a trial where there are still judges who hand a decision, led by an arbitrator.
You might also consider learning how to become an attorney.
How Much Does a Mediator Make?
In 2019, the mean pay for mediators, arbitrators, and conciliators in the United States was $63,930 annually. However, mean wages for mediators were higher than this in eight states: California, New York, Illinois, Oregon, Georgia, Massachusetts, Alaska, and New Jersey.
The demand for mediators nationwide is projected to grow by eight percent between 2019 and 2029, which is double the rate for occupations in the United States as a whole. This reflects the needs of an overworked legal system, which is relying more and more on alternative methods for settling contentious legal disputes.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Mediator
If you are wondering how long it takes to become an mediator, the answer depends on which path you take. If you have yet to get a Bachelor’s degree, then it will take you a little more than those four years to become a mediator. However, you can actually become a mediator in a few months if you already have a degree.
How to Become a Mediator: A Step-by-Step Guide
Below is our step by step process detailing how to become a certified mediator.
Step 1: Choose a Legal Specialty or Specialties
Mediators are called on to intervene in legal disagreements, or potential legal disagreements, of all types. Most mediators choose to specialize in one or more particular areas of the law, where they can refine, develop, and apply their skills more precisely.
Before starting your university studies, you should reflect on your intentions and interests more deeply, so you can narrow your focus to specific categories of the law. This process can help you choose the right university, decide on an appropriate field of study, select relevant elective courses, and pursue the proper internships or externships as your educational career progresses.
The categories of law that frequently require mediation services to resolve disputes includes:
- Intellectual property
- Public policy
- Divorce and custody
- Foreclosure and eviction
If you plan a career in mediation, it might be a good idea to pursue a course of studies that gives you some exposure to multiple categories of the law, instead of just one or two. That will increase the depth and breadth of your knowledge, and help you more thoroughly explore your own interests and inclinations.
Step 2: Seek a Bachelor’s Degree and Relevant Academic Experiences
Conflict resolution has only recently come to be recognized as a suitable topic for focused academic study. Consequently, there are only a few universities that offer undergraduate degrees in conflict resolution, negotiation, and/or mediation.
The good news is that such a degree is not required to find employment as a mediator. You will need a bachelor’s degree of some type, but it doesn’t have to be granted by any specific department or cover any particular subject. Your major could be in law, psychology, communications, family counseling, finance, business, or any other subject that might have some relevancy to the mediation profession.
Nevertheless, if you’re interested in a career in mediation you would be wise to actively seek opportunities for internships or externships with public and private organizations that employ mediators. Your academic counselors can help you find such opportunities, which may be sponsored by public agencies or private employers.
In general, a four-year education should be enough for you to launch your career as a mediator, especially if you have relevant internship or externship experience. If you choose to pursue a master’s degree immediately after graduation, however, it may take you six years before you find your first job in this increasingly competitive industry.
Step 3: Search for Entry-Level Employment as a Mediator
Many prospective mediators find employment opportunities right out of college. If your background suggests you have at least some of the skills, knowledge, and training possessed by successful mediators, you might get hired by state or local governments, law practices, private mediation firms, corporations, community organizations, corporations, insurance companies, or any other business where legal disputes might arise.
As a beginning mediator, you wouldn’t have much independent authority at first. Your employer would likely put you under the tutelage of an established mediator, who would act as a mentor and teacher. If your progress was acceptable, after a few weeks or months you would be granted your initial opportunities to demonstrate your talents as a lead mediator, with a chance to get a lot more work if you produced good results.
Step 4: Continue Your Mediator Education in Graduate School
Masters’ degree programs in Mediation, Conflict Resolution and Negotiation, or Conflict Management are offered at some high-quality universities, both in the United States and internationally. Some also offer graduate certificate programs for aspiring mediators, which only require 12 credits to complete but still introduce students to vital concepts in the profession.
Adding a post-graduate degree or certificate to your resume would give you an advantage as a first-time job seeker, and it could be just as useful if you were already working as a mediator and hoped to qualify for more prestigious and lucrative positions.
Mediators with master’s degrees possess the credentials to pursue positions as instructors or trainers. They could also find openings in leadership or management positions, where they could share their advanced knowledge of the profession while supervising less experienced mediators.
Step 5: Pursue Court Certification
Mediators who work in legal environments can enjoy higher pay and greater job security, if they are officially certified by their state’s court system. The names of court-certified mediators are added to a special roster, which makes them eligible for deployment at the direct request of judges. Court-certification is reserved for experienced mediators who’ve proven their skills and abilities in real-world settings over an extended period.
To become court-certified, mediators must complete between 20 and 40 hours of specialized, intensive mediator training, with requirements differing between states. These comprehensive mediation training courses may be sponsored by educational institutions, mediation associations, law firms, community mediation services, or commercial mediation enterprises. Family court mediators are generally required to train more extensively than civil court mediators, given the sensitive nature of the duties they’re asked to perform.
Each state has its own standards that determine whether you can qualify for court certification. Most will require you to have completed a set number of mediations, or have been working as a mediator for a specific number of years (usually between two and five), either independently or under the supervision of a mediator mentor. Some states require additional education beyond a bachelor’s degree, either in the form of a graduate degree in conflict resolution, a graduate certificate in that subject, or continuing education courses in mediation or legal studies.
Court-certified mediators are considered top-of-the-line professionals, and once you’ve reached that status your future as a mediator should be secure.
Pros and Cons of a Mediator Career
As a mediator you’ll belong to an exclusive club. There are less than 8,000 people in the United States working at this job, and if you’re good, your services will be in heavy demand. If you’re interested in the law but don’t want to become an attorney, a career in mediation will still let you pursue that interest, providing a valuable service that helps the legal system function more smoothly and efficiently. Through the successful practice of your craft, you’ll help assure that worthy individuals or groups with legitimate grievances don’t walk away empty-handed, as they might if their cases went to court.
When you’re just starting out as a mediator, it can sometimes be difficult to find work. This is especially true if you haven’t completed mediator training programs and achieved court-certified status, or are seeking employment without some type of degree in mediation or conflict resolution specifically. Unlike arbitrators, mediators can’t impose settlements on recalcitrant parties, which means your hard work may not produce results in some cases, which can leave you feeling highly frustrated. In some cases, it may seem clear to you that one side of the other is at fault. Yet you’ll have to put aside your personal feelings and try to find a solution that benefits both parties, even if it seems unjust or unfair.
Important Characteristics of a Successful Mediator
Mediators must have excellent verbal communication skills, translatable to a broad range of situations. They should be able to create bonds of trust and understanding with people from all backgrounds, while networking effectively with court system officials and representatives of any other organizations that are may have an interest in a potential or real case.
Since they will be often dealing with people who are stressed, angry, or resistant, mediators must be exceedingly patient and diplomatic. They must keep their poise and remain even-tempered at all times, maintaining their emotional detachment during negotiations even if one of the parties in the dispute is more sympathetic (or abusive).
Often asked to intervene in complex legal situations, mediators must be excellent listeners and perceptive readers. They should also demonstrate strong analytical skills and the flexibility to apply them in a broad range of circumstances. These characteristics will allow them to comprehend essential points of disagreement, and develop workable solutions that truly address the fundamental needs of each party in a negotiation.
We hope that learning about how to become a mediator has been helpful for you in making a decision. If you came here with the question of how do you become a mediator, then we hope it was answered for you. If you were wondering how to become an arbitrator, hopefully this guide will also give you a good idea on the process, though similar, there are some key differences which you should further explore. So if you were wondering how to become a divorce mediator, family mediator, court mediator, etc. the resources cited here should help you begin to dig further into the specific types of mediation that you can practice.