Negotiation and conflict resolution professionals work in many industries and help individuals, companies, and communities analyze, manage, and resolve conflict. Earning a master's degree in negotiation and conflict resolution online can open the door to careers in law, business, and other industries.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the negotiation and conflict resolution field to grow by 10% between 2016 and 2026 — faster than the average field in the U.S. Organizations increasingly recognize the benefit of hiring skilled individuals who can help resolve conflicts without needing to rely on the expense of the court system. Prospective students can choose from many master's in negotiation and conflict resolution online programs.
What to Know About Online Master's in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Coursework
Coursework for master's in conflict resolution programs varies depending on a program's focus. Some programs focus heavily on negotiation in the business world, while others center around conflict resolution across cultures or within families.
Negotiation and conflict resolution students gain critical thinking, decision-making, interpersonal, and communication skills. They learn about fundamental theories and practical strategies related to conflict resolution, negotiation, and mediation. They also explore research methods and ethical issues relevant to the profession.
The typical online master's in negotiation and conflict resolution takes about two years to complete and includes 30-45 credits. Online and on-campus programs typically offer the same types of coursework and include similar graduation requirements. Online programs may offer accelerated options that let students graduate more quickly. Programs with in-person internship or practicum requirements may take longer to finish.
What Common Courses are Offered in a Master's in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program?
The type of courses available in online master's in negotiation and conflict resolution programs vary by school and program focus. However, most programs include some courses on conflict resolution, negotiation, and mediation strategies and processes. The list below describes a few common classes.
- Conflict Resolution Strategies and Process
This course introduces conflict as a natural part of interactions in human societies. Coursework explores management and conflict resolution in both organizational and interpersonal contexts. Learners analyze sources and dynamics of conflict. They also learn about effective conflict management and resolution strategies and processes.
- Negotiation Strategies and Process
Students learn how to compare negotiation techniques and select the most effective technique for a given situation. This course looks at negotiation strategies, types of negotiation, and the negotiation process. Learners also discover how to create strategies for dealing with difficult negotiations and breakdowns.
Designed for students who want to work as professional mediators or integrate mediation skills into their current positions, this course covers the theory and practice of mediation. The skills gained in this class can apply to positions in human services, healthcare, nonprofit management, and law.
- Employee Negotiations and Collective Bargaining
This class introduces the practical aspects of employee negotiations and collective bargaining. Students learn about labor contracts, bargaining tactics, and participant motivations. They also learn about the role of collective bargaining in the U.S., both historically and contemporaneously.
- Advanced Business Mediation
Learners explore business conflicts and the role of mediators in resolving conflict related to employment issues, contracts, and personal injury. This class provides practical experience dealing with common business mediation scenarios.
What Specializations are Available in a Master's in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program?
Master's in negotiation and conflict resolution programs often offer specializations, which let students develop a focused area of expertise. Available concentrations differ depending on the school, and not all programs offer specializations. The list below describes a few sample specializations.
- Social Justice Advocacy and Activism
Students interested in social justice, activism, and human rights can pursue this concentration. This specialization focuses on how professionals can use conflict resolution theories and practices to promote understanding between groups, communities, and nations in both national and international contexts.
- Inclusive Conflict Engagement
This specialization focuses on conducting conflict resolutions and negotiations in an inclusive way that respects all parties involved. Students learn to pay special attention to divisions across cultures, organizations, and societies. They develop skills as peacemakers, mediators, and advocates.
- Media, Narrative, and Public Discourse
This concentration explores narratives and representations related to conflict. It is especially well-suited for negotiation and conflict resolution majors who want to create media or work in fields like public relations. Students gain communication skills that consider conflict resolution theory and practice.
What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?
Students earning a master's degree in negotiation and conflict resolution online often complete a capstone project or experience. Capstone projects are typically completed during the last semester of a program and serve as a culminating experience for students.
A capstone project lets learners synthesize the knowledge they acquired throughout the program to produce a research or practical project. This project often involves identification of a practical problem relevant to conflict resolution and a plan to solve it. Most conflict resolution master's programs do not require participants to complete a thesis, which tends to be more research-intensive than a capstone.
How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program
Accreditation signals that a school meets minimum quality standards set by an independent organization. Attending a regionally accredited college can greatly improve a student's academic experience and help them acquire the skills needed to succeed in the field. Currently, there are no specialized accrediting agency that specifically evaluate negotiation and conflict resolution master's programs.
Choosing a trustworthy program takes a little bit of research. Prospective students should consider program characteristics like the presence of qualified faculty members, accreditation status, and the type of courses available. Graduation rates and postgraduation employment information can also offer valuable information about a program's quality.
Red flags that may indicate less trustworthy programs include a lack of institutional accreditation. Also, programs that fail to include a lot of information on their websites are more likely to be low quality.
Career Opportunities With a Master's in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Degree
Graduates of master's in negotiation and conflict resolution online programs qualify for career opportunities in many industries. They may work inside and outside of the legal system and for nonprofit and for-profit organizations. See below for a sampling of career opportunities for conflict resolution professionals. However, note that a master's degree in negotiation and conflict resolution does not guarantee eligibility for these careers; some of these jobs may require additional certification or licensure beyond a master's in conflict resolution.
- Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators
Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators help resolve conflicts between disputing parties outside of the court system. Arbitrators usually start their careers as lawyers, judges, or business professionals and help disputing parties come to binding decisions. Mediators and conciliators help people resolve disputes, but their decisions are not binding. Many positions in this field require experience in a specific subfield and an advanced degree. States typically require mediators to hold certification.
- Median Salary: $62,270 per year
- Currently Employed: 7,800
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 years: +10%
- Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants support lawyers. They work with files, draft documents, and conduct legal research. Most of these professionals work for legal departments, law firms, and government agencies. They help lawyers prepare for trials, hearings, and corporate meetings. Some employees prefer to hire paralegals who hold certification in paralegal studies from the American Bar Association. These workers need strong research, communication, organizational, and interpersonal skills.
- Median Salary: $50,940 per year
- Currently Employed: 285,600
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 years: +15%
- Public Relations Specialists
Public relations specialists help organizations with their public images. These workers help shape public perception of organizations by publicizing work through media campaigns. Sometimes these specialists must work to change the public's negative perception of an organization after a public relations crisis. These professionals need interpersonal, organizational, speaking, and writing skills, and they work for a variety of industries, including advertising, education, government, and business.
- Median Salary: $60,000 per year
- Currently Employed: 259,600
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 years: +9%
- Human Resources Managers
Human resources managers coordinate, plan, and administer the administrative functions of organizations in every industry. They manage hiring, training, firing, and compensation of employees. These workers also serve as intermediaries between an organization's management and its employees. HR managers may need to intervene in workplace conflicts and help resolve disputes between employees and management. Higher-level jobs in this field often require an advanced degree. Human resources managers need strong leadership, interpersonal, organizational, speaking, and decision-making skills.
- Median Salary: $113,300 per year
- Currently Employed: 136,100
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 years: +9%
- Labor Relations Specialists
Labor relations specialists work with a company's management and representatives of its employees' labor union. They analyze and explain issues like healthcare, wages, pensions, and union and management practices. They may lead meetings between workers and the management of an organization. These professionals also participate in collective bargaining by drafting formal legal agreements. They make sure that management complies with its legal obligations.
- Median Salary: $67,790 per year
- Currently Employed: 81,100
- Expected Job Growth in Next 10 years: -8%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019
What's the Expected Job Growth for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Careers?
The BLS projects faster-than-average job growth for most negotiation and conflict resolution careers between 2016 and 2026. Organizations should continue to seek out help from alternative dispute resolution professionals because it provides a less expensive route to resolving conflicts than trials and litigation. Many employment, real estate, and customer contracts stipulate dispute resolution through arbitration or mediation.
Professional Organizations for Careers in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
Professional organizations in the negotiation and conflict management field present many benefits to students and recent graduates. Membership can open the door to networking opportunities, discounted admission to annual conferences, and access to job boards and career services assistance. Many professional groups offer discounted membership rates to students and new professionals.
ACR promotes public understanding of conflict resolution. This organization's members include mediators, educators, arbitrators, and other conflict resolution professionals. Members gain access to a career center, an annual conference, and continuing education opportunities.
IACM promotes scholarly research in conflict management in organizational, family, societal, and international situations. The group offers a conference, the Negotiation and Conflict Management Research journal, and job postings.
A conflict resolution service provider in Chicago, CCR helps organizations, individuals, courts, and communities resolve conflict. The center offers training services, mediation programs, and a blog with conflict resolution news.
A network of conflict resolution trainers and teachers, CRN offers free training resources, a shop with merchandise, and a news section. The website also includes a list of links to other helpful resources.
A global nonprofit organization, CNVC offers international training in nonviolent communication and certifies individuals. The group's website offers articles, certification information, and a list of certified trainers.
How to Pay for a Master's in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Degree
Students typically pay for their online master's in negotiation and conflict resolution by using multiple funding sources. Common ways that students pay for their degrees include taking out student loans, applying for scholarships and grants, and earning fellowships or assistantships. Many online master's students also continue working part time or full time while pursuing their education.
Federal Financial Aid
Students enrolled in many master's degree in negotiation and conflict resolution online programs qualify for federal financial aid. This includes student loans, grants, and work study. Students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to determine their eligibility.
Individual negotiation and conflict resolution online programs may offer students scholarship opportunities. For example, the University of Denver offers a Graduate Impact Scholarship to all graduate students. Applicants must meet both merit- and need-based criteria to qualify.
Master's students pursuing a degree in negotiation and conflict resolution may qualify for assistantships, research positions, and/or fellowships from their school or outside organizations. These opportunities can help offset tuition costs or living expenses while students pursue a research project. For example, the Kennan Institute offers the Galina Starovoitova Fellowship on Human Rights and Conflict Resolution.
Scholarships from Professional Organizations
Many professional negotiation and conflict resolution groups offer scholarships to master's students in the field. Learners usually need to acquire membership to apply for scholarships, which may cover all or part of a program's tuition, conference expenses, and/or living expenses. For example, members can apply for the IACM Graduate Student Scholarship.