How to Become an Arbitrator

Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep

Arbitration is used by people to settle disputes outside of court and, in some cases, across international borders. Many people, including individuals and businesses, have opted to use arbitration to settle their differences.

Arbitrators are essential in conflict resolution. They help individuals and businesses settle many types of conflicts, such as employment disputes. Our guide covers how to become an arbitrator, complete with salary estimates, education requirements, and job interview advice.

What Is an Arbitrator?

An arbitrator is an independent professional who helps settle a dispute between two parties. Another way to think about this arbitrator definition is that they are a kind of private judge, someone who reviews the evidence and testimonies presented by the involved parties.

Arbitrators, also known as mediators and conciliators, are compensated handsomely for their trouble. Most organizations that hire arbitrators expect them to follow specific procedures during the arbitration process. These include maintaining confidentiality, adhering to timetables, disclosing conflicts, and remaining impartial.

Arbitrator Salary and Job Outlook

The demand for arbitrators is growing every year. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) estimates that the job market for arbitrators will grow by as much as eight percent over the next decade.

Arbitrators earn a respectable salary. The same BLS report shows that the average arbitrator earns $66,130 per year, which is equal to $31.79 per hour.


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Entry-Level Arbitrator Job Requirements

To work as an entry-level arbitrator, you need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in a discipline related to law. It is rare for students to earn a degree specific to the field of conflict resolution. Most arbitrators are lawyers or retired judges with experience in a specific field.

According to ZipRecruiter, an entry-level mediator makes about $45,774 per year.

How to Ace Your Arbitrator Job Interview

The best way to prepare for a job interview is by studying practice questions related to the job. Below are some of the most common arbitrator job interview questions.

Common Arbitrator Job Interview Questions

    • What are some of the mediation techniques you use to facilitate communication between disputing parties?
    • Discuss an instance where you applied arbitration processes and techniques to settle a matter, including money or employment.
    • What would you say is the length of your average hearing?
    • What skills qualify you to work in this position?

What Degree Should I Get to Become an Arbitrator?

Education is a key part of becoming an arbitrator. You won’t find many Bachelor’s Degrees in Arbitration, so you should consider a degree in a related discipline. Below are some degrees that can set you up for a career in arbitration.

Associate Degree in Conflict Resolution Management

Associate degrees usually take less than two years to complete. As a result, they offer an ideal way for aspiring arbitrators to evaluate this career path.

Whether you get your associate degree online or in person, an Associate Degree in Conflict Resolution Management is recommended for aspiring arbitrators. This program covers labor relations, commercial arbitration, and contract negotiations.

Bachelor’s Degree in Public Policy

Depending on the nature of work, most arbitrator roles will generally require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Consider enrolling in online colleges, which offer flexibility and lower costs.

Most future arbitrators start out in a pre-law degree track. You can earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Policy, Conflict Resolution, or Political Science before applying for the best online law schools.

Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution

If you decide not to go to law school, you can try an online Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution. This program is designed to help students advance their knowledge of conflict resolution among family members or between employees and employers at the workplace. You will learn by studying different types of conflicts and mediation techniques.

The program covers key areas, including adjudication, negotiation, and mediation. Other common topics covered in this degree program include conflict psychology, settlement agreements, mediation training, and litigation.

Legal Studies Doctoral Degree

Also known as a PhD in Arbitration, this degree is the highest of all. It is designed to help individuals work in fields of academia, research, or consultation. The program generally takes three to six years to complete.

What Does an Arbitrator Do?

Arbitration is a process of settling disputes privately with little to no involvement of the legal system. An arbitrator is integral to this process as they are the ones who are expected to make a neutral decision about the dispute.

Below are common job duties, responsibilities, and activities of an arbitrator.

Gathers Evidence

An arbitrator is expected to gather all evidence related to claims made by the involved parties. They are expected to apply laws, policies, and other relevant regulations to reach an informed decision.

Sets Appointments for Arbitration

Arbitrators are expected to meet with disputing parties and interview them about disputed issues. Arbitrators also facilitate communication between disputants, providing guidance that can lead to a mutual agreement.

Prepares Settlement Agreements

Arbitration is intended to provide definitive resolution, so arbitrators must prepare settlement agreements for involved parties to sign and agree upon. They are expected to apply the appropriate laws and regulations when preparing such documents.

Essential Arbitrator Skills

Arbitration requires specific technical skills to complement existing soft skills. These skills come in handy while on the job, and they also help when applying for jobs.

Below are some skills that every arbitrator should have.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution forms the bulk of what arbitrators do. It is in your best interest to acquire conflict resolution skills from training programs and courses. You need to be able to keep everyone’s emotions under control, listen attentively to what each party is arguing, and identify win-win scenarios.

Application of Legal Knowledge

Successful arbitrators have excellent judgment. Decisions made during the arbitration process are based on evidence from the involved parties. This is where critical thinking also comes in handy.

Some arbitrators do not have a background in law, but it helps to have knowledge of procedural law, including due process, confidentiality, and fairness. Such skills also come in handy when drafting arbitration agreements for involved parties.

Project Management

Project management refers to the application of skills, knowledge, and techniques to meet certain project goals. Arbitration is often a long process that can take up to 24 months to complete, depending on the severity of the cases.

Most arbitration cases are regarded as projects. Arbitrators should have good project management skills so that they can plan meetings, stay within a given budget when performing investigations, and gather evidence for analysis.

How to Become an Arbitrator:
A Step-by-Step Guide

Some arbitrator positions require a law degree, but most do not. However, having a Bachelor's Degree in Public Policy, Political Science, or Social Work can help you get started in your arbitration career. We recommend that you also pursue certifications to showcase your arbitration skills. Below are steps you should consider following to become a successful arbitrator.


Find Out More About Your State’s Licensing Requirements

Arbitrator requirements vary massively, depending on where you live. The steps you take in your pursuit to become a professional in this field are specific to the state or country in which you intend to practice.

Some states like Georgia require arbitrators first to be attorneys who have a few years of experience practicing law. Other states might require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree to work in an entry-level position.


Complete the Necessary Education and Training

You must complete the necessary educational requirements. If your state requires arbitrators to have bachelor’s degrees, consider attending a four-year university.

However, the main types of arbitration are industry-specific, meaning you must work in a given industry before applying for jobs. Consider seeking internships in a specific industry to solidify your skills.


Look for Entry-Level Positions

There are a few large firms that have entry-level positions. Most arbitrators are registered with courts. For this reason, you may have to get creative to find employment in this field.

One way to find work is to advertise your services. Many professionals working in this field operate independently. Some arbitrators are practicing attorneys who are looking for part-time work.


Enroll in a Certificate Program

Certificate programs are a great way to prove your skillset in a particular field. They also broaden a candidate’s job prospects. We recommend you earn a certificate from an accredited institution of higher learning.

Consider focusing on a specific arbitration field, as this will make you more marketable. General arbitration practitioners are less likely to find employment than specialists.


Network and Find Other Employment Opportunities

Many arbitrators are specialists in a specific field. Many work alone, but a few are employed in organizations. Employment opportunities may come from referrals. You should consider networking with other colleagues and professionals in the same field.

How Long Does It Take to Become an Arbitrator?

Completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Conflict Resolution or a related field is the first step to becoming an arbitrator. This program could take from four to five years to complete.

Most arbitrators have tons of experience. The number of years of experience required to become an expert arbitrator will vary. You can expect that major employers will ask for anywhere between five and 15 years of work experience.

Should You Become an Arbitrator in 2021?

Becoming an arbitrator in 2021 is a good idea. The market for arbitrators is projected to grow by as much as eight percent over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means you’ll always have employment opportunities as an arbitrator.

Arbitrators are also fairly paid. Besides, it is reasonably easy to make a career switch even if you have no legal background. If you have a passion for settling disputes, consider a career as an arbitrator.

Arbitrator FAQ

Is an arbitrator a lawyer?

A lawyer can become an arbitrator, but not all lawyers are arbitrators. These professionals are experts in the subject of the dispute. Most have formal training in arbitration.

Who selects or hires arbitrators?

Each state has its own laws governing how to select an arbitrator. However, most laws require that all parties agree on the person selected.

Is arbitration a good career?

A career in arbitration is a reasonably good one. It offers an intellectual challenge that most professionals find exciting and rewarding. Besides, they are fairly paid, making a career in arbitration an ideal choice for those in conflict resolution management.

How much does an arbitrator get paid?

Arbitrators earn a slightly higher salary when compared to other professions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, arbitrators, mediators, and other conciliators earn an average annual salary of $66,130. This is higher than the national average.

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