Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators are the “peacekeepers” in local and state government offices, health care businesses, and education systems. From helping schools be more trauma-informed, to leading mediation teams in Kenya’s conflict hotspots, these individuals are experts in conflict resolution. They have a desire to not only make the world a prosperous and peaceful place, but also aim to build stronger communities through honest, well-informed communication.
Holding nearly 8,000 jobs in the U.S., the mediator career field is expected to grow 10 percent between now and 2026. That’s faster than the average for all other occupations, likely driven by the fact that arbitrations are typically faster and less costly than taking disagreements to court.
While many mediators and conciliators only hold a Bachelor’s degree, the field is becoming more competitive by the year and a Master’s education is growing in appeal. With a Master’s, aspiring peacemakers not only gain more practical experience, but also expand their understanding of their desired career field. As a result, they are conflict resolution experts before even stepping onto the graduation stage.
How to Choose a Conflict and Resolution Master’s Program?
It’s best to know what kind of peacemaker you want to be before choosing a school. Do you wish to work in hospitals, for government employees, or schools? Or you could go the non-profit route, working with peacekeeping organizations to facilitate between Israel and Palestine. Whatever route you feel drawn to, it’s vital the Master’s program you choose offers opportunities that fully equip you with the conflict resolution tools you need to succeed.
The following list of schools represents the 10 Best Master’s programs for Negotiation and Conflict Management in the U.S. Each program not only covers the basics of conflict management between individuals, businesses and international groups, but also allows for students to specialise in the field and country of their choosing. Every school holds a tuition under $40,000 and many offer dual-degree programs.
With alumni that have gone on to work at the United Nations, Red Cross, and New York Peace Institute, it’s clear these schools offer Master’s programs meant to set students up for success.
#10 University of San Diego
MS in Conflict Management and Resolution
The University of San Diego’s Conflict Management Master’s Program is part of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. This nine month program is the only conflict resolution degree on the West Coast that is housed in a Peace School. Though there is no prior coursework required to enroll, USD’s Master’s program requires a minimum GPA of 3.00 in all undergraduate course work and three years of professional experience. In addition to its core curriculum, this 30-credit degree offers workshops with topics like Intercultural Competency, Mindfulness, and Restorative Practices. Here, students learn how to practically apply what they’ve learned in class at personal, organizational and international levels.
USD students pursuing their Conflict Management and Resolution M.S. can also earn a Trans-Border Opportunities Certificate completing five additional classroom seminars of their choice.
#9 University Of Denver
Master of Arts Program in Conflict Resolution
The University of Denver’s M.A. in Conflict Resolution is a 15-month program where students can put theories into practice. Though it operates independently, the program is still under the umbrella of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. As a result, students not only learn how to manage social patterns and policy choices between individuals, but also within organizations and across diverse cultures. Internships are a program requirement and opportunities both local and overseas are available. While some students have taken positions with Colorado’s Victim Offender Reconciliation Programs, and Tennessee’s Bridge Builders, others took their internships abroad in Rwanda, Trinidad, Israel, and China. Denver’s Conflict Resolution alumni have gone to work full time at New York’s The Peace Institute and Oregon’s Mercy Corps. This Master’s program is 60 credits and, in addition to their core curriculum, offers “Specialization Topics” courses, including Intractable Conflict, Negotiation Difficulties, Creating Agreement and Restorative Justice.
#8 Salisbury University
M.A. Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution (CADR)
Located in Maryland, and partnering with Bosserman’s Center for Conflict Resolution, Salisbury’s Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution program has adopted a “teaching hospital” model. This academic model ensures students are not only guided in the classroom, but also immersed in research and practical application. Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, is one of CADR’s Scholars in Residence, providing students the opportunity to converse with a unique resource in the field of conflict resolution. Bosserman’s also runs an annual lecture series for students where historic leaders give first-person accounts of the creation of peace. Salisbury’s CADR program prefers for incoming students to hold an undergraduate degree in conflict resolution, or a related field, with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Graduates of the program have gone on to work at the United Nations, New York Peace Institute and the National Institutes of Health’s Office of the Ombudsman. Before graduating, students will need to complete three practicums and an internship.
#7 University of Baltimore
M.S. in Negotiations and Conflict Management
The University of Baltimore’s Negotiations and Conflict Management M.S. was the first program to be introduced in Maryland. Through the program, students are trained to work in a variety of arenas, including health care, social work, law enforcement, federal government, and international relations.
Evenings classes are available and some courses are offered in the summer for continuing students. Certain electives can be taken online and opportunities to study abroad are also available. A few of the programs course requirements include Understanding and Assessing Conflict, Research Methods, and Ethnic and Cultural Factors in Conflict. The university offers students capstone internships in the office of Maryland’s Attorney General, The National Association for Conflict Resolution, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and others. In addition to the 36-credit M.S. program, Baltimore’s Negotiation and Conflict Management students can earn a dual J.D./M.S., saving some credits on the way.
#6 University of Oregon
Conflict and Dispute Resolution Master’s Program (CRES)
The University of Oregon’s Conflict and Dispute Resolution Master’s Program is a two-year, full-time program composed of 70 credits. Some of the core courses consist of traditional mediation, negotiation, ethics, cross-cultural competency, and third-party dynamics in conflict resolution. Students can also choose to further their understanding of conflict and dispute resolution across disciplines, choosing electives sociology, psychology, business, international studies and more. During their required internship, students will gain 320 hours of practical, hands-on experience in conflict and dispute resolution. Internship are available locally, out-of-state, or even internationally with opportunities in Israel and Palestine, as well as Ireland. The CRES Master’s degree culminates with a final project, which can take the form of a thesis, terminal project, or course concentration.
#5 Kennesaw State University
Master’s in Conflict Management M.S.
Kennesaw State University’s Master of Science in Conflict Management has been providing graduate students in Georgia with conflict management skills for almost 20 years. Roughly 20 percent of KSU’s Conflict Management grad students are international, some having come directly from conflict zones. The Conflict Management program is a full-time, 16-month graduate course, but caters to students who have busy work schedules. Classes are held alternating weekends, and students take one course at a time for a total of nine credit hours each semester. KSU also offers the opportunity for students to earn a dual degree of Conflict Management and Business Administration. Alumni from this program have gone on to work for the American Red Cross and U.S. Senate. Students can also receive M.S. embedded certificates in Justice and Organizations and International Conflict Management.
#4 University of Massachusetts Boston
Conflict Resolution M.A.
University of Massachusetts Boston’s 36-credit Conflict Resolution M.A. can be completed in two years, with students enrolling full-time. There are also part-time options available. For highly-qualified UMass Boston undergraduates, there is an Accelerated Bachelor’s to Master’s Degree program for Conflict Resolution. This unique program allows students to finish their master’s degree in half the time by replacing undergraduate electives with graduate coursework. An internship is also required for the Conflict Resolution M.A. Students can even choose to concentrate their internship by taking the offered Mediation Court internship or Inter-Group Dialogue and Facilitation internship. All graduate students must also complete a capstone through a master’s project, thesis or integrative seminar. The University has study abroad opportunities as well in Northern Ireland and Ecuador, teaching community peacebuilding and conflict transformation across borders.
#3 Georgetown University
Conflict Resolution M.A.
Georgetown University’s Conflict Resolution M.A., located in Washington D.C., is designed to be intensive and small in size. Core and elective courses are taught in a variety of departments, such as government, psychology, theology, philosophy, sociology, law, and more. The broad themes of the program focus on the origins of disputes, mediation and negotiation, as well as establishing peace among heated conflict. Students are introduced to perspectives among local groups as well as those around the globe. The required courses and electives result in over 40 credited hours. Students must maintain a B average, with no grade of C or below in each course, and must be able to read proficiently in a language other than English. Degree concentrations are offered through one of four certificate programs offered through the School of Foreign Service. The concentration options include African Studies, Arab Studies, Asian Studies, East European and Eurasian Studies, and Refugees and Humanitarian Studies.
#2 California State University-Dominguez Hills
Conflict Analysis and Resolution M.A.
Individuals with a Bachelor’s in any major can apply for California State’s Conflict Analysis and Resolution M.A. program. Students must have a GPA of 3.0 or above from an accredited college in order to apply. The 36-credit program consists of required courses ranging from Theories of Conflict to Alternative Dispute Resolution Processes. Each student must complete a capstone with a portfolio and thesis paper. Upon completion of the graduate program, California State offers a Post Master’s Certificate in Conflict Analysis and Resolution for 18 additional units. The certificate program is best suited for NCRP MA graduates who wish to strengthen certain skills specific to the jobs they wish to hold in the future. This certificate also includes an internship in conflict resolution.
#1 Columbia University (New York City)
Negotiation and Conflict Resolution M.S.
Columbia University’s master’s program in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution can be completed full-time or part-time on campus. A combination of online and intensive in-person study is also offered new this year to make full-time more doable. The Master’s 40-credit program puts special emphasis on resolving conflicts in human resource management, community and labor organizations, education and health administration, as well as law and business. This is one of the more rigorous graduate degree programs and requires a total of six terms with students maintaining a 3.0 grade point average or better. Classes feature role playing, presentations, group discussions, and projects. All students are required to complete a fieldwork course before graduation and have the option to participate in the International Fieldwork on Regional Environmental Sustainability. Students will visit Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories and will experience first-hand the social and political challenges facing the policymakers and environmental scientists seeking to address these issues.