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What to Look for in a Dispute Resolution Program

A group of business people sitting around a conference table in a mediation session.

The American Bar Association defines dispute resolution as “...a term that refers to a number of processes that can be used to resolve a conflict, dispute or claim”. Dispute resolution methods encourage peaceful reconciliations or solutions between feuding parties, making it a valuable and in-demand area of expertise. The most notable methods of dispute resolution include negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. 

Note: To pursue a career in dispute resolution, you do not need to attend law school. While you may work closely with the judicial system, your role avoids the courtroom. 

Dig deeper: What is Dispute Resolution?

Understanding Dispute Resolution 

A dispute resolution program primarily involves a master’s degree specifically designed to teach you the necessary skills to navigate the field of dispute resolution. You may see program titles that include negotiation, mediation, conflict management, peace studies, and international dispute resolution. 

While these degrees share similarities with dispute resolution, they offer unique perspectives and approaches. Be sure to research the courses offered and outcomes within the program to be sure they align with your long-term goals.

What Do You Learn in a Dispute Resolution Program?

A good dispute resolution program teaches you how to negotiate, lead mediation, manage conflict, and develop cross-cultural competency. These skills have real-world applications in a variety of fields, including politics, business, health care, and social services.

In a dispute resolution program, you should graduate feeling well-equipped to keep the peace and manage conflict between various people and organizations. 

How Long Does a Dispute Resolution Master's Program Take?

On average, a master's in dispute resolution requires two years of full-time study. However, many programs offer a part-time option, knowing their students are working professionals. This flexibility enables prospective students to choose a program that suits their personal and professional commitments.

Career Options for Peacekeepers 

Career prospects for dispute resolution graduates include roles such as mediator, consultant, ombudsman, and conflict analyst, just to name a few. However, don't lose sight of the wide range of options. The skills gained through a dispute resolution degree can prove valuable in several professional roles and industries, ensuring that graduates enjoy a diverse set of opportunities to choose from.

Because the world is increasingly interconnected and disputes are inevitable, people with dispute resolution skills are highly valuable, and the field is expected to grow regardless of industry. 

Look for programs that can cater to a variety of interests and career outcomes. You may have a specific goal in mind, but be sure you are adequately prepared to seek out those opportunities. Alternatively, if you don’t have a specific career in mind, be sure the program can help establish a network and expertise in a wide range of industries or careers. 

Dispute Resolution Faculty Expertise

Faculty expertise significantly influences your learning experience. Faculty bring impressive academic backgrounds, professional experience, and research interests that enrich the educational journey in the program you choose. 

Faculty members who possess real-world insights and practical knowledge provide an invaluable edge to students seeking careers in dispute resolution.

Pro-tip: look for a program with an interdisciplinary approach. This will offer additional perspectives across fields like sociology, organizational development, law, and psychology. 

Finding the Right Program for Your Goals and Commitment

Finding a dispute resolution program that aligns with your goals, time, and level of commitment is crucial. Through thorough research and personalized discussions with program representatives, you can be sure you’re embarking on the best path for you and your career.

Southern Methodist University's MA in Dispute Resolution

Southern Methodist University's MA in Dispute Resolution program is an impressive option to consider. Its unique blend of educational experience and essential practical skills makes it a program worth exploring. 

Now is the time to ignite your passion and embark on a journey toward a rewarding career in dispute resolution. Dive deeper into the world of dispute resolution by downloading our free guide: Keeping the Peace & Conflict Management – Pursue a Master's in Dispute Resolution.

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