For people attracted to work that involves communication and finding solutions to problems, a career in this field is an excellent choice. Mediators are regularly called on by company legal departments and state and local governments. They also render aid in disputes involving social assistance, family disputes and health care.
Many job-seekers find themselves wondering whether this is a realistic path if you don’t have a law degree. Here’s what you should know.
Can You Be a Mediator Without a Law Degree?
You can become a mediator without a law degree. The average level of education for an entry-level mediator job is a bachelor’s degree, but there are other routes to your goal.
It’s important to remember that mediators and arbitrators aren’t the same things, even if you use the terms interchangeably. Mediators don’t control the outcome and don’t have the power to make legally binding decisions.
Mediators may find that their responsibilities and challenges bear a resemblance to those in the broader human resources field, but there are still different aspects of each, including:
· Conduct and lead meetings between disputants
· Interview claimants to learn about disputed cases
· Call on techniques to keep communication productive
· Render a written opinion after the mediation period
A mediator’s job is not to dispense legal advice, to hand down judgment, or to declare who’s right or wrong in a conflict. Their opinions are not binding in a legal sense. Instead, mediators are impartial third parties who keep the dialogue going, even between people who feel they have little in common.
As a result, somebody can find success in this field without going to law school. That’s not to say you won’t have greater confidence, a broader collection of knowledge to draw from and more available work if you do. It also depends on where you live. However, you can find your way in and climb the ranks.
How Can You Pursue a Mediator Career Without a Law Degree?
You can take several steps to get your start as a mediator, even if you don’t want to study the law.
1. Discover Your State’s Requirements
Your first step down this career path should be to familiarize yourself with your state’s requirements for becoming a court-certified mediator. Earning this distinction will open doors and help you find work.
Not every state requires a bachelor’s degree to obtain court-certified status, but many do. In Florida, applicants must be 21, hold a mediator certification and be able to pass a background check. Several other states require master’s degrees or higher. Some only need degrees to practice specific types of mediation. A further subset of states requires bachelor’s degrees but not one in law.
For instance — the state of Pennsylvania allows individual courts to set their own rules for retaining a mediator. Bachelor’s degree requirements only apply to people interested in custody mediation. Even then, the degree may be in law, social science or behavioral fields, such as psychiatry, family therapy, psychology or counseling.
2. Complete Mediator Training
In Florida, Maryland and some other states, all it takes to get your foot in the door is to complete a comprehensive mediator training course and pass a background check. These usually last anywhere from 20 to 40 hours, though some states require longer. This type of training is useful because it:
· Gives interested parties an overview of the work involved
· Provides role-playing and other practical opportunities
· Exposes you to the world of mediation and imparts new models
3. Attend a Conference
Mediator conferences offer another great way to get an overview of this career field. They also put you face-to-face with top-tier mediation trainers and thought leaders. You’ll get to expand your professional network while taking part in valuable workshops and activities.
See what types of events might appeal to you by visiting the event calendars of groups the Association for Conflict Resolution, the American Bar Association Dispute Resolution Conference and state and regional organizations.
4. Find a Mentor
Whether by itself or in conjunction with other suggestions, finding a mentor is one of the most valuable things you can do to help your career. A mentor is somebody who knows the ins and outs of the work you’re pursuing and who has lots of practical, hands-on experience.
Mentorships won’t always offer a replacement for higher education. However, they can give you an extra edge, help you create productive and lasting relationships and even open some doors.
5. Join an Alternative Dispute Resolution Firm
Also called dispute resolution centers (DRCs), alternative dispute resolution firms specialize in providing talented and committed mediators to parties in desperate need. Search through job listings in your local area.
Even if they’re not hiring, DRCs may be willing to let you shadow them during a workday. However, non-disclosure agreements might come into play. You’ll be able to learn more about the kinds of background they’re looking for in applicants and what course you can chart that doesn’t require a law degree.
Want to Get Started as a Mediator?
Life as a mediator can deliver surprises from day one. You can take multiple paths to find fulfilling employment in this field. Read the guide above to understand the options in front of you.