Conflict resolution degrees

Conflict resolution skills can be valuable asset in numerous occupations, from counseling and family therapy to international business and corporate law. Students in conflict resolution degree programs learn to encourage productive discussions between opposing sides of a contentious situation, using advanced communication skills to identify and acknowledge as many of each side's needs and interests as possible.

Despite its common use in the counseling profession, degrees in conflict resolution differ from counseling psychology degrees in a few significant ways. For example, conflict resolution students may focus on learning to resolve and set aside individual grievances, and counseling psychologists may attempt to address contentious patterns of behavior over time.

What conflict resolution degrees are there?

Degrees in conflict resolution can be earned in both undergraduate and graduate programs. The specific approach and coursework schedule of a conflict resolution program depends on the degree level studied as well as the focus of your chosen college or university.

Bachelor's degrees

Undergraduate degrees in the field typically provide students with an introductory understanding of mediation and resolution in various contexts. Subjects studied in bachelor's programs may include interpersonal dispute awareness, conflict evaluation strategies and the role of media in conflict situations between nations, companies and other large-scale entities.

Careers with conflict resolution degrees

Conflict resolution degrees have far-reaching applications in the working world, including positions in businesses, government agencies, counseling firms and educational institutions. Check out this list of possible careers and see just how versatile your degree can be:

*Arbitrators, mediators and conciliators are extralegal professionals who use their skills to help resolve disputes outside of the court system. Mean annual wage in 2013: $76,840. Job growth 2012-22: 10%.

*Human resources and labor relations specialists work with employees, communicating organizational needs and addressing grievances. Mean annual in wage 2013: $59,075. Job growth 2012-22: 7%.

*Social workers are human service professionals who help people in various walks of life cope with difficulties and conflicts in their everyday lives. Mean annual wage in 2013: $48,370. Job growth 2012-22: 19%.

*Marriage and family therapists bring a family-centered approach to counseling, addressing each client's relationships with others as well as the clients themselves. Mean annual wage in 2013: $51,690. Job growth 2012-22: 31%.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Bachelor's degrees are the primary undergraduate option for students seeking conflict resolution degrees, but associate degrees that cover similar territory may be found online and on campus at certain schools. Students hoping to study conflict resolution at the associate level should look for relevant coursework within specific departments, such as:

  • Communications
  • Business administration
  • Management
  • Human services
  • Peace studies

Some online conflict resolution certificates may also be available to prospective students with no prior university-level academic experience.

Master's degrees

The extent and variety of conflict resolution degrees is greatest at the master's level, where the numerous professional avenues of the discipline are each given their share of attention. Here's a brief list of subjects that may be studied in graduate-level conflict resolution programs:

  • Advanced conflict management
  • Theories of personality, identity and culture
  • Organizational behavior
  • International relations
  • Diversity in the workplace
  • Dispute resolution and the legal system
  • Managing conflict in schools
  • Negotiation and intervention

While some master's programs may not require a specific undergraduate degree for admission, candidates are often expected to have had at least some formal training in the field where they hope to apply their skills. For example, several credit hours of business administration training may be needed for applicants to a program that focuses on disputes within and between organizations, and a bachelor's degree in psychology may be required of those looking to address interpersonal issues in a counseling or family therapy environment.


If you want to add formal negotiation or mediation training to your set of professional skills but aren't sure if a full-fledged degree is the right choice, many colleges and universities offer campus-based and online conflict resolution certificates that may require as few as six months of study to complete. Some certificate programs require applicants to have a bachelor's degree, while others may allow time spent in a related profession or other relevant life experience to stand in place of formal education.

Depending on the program, coursework may be offered either in person or online. Conflict resolution certificate specializations available in 2015 include negotiation, mediation, organizational conflict, international conflict and disputes in health and elder care settings.

Online degrees

Students without the resources necessary to commit to a full-time, campus-based program can find online conflict resolution degrees at each of the above levels. Some programs may come with a fieldwork or internship component, particularly at the graduate level, so aspiring online students of conflict resolution should check with a registrar or advisor at their chosen institution to ensure that they'll be able to complete any hands-on coursework that their degree may require.

Featured conflict resolution schools

Researching individual programs can help you better understand the semester-by-semester progression that leads to a degree in the discipline. Here's a brief list of colleges and universities that offer either campus-based or online conflict resolution degrees and certificates:

  • Abilene Christian University offers a comprehensive conflict resolution graduate degree online. Students gain competencies in such knowledge areas as conflict theory, dispute resolution systems, mediation principles, negotiation, ethics and organizational communication.
  • Columbia University in New York provides a conflict resolution master's degree program to both part-time and full-time students. The university encourages professional applicants looking to enhance their "soft skills" to make advancements or transitions in the workplace.
  • George Mason University gives students a wide-ranging conflict resolution option at the bachelor's level, allowing undergraduates to specialize at the interpersonal, global, individualized or community and organizational level of conflict. GMU also offers a Ph.D. program for post-graduate students.
  • University of Massachusetts Boston has a variety of non-degree certificates available, from 12-credit specializations in mediation, negotiation, organizational conflict or international conflict to 18-credit dual-focus certificates in any two of the above.

Other notable schools offering degrees in conflict resolution include Colorado State University, Champlain College, New York University and Kansas State University, but these few and the list above are far from the only opportunities. If this degree interests you, start by checking out one of these programs, or compare conflict resolution schools in your area to see what programs fit your needs and goals.

1. Conflict Resolution Degree, Abilene Christian University, http://conflictres.acu.edu/
2. Course Requirements, Master of Arts and Certificate in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, Abilene Christian University, http://conflictres.acu.edu/conflict-resolution-program-overview/program-curriculum-master-of-arts-in-conflict-resolution-and-reconciliation/
3. Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, School of Continuing Education, Columbia University, http://ce.columbia.edu/negotiation-and-conflict-resolution
4. The School for Conflict Analysis & Resolution, George Mason University, http://scar.gmu.edu/
5. Conflict Resolution Certificate Courses and Requirements, University of Massachusetts Boston, http://www.umb.edu/academics/mgs/crhsgg/grad/con_res_grad_cert/requirements
6. May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
7. "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/

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