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Werner Institute  >  Graduate Degree Information  >  An Overview of Career Opportunities

Career opportunities for someone with a M.S. in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution:

Many people come to us and ask, "What types of career opportunities will I have when I finish the M.S. in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution?" This question is reasonable, therefore we created this page to help you develop a better understanding of what your options may be upon completion of the degree.

Turbo-charging

Students come to our program from a wide variety of backgrounds and embody a diverse range of career goals. As our Institute continues its growth and developments in the field of negotiation and conflict management become more integrated into society, the range of opportunities will continue to expand.

The field of conflict resolution is relatively new and still evolving; there is no lock-step career path as with more traditional professional fields such as law and medicine. The M.S. in NDR is not so much a traditional professional degree leading to a particular career result as it is a cutting edge program that turbo-charges students’ underlying strengths, thereby enhancing career opportunities and professional advancement. The basket of skills, perspectives, tactics, and techniques students develop in our program has broad application in a variety of career settings. Moreover, in addition to preparation for professional endeavors, our graduate program provides scholarly, cross-cultural, and interpersonal enrichment.

Professional Roles and Opportunities

Werner Institute Professor Bernie Mayer has described the roles of professional conflict specialists as falling into one or more of three categories:

(1) ally roles, assisting parties to engage more effectively (e.g., advocate, organizer, strategist, coach);

(2) third-party roles assisting parties to more effectively engage/resolve conflict (e.g. facilitator, mediator, evaluator, arbitrator); and

(3) system roles, assisting in design and development of systematic approaches to conflict (e.g. process designer, case manager, trainer, system adviser).

Opportunities for trained professionals in these roles are on the increase. The areas in which the growing demand for conflict resolution professionals has led to increased employment opportunities include:

 

Organizational dispute resolution programs within corporations and other large institutions—a study by Cornell University reveals that the vast majority of large corporations in the U.S. operate internal dispute resolution programs;

Governmental dispute resolution programs—by law, virtually all federal government agencies and an increasing number of state government programs offer alternative dispute resolution programs;

Public policy—decision makers are increasingly applying alternative dispute resolution, with growing emphasis in the area of collaborative governance;

Health care administration—a growth area calling for more professionals with an understanding of conflict management;

Employment and labor relations—a field that has long made use of mediation, arbitration, and other dispute resolution processes continues to provide career opportunities;

Business and human resource management—increasingly those in the business world recognize that conflict is an unsustainable expense if not handled by those with the appropriate background and training;

Organizational Development/Change management – Organizations must be adaptable to succeed in today’s marketplace. Implementing new initiatives that affect the organizational culture have a better chance to succeed with the assistance of those trained in conflict management;

Relief, development, and peacemaking organizations—conflict specialists are being sought to fill a growing number of positions at major international NGOs such as the UN and the International Labor Organization as well as at U.S. based organizations including the Agency for International Development at the Department of State (foreign language ability can be very helpful in these types of positions);

Education—more and more universities are establishing dispute resolution programs and/or requiring dispute resolution backgrounds for positions such as Assistant Deans of Students; public and private school systems are making greater use of dispute resolution professionals as well;

Private practice mediation—U.S. News & World Report lists mediation as one of the “best careers” of 2009; while the market for private mediators continues to grow, realistically, developing a private practice is slow and difficult and typically involves providing a combination of other services such as training and consulting; those who are able to leverage subject matter expertise in their background or focus on particular niches have greater opportunities for success;

Consulting firms—a number of organizations that do corporate, government, and public consulting are expanding their use of conflict management experts in providing problem solving services; some firms focus primarily on conflict management work;

The Internet—by virtue of its existence as an enormous open space in which privately ordered dispute resolution dominates over traditional litigation, the Internet offers increasing opportunities for conflict resolution specialists in dealing with the enormous range of disputes that develop in cyberspace;

Mediation program administration—a variety of organizations, including community mediation centers, private providers, courts, and state dispute resolution offices need administrators;

International business transactions—using ADR to resolve disputes across international boundaries has long been the rule rather than the exception and the increasingly “flat” world means growing demand for dispute resolution professionals.

Marketability

Even employers that do not fall into these categories are increasingly recognizing the value of expertise in negotiation and conflict management. Among the knowledge and skill sets students will acquire/develop in our program that can contribute to their value and marketability to potential employers:

  • Ability to develop creative approaches to problem solving applicable to business, workplace, government, and other settings;

  • Advanced communications skills;

  • Understanding of conflict analysis and the dynamics of conflict resolution, including better grasp of substantive, procedural, and psychological issues;

  • Superior approaches to negotiation for making deals and resolving conflict;

  • Competence in team-building and collaborative practice;

  • Skills in facilitating a variety of group processes from large group decision making to two-party conflict

Challenges

The newness and process of emergence of the field of conflict resolution make it both exciting and challenging with respect to career opportunities. The lack of lock-step traditional career paths means great flexibility and openness to new ideas and approaches, but it also places considerable responsibility on the shoulders of students approaching graduation to take ownership of the career development process.

We encourage students in our graduate program to leverage their own backgrounds and special interests to maximize their professional opportunities: many of our students are mid-career professionals who plan to use their degree to enhance career development in their current jobs; some students have particular expertise (e.g. business, health care, education) that they will utilize to complement their training in conflict resolution, while others have advanced training in fields that make for a good combination (e.g. degrees in law, business, psychology, etc.); still others pursue the M.S. in negotiation and dispute resolution as a prelude to further graduate study in conflict resolution or related disciplines or as a way of transitioning to an entirely new career path.

Students at the Werner Institute can make good use of our resources to enhance career opportunities. Developing strong relationships with faculty and professionals in the field can help students plug into a wide network of conflict specialists as well as organizations that use their services. Faculty and adjunct professors at the Werner Institute include practitioners and scholars representing a broad spectrum of the profession. Moreover, the practicum in which all our students participate not only provides a deeper understanding of the relationship of conflict resolution theory and practice, it also gives students valuable workplace experience and potential job opportunities.

The Results

Since our first group of graduates completed the degree in the fall of 2007 we found they have been able to apply the degree towards many interesting career paths. Alumni of the Werner Institute’s masters degree program work at places as diverse as the Union Pacific Corp., First National Bank of Omaha, public service agencies, a Jamaican resort, health care programs, school systems, state governments, PayPal, and the Kiewit corporation, to name a few. They are human resources professionals, lawyers, project managers, consultants, dispute resolution administrators, educators, human services case managers, entrepreneurs, and professionals in a wide range of other areas. Some of our alumni are in the same occupations they had when they entered the degree program. Others have found new career paths. Still others are pursuing doctoral degrees. Here are a few examples of careers or educational programs our Alumni have embarked upon following our program:

Performance Improvement Facilitator in charge of developing and implementing system-wide improvement initiatives for the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Program Associate for CDR Associates, a world-recognized leader in conflict management, resolution, and training located in Boulder, Colorado.

Arbitration Case Specialist for the Better Business Bureau in Omaha, Nebraska.

Director of Community Relations for the Concord Center. Located in Omaha, Nebraska the Concord Center is the state approved center for mediation and facilitation as well as for conflict resolution training in the greater metropolitan area of Omaha.

Program Associate for the Nebraska Office of Dispute Resolution in Lincoln, Nebraska where she assists with the development of dispute resolution and collaborative problem solving programs throughout the state.

Case Advocate/Housing Counselor for the Tenant Services division of the Family Housing Advisory Services in Omaha, Nebraska.

Assistant Director of the Creighton Center for Service and Justice, which engages students in community service, reflection and action on behalf of justice and sustainability at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

Doctoral Degree Candidate in the Public Policy Analysis and Administration program at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri.