2021 Guide to Online Conflict Resolution Certificates and Short Courses

Are you a born problem solver? If you get excited about the prospect of finding unique outcomes to complex situations, you might consider pursuing an online conflict resolution certificate. 

What is conflict resolution? It’s the ability to help two or more parties solve a disagreement, whether it’s a personal, legal or financial matter. There are other goals, too, like reaching a resolution efficiently and improving the parties’ communication and relationship. Sound simple? Far from it. But through online conflict resolution programs, you may develop the skills necessary to work well with all types of personalities, seek the middle ground between disparate stances and help people find solutions to serious problems.    

Can You Study Conflict Resolution Online?

What is conflict resolution, if not a set of skills to help people who disagree come to a compromise? That disagreement could be between parents who need to reach a custody agreement. Other times it may be between businesses when one believes the other has breached a contract. It could be between co-workers who have a hard time working together because of different personalities and ideas. 

You can seek to learn the skills that may help you handle these disputes and others in many ways, including in-person classrooms, at work, through mentorship and even online. 

Online conflict resolution programs may offer information to help you pursue a dispute resolution career, such as different negotiation strategies and how to define each party’s priorities and communication techniques. Online courses may also provide example scenarios to review or participate in. You don’t have to go through a traditional in-person program to gain the information, skills and practice that could help you become a neutral party or conciliator. 

Common Topics in Conflict Resolution Online Courses

Online conflict resolution certificates and short courses may touch on a wide range of topics. Programs may also have different focuses that influence the classes you’ll take. Some might emphasize mediation or arbitration in legal settings, including programs for those with their JDs. Others are geared toward professionals who want to use conflict resolution in a workplace setting. 

Some common topics may include: 

  • Theories of conflict
  • Psychology
  • Negotiation principles
  • Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Ethics
  • Workplace conflict
  • Family conflict 

Arbitration Law Courses

A short course or certificate on arbitration may include information on the laws and regulations for U.S. and international arbitration and the process, including how it is similar to or differs from litigation. A course might also touch on how to manage arbitration with parties in different jurisdictions and cultures. 

Mediation Theory and Practice Courses

Mediation may be used in a wide range of legal and business circumstances. A course could discuss the goals and strategies for successful mediation and how mediators can help the parties communicate and compromise. 

Dispute Resolution in Family Law Courses

Mediation is common in divorce, child custody and other family legal matters. A course on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in family matters may touch on the unique aspects of these cases. 

Negotiation Theory and Practice Courses

A short course or certificate on negotiations may focus on various tactics and using conflict resolution strategy in real-world scenarios, whether it is a legal, business, workplace or personal dispute. 

The Psychology of Conflict Courses

Short courses or certificates like this may focus on the psychology behind conflict and communication. It may be helpful to understand why people behave the way they do during a conflict and how to communicate with different personalities. 

Cross-Cultural Conflict Courses

Disputes may become more complex when the parties have different cultural backgrounds. Courses such as these may discuss unique cultural differences and how to navigate them respectfully. 

Is a Conflict Resolution Course or Certificate Worth It?

It’s natural to wonder whether studying conflict resolution is worth it. Will the cost of going back to school and the time spent developing new skills improve your career? It depends on many factors, including whether you want to become a professional neutral third party or use conflict resolution expertise in your current profession. It also depends on your other educational and professional experience.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2019 median salary for arbitrators, mediators and conciliators  was $63,930. Because this is a median figure, salaries can be much higher or lower depending on the setting you work in, the geographic region, years of experience and other factors. For example, professionals in the top 10% earned more than $123,730 per year in 2019. 

Data from the BLS as of May 2019 indicates that the median salaries for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators in some of the top industries were: 

  • Legal services: $73,610
  • Local government (excluding education and hospitals): $66,410
  • State government (excluding education and hospitals): $64,080
  • Healthcare and social assistance: $46,300 

Based on annual mean wages (not the median wage) from the BLS, the top-paying industries for arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators by mean salary  were: 

  • Federal executive branch: $124,380
  • Colleges and universities: $92,060
  • Legal services: $84,180
  • Businesses, labor, political and professional organizations: $81,470
  • Management of companies and enterprises: $76,600

A profession involved in or focused on conflict resolution may range in overall salary depending on the industry you are in, but that isn’t the only factor in whether a certain certificate or other online program is worth it. Take time to consider your natural talents and what you enjoy doing for work. Do you prefer to avoid tension and conflict? Or would you feel personal satisfaction in a position that required managing people and disputes? 

If you are interested in dispute resolution, there may be several educational routes you can take. While an online conflict resolution certificate or short course is one option, you could complete an accredited Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree. This degree is most appropriate if you currently work or wish to work in the legal field without becoming a lawyer. Many professionals in business, politics and the nonprofit sector could possibly benefit from an MLS degree, which may give you a working knowledge of the law and encompass courses on negotiations.    

Conflict Resolution Certificate vs. JD

There’s a big difference between getting a law degree, or a Juris Doctor (JD), versus a conflict resolution certification. A JD is a three-year program that qualifies you to take the bar exam and become a licensed attorney. You may gain a wide breadth of knowledge and training that could help prepare you for many legal careers, including a litigator or transactional attorney. A conflict resolution short course or certificate is a narrower education, focused specifically on the knowledge and skills you may want to become a professional mediator or manage conflict in a professional setting. 

Conflict Resolution Certificate vs. MBA

The difference between a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree and a conflict resolution certificate is also a difference between a general vs. specific education. An MBA is meant to provide you with a wide range of knowledge and skills to take on many different careers. You may learn about topics surrounding a number of business degrees, such as accounting, business operations, finance, marketing, information technology and more, which you may find useful to advance or change your career. An online conflict resolution program, on the other hand, offers information and training in a narrow set of skills highly focused on mediation and conflict resolution. 

3 Benefits of an Online Conflict Resolution Certificate or Short Course Program

Completing a certificate or short course in conflict resolution may offer a number of benefits. Below are some possible highlights of these programs. 

1. Become a Better Communicator

Conflict resolution relies on actively listening to others, figuring out what’s important to the other parties involved in the dispute and offering possible compromises. At its core, it is about communicating about each party’s needs. Even if you choose not to pursue a career as a mediator, negotiator or neutral, you may be able to better communicate and handle conflict in any setting.

2. Grow Leadership Skills

Any business person likely could tell you that every industry and workplace may have conflict, with some disputes louder than others. There may be issues between managers and workers or shareholders and board members, to name a few. Having conflict resolution training may be handy for individuals who want to move up into managerial or executive positions. You may be able to use this training to not only enhance your leadership skills and better handle disputes you’re involved in but also help reach solutions with others in the organization or potential business partners. 

3. Change Careers

Specific education and training in conflict management may give you the ability to pursue new careers in dispute resolution,  such as a professional mediator for family law or other legal matters. This option may be particularly interesting for people interested in a legal career without going through three years of law school and the bar exam to practice as an attorney.   

Develop Your Conflict Negotiation Skills with a Course or Certificate

Dispute resolution skills may prepare you for a wide range of interesting and satisfying careers, whether you want to stay on your current trajectory or take a new path. Consider an online certificate in conflict resolution.

Last Updated November 2020