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What does an Arbitrator do?

To explain the answer to “what is an arbitrator,” further, it becomes necessary to delve even further into the kinds of disputes the arbitrator will have to handle when on the job. The disputes range in terms of subject and can be workplace disputes, diplomatic disagreements, family disputes, disagreements in the community, or even commercial disagreements. The hope is the arbitrator is able to assist in the negotiation of a reasonable solution that meets some of the expectations of all parties involved and to come to the fairest conclusion for all. The arbitrator takes on the role of negotiator in an effort to prevent the disputes from ever having to enter the courtroom and to keep the parties from having to endure a trial. If the mediator can get parties to negotiate an outcome that is fair and that benefits all parties mutually, it can save the courts both time and costs in having to deal with the dispute. At the same time, negotiations may also reduce the legal fees the disputing parties might otherwise face when going to trial.

No party is better or perceived as more important than the other in the eyes of the arbitrator. The individual must be fair to all parties involved and no one is “blamed” for the cause of the dispute during arbitration. The arbitrator must make every effort to obtain an agreement that is non-litigious in nature, where neither party receives blame for the dispute in the first place. The arbitrator will have to interact closely with disputing parties, study case files with considerable care in order to understand the background of the dispute, and the hopes or goals of all involved in terms of the most reasonable outcome possible.

The arbitrator holds all things in confidence so what parties discuss during arbitration remains entirely confidential: This is not at all the case in trial, where the information shared is public. Due to confidentiality agreements, the arbitrator must destroy notes pertaining to a case once the parties reach a reasonable resolution.

The arbitrator is one known by a number of different job titles including, but not limited to Public Employment Mediator, Mediator, Labor Arbitrator, Federal Mediator, Family Mediator, Commissioner, Arbitrator, Arbiter, ADR Mediator or Alternative Dispute Resolution Mediator, and ADR Coordinator or Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinator. Work sectors define the titles in which the mediator specializes.

Who is an Arbitrator?

Conciliators, mediators, and arbitrators are those who attempt to assist parties opposing one another in an effort to reach a resolution outside of the courtroom. The hearings arbitrators hold are confidential and private, and not as formal as the meetings one might encounter in a courtroom during a real trial. A mediator might specialize in a specific business, or might be a judge, lawyer, or aspiring judge. The job of the arbitrator is to listen to both sides of the opposition and to then determine a reasonable resolution or to help in the act of negotiating a resolution between the two parties. The candidate might work along with other arbitrators on a panel or alone. There are instances in which the arbitrator is called on to decide issues relating to legal procedures too, like what type of evidence opposing parties can submit as well as when there will be a hearing. Sometimes the law demands arbitration in order to settle any disputes or claims. If not required in a case, then sometimes-opposing parties agree to work out an issue with an arbitrator first before considering going forward with litigious action. On occasion, one or more parties might appeal the decision the arbitrator makes as well.

Arbitrator Job Description

Arbitrator Job Description

The arbitrator job description, in part, is defined by the sector the arbitrator works in at the time. The individual will need computer skills, familiarity with photocopying machines, and since many arbitrators work in an entrepreneurial capacity, the individual will want to have familiarity with how to use scheduling software, calendars, and some knowledge of Microsoft Word, Excel, and Microsoft Access Hot technologies. The ideal candidate can handle electronic mail software, presentation software platforms like Microsoft PowerPoint Hot technology. Familiarity with Micro Excel spreadsheets may prove beneficial, and knowledge of Microsoft Word are a skill the arbitrator will have to use before, during, or after the attempt at negotiations.

Knowledge of the English language is necessary, and the ideal candidate will want to assimilate knowledge early on in the academic career that will serve well in the future position of arbitrator; studies in spelling, the meaning of words, etymology, composition rules, writing style, form, and grammar are all of import to the individual filling this job position. Some basic understanding of psychology and the ways people behave will go far for the arbitrator trying to understand the motivations of all parties involved in the conflict. The individual has knowledge of legal codes, laws, precedents, regulations enacted by the government, agency rules, executive orders, and the political process of government as this may be required in certain arbitration roles. Finally, in dealing with people, the arbitrator will want to be able to interact with people in a positive way and the ideal candidate will be able to assess the needs of both parties involved in a dispute.

The job requires the ability to prioritized, plan, organize, and, in some instances, delegate tasks to others to keep things running efficiently. The arbitrator may have to communicate, not just with parties involved, but those who are not, such as government officials. The candidate filling the position has the ability to make sound assessments of the quality, importance, and value of both people and objects.  Additionally, one’s evaluation skills may come into play when assessing whether parties are complying with all standards, regulations, and laws. Paperwork and administrative tasks are a huge part of the job, and skill in scheduling and booking events, appointments, and programs is necessary. Strategizing skills will play a role in terms of job responsibilities, and the individual working as an arbitrator must have knowledge of computers and interacting software platforms.

Arbitrator Duties and Tasks

  • Ready documents and decisions for courtroom presentation or use.
  • Serve as arbitrator between opposing parties in an effort to establish an equitable resolution.
  • Ready any necessary legal forms and documentation in relation to the dispute at hand.
  • Legal research and examination of case studies.
  • Research personal and public records when necessary.
  • Meet with opposing parties and other related individuals or groups in order to arbitrate the existing dispute.
  • Use legal precedents and any regulations to examine and compare information; this is to spot any existing implications.
  • Responsible for decision making in legal cases.
  • Meet with legal professional to clarify any existing issues pre-trial.
  • When applicable, the arbitrator authorizes agreed to payments once a resolution to a dispute is complete: Also responsible for other procedural matters related to time requirements and witness count when necessary.
  • Investigate issues relating to legal concerns for court proceedings.
  • Conduct interviews with opposing parties to prepare for legal procedures.
  • When applicable, provide legal counsel to parties.
  • Decide what evidence is admissible in proceedings.
  • Coordination of activities, events, presentations, meetings, and activities with legal schedules.
  • Address those participating in court to administer oaths.
  • Behave as a facilitator between opposing parties to lead them to a resolution that is fair to all.
  • Clear up issues related to the interests and needs of opposing parties.
  • Remaining impartial and unbiased during arbitration.
  • Preparation and presentation of the resolution agreement to agreeing parties for the collection of signatures.
  • The application of any relevant precedent, policies, regulations, and laws in an effort to draw conclusions during arbitration.

The examination and full evaluation of legal documents and other materials used for claim support, including employer records, death certificates, birth certificate, claim applications, and physician notes/records.

Using judicial precedents, administrative precedents, or other evidence to assess the extent of a party or party’s liability.

Perform studies of existing appeals procedures to makes certain that laws are adhered to or in an effort to facilitate case dispositions.

Issue subpoenas before a formal hearing.

Skills Required

  • Active listening
  • Negotiation skills
  • Speaking and Oral Comprehension
  • Writing skills
  • Research
  • Persuasive skills
  • Exceptional judgment and decision-making
  • Reading comprehension
  • Active learning, assimilation, and adaptation skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Service orientation
  • Time management
  • Organizational skills
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Issue Sensitivity
  • Information Ordering Skills
  • Selective Attention Skills
  • Creative Thinking
  • Data Analysis

Working Conditions

Arbitratory Working Condition

The arbitrator position is entrepreneurial in nature, meaning the individual is self-employed. The individual is likely to have an office environment to work in, but also may move from place to place to meet up with disputing parties at an agreed to location or setting where the parties can meet on neutral ground. The study of cases occurs in an office environment as well. The individual that makes for an excellent candidate as far as an arbitrator is concerned is the individual that has exceptional communications, a compassionate and understanding nature, patience, and one who remains impartial at all times.

The ideal candidate has organizational skills of the highest order as well. There is some part time work in this particular sector, but one can actually expect to work full-time hours, although often irregular in nature. Eight hours a day at least five days a week is typical. The mediator or arbitrator typically has a law degree because they are often lawyers or aspiring judges. Sometimes retired judges or former judges also work in this arena. States vary in terms of the prerequisites and any potential course work must meet in order to qualify for the position. Mediators are often required to sign confidentiality agreements as well.

This job allows for a lot of room and freedom in terms of decision-making. It is also a sedentary position involving at least 75 percent of the time sitting down. The arbitrator can expect to deal with conflicts on a daily basis, and the work is relatively unstructured, so the self-driven arbitrator has to be well organized and exceptional at time management to ensure the meeting of deadlines and all-important commitments. The arbitrator is likely to spend a lot of time conducting face-to-face interviews or talks and a near equal time on the phone speaking with others. The atmosphere can be moderately competitive and challenging, and the arbitrator can expect to deal with angry people on occasion. Interpersonal and persuasive skills are important since there is a time spent at arm’s length with many people during discussions, interviews, and in the process of handling disputes.

In 2014, about 8,400 jobs went to conciliators, mediators, and arbitrators; 19% of which were in the sector of legal services; 15% in local government and another 15% in state government jobs (not including hospital or education sectors); 5% of jobs were in professional, civic, grant making, and religious, and like organizations. Other sectors include both finance and insurance.

Arbitrator Salary

Arbitrator Salary

The arbiter makes a decent salary. In fact, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the agency’s Occupational Employment Statistics, conciliators, mediators, and arbitrators had a median wage of around $58,020 in the spring of 2015. Those who fell in the 10 percent earning the lowest wage made about $32,440 a year, and those who were in the 10 percent of the highest earners made up to $118,090 a year. Those working in the insurance and finance sector demonstrated a wage of about $63,750 a year. Those working in local government made slightly more than those individuals working in state government with wages equal to $61,390 and $59,620 respectively. Arbitrators working in the legal service made around $55,230, and those in the grant-making, professional, and religious sectors made about $46,260 yearly.

How Much do Arbitrator Make?

The question as to how much do arbitrators make is dependent on several factors; whether the arbiter works full time or part time plays a direct role in one’s yearly earnings, but so do job location, residence, and experience. Where the role is listed under mediator, not an arbitrator, the national average salary is about $51,000 a year. The entry-level position for arbitrators starts out with a salary a bit lower though at about $48,000. In one’s mid-career, the individual makes about $1,000 less than the entry-level positions, and those who are experienced can make up to $56,000.

Experience plays a role in what an arbiter makes in his position. For example, those entering into the entry level that have experience can make 6% more than the national average with a starting salary of $54,060. Those who are in mid-career who have experience at the start can make 9% more than the national average at $55.590.00. Experienced professionals make about 10% more the than national average, and those who are late in their career can make up to 111% more than the national average salary.


Of those surveyed by PayScale, about 7% of working arbitrators have less than a year on the job; about 34% have one to four years work experience; about 29% have 5 to 9 years of experience; about 18% have 10 to 19 years of experience, and about 12% of individuals have 20 years or more job experience working as an arbitrator. Those who do work in the position find the job extremely satisfying.

Arbitrator EmploymentArbitrator Employment

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 6,920 arbitrator jobs in the year 2010. The number of positions continues to fluctuate between 2010 and 2014. In 2011, a drop in positions appears: there was 40 fewer positions at 6,880 jobs. Another decline occurs between 2011 and 2012, with a loss of 360 positions leaving 6,520 jobs filled. Then, an increase occurs between 2012 and 2013 equalling 310 new positions and 6,830 available jobs in the year 2013. Finally, between 2013 and 2014, a slight decrease once more of 120 positions leaving 6,710 positions filled that year. The fluctuations where there are job openings are likely indicative of positions left open by arbitrators that either left the field for another line of work, a similar line or work, or those who left the industry due to retirement. This means the industry is highly competitive, an experience is a likely edge for a candidate interested in establishing an arbitrator career.


Of the individuals surveyed by PayScale, 68% had medical benefits; 52% had dental; 49% had vision, and 30% reported having no health benefits associated with the position.

Gender Distribution

The gender distribution in the role of arbiter is 50 percent males and 50 percent females, showing an ideal balance for job distribution between qualified males and females. These figures are striking when compared to other careers since there is usually a seesaw effect where one gender has the greater percentage of jobs over the other.


How to Become an Arbitrator?

How to become a Arbitrator

The question as to how to become an arbitrator is complex; since much is expected of the person who fills this role, there is a lot of education and training the individual must go through to become a fair and impartial arbiter. The hopeful arbitrator will have to undergo extensive education, certification, and training. Work experience will also play a role in developing enough skills to be able to fulfill the role of an arbiter.

Arbitrator Education Requirements

Concerning arbitrator education requirements, the individual can attend a university or college offering two-year master’s degrees, certificate programs, or a doctoral degree program, all with a concentration on conflict resolution and disputes. Not many arbiters actually get a specified degree in the field of conflict resolution, mediation, or arbitration. Rather, college classes and certifications are supplementary endeavors, and these studies are coupled with work experience to determine a candidate’s eligibility of an arbitrator role.

Instead, students will pursue a degree in law, business, finance or other degrees and use what they learn through other pursuits when working as an arbitrator. Typically, a bachelor’s degree qualifies the graduate for the arbitration position matching the skill level and area of expertise the student has obtained. Meanwhile, there are arbiter positions, must either have a master’s business administration degree, law degree, or an alternative degree that is appropriate for the work sector in which the arbitrator will serve.

Arbitrator Colleges

A number of arbitrator colleges one can attend when considering the role of arbitrator since there are so many unique specialties in the field. Below are some of the leading colleges, all of which offer four-year college degree programs for the individual to learn how to be an arbitrator. Some of the schools are public, some are private, and some are not-for-profit.

  1. American University
  2. Dominguez Hills California State University
  3. Georgetown University
  4. La Salle University
  5. New York-based Manhattan College
  6. Ohio Dominican University
  7. New York-based Syracuse University
  8. University of California-Berkeley
  9. Colorado –based University of Denver
  10. University of Oregon

Additional training for the role of an arbitrator may include upwards of 40 hours or greater of specialized training courses. Each state in the nation defines what the acceptable amount of training is in order to ready oneself to fill this job. The arbiter can expect, at least in some states in the nation to have to work alongside a mentor who is already experienced working in arbitration. The amount of time one must spend in training is typically decided by the number of different dispute cases one works in order to meet the standards of qualification. Special training is made available to conciliators, mediators, and arbitrators through postsecondary schools, mediation membership organizations in the local and national sectors, and mediation programs made available through independent agencies. Sometimes a community mediation center can serve as a source of training through volunteer work.

An arbitrator does not have to get a license and there are no special certifications or registrations necessary for the position. Nonetheless, all training requirements within one’s state demand an individual complete, and it is possible to earn certification in specialized areas of arbitration. States determine the level of training a candidate for arbiter must meet; Some may demand a license of some kind; in other words, to be an arbitrator one has to be a judge, former judge, or licensed attorney. Sometimes certified public accountants can fill the role as well.

Major Subjects

If going to college to pursue studies appropriate for working in any arbitration position, there are many different programs available so coursework varies considerably. When working as an undergrad, typically, the student will be introduced to subjects like communication, psychology, and law for the first time, and courses will build on each other to help the student improve his knowledge base. Typical coursework explored in undergrad colleges include methodologies related to negotiations, contract law, communications, and there may be specialized programs such as healthcare, workplace negotiations, and family arbitration.

When entering into Bachelor’s Degree programs, the intensity of studies increase and one might find herself studying more conflict resolution and peace studies. With a BA, the student will be readied for an entry-level job in reconciliation, arbitration, or alternative dispute resolution. A B.A. program can strength one’s knowledge base in conflict studies, peace surveys, and meditation skills. During the course of studies, the student might undertake electives that include a good degree of concentration on workplace disputes, democracy in action, environmental disputes, peace movements, and intercultural communications.

If undertaking a graduate certification program, the student will have to complete an applicable Bachelor’s degree, with a focus on conflict resolution, peace, legal studies, political science, minority studies, history, anthropology, sociology, or psychology. Further studies may involve subjects related to dispute design systems, mediation theory, cross-cultural communications, and conflict process. If internships are available, it can benefit the student by giving them on hands experience in the area of arbitration.

With Master’s degree programs with a concentration on dispute resolution, the student may take up studies pertaining to individual and/or organizational conflicts.  The students will learn arbitration methodologies and negotiation techniques by practicing different role-play scenarios. Additional studies in psychology, group dynamics, and the role of leadership, transformation, and conflict origins are also areas of study for the future arbiter. Great insight is to be gained by the student taking up studies in the roles social identity, gender, and power play into both non-violent and violent disputes.

Arbitrator Specializations

Arbitrator Specialization

There are many areas of arbitration specialization. First, commercial arbitration deals with disputes arising in the realm of business, whether between employers and employees or customers and businesses. The arbiter’s role is crucial in most business sectors, not just for time and money saved, but for the professional and business relationships that can be saved through simple negotiations that lead to the resolution of conflicts between businesses and vendors, suppliers, customers or even business partners. Fast and non-adversarial dispute resolution is cost efficient and timely and involves dealing with both small and larger claims.

Additional areas where arbitration services might prove beneficial in terms of the commercial sector include, but are not limited to wills, trusts, and estates; intellectual property; securities, insurance coverage; real estate; healthcare; sports contracts; energy; e-commerce; and general/ complex commercial endeavors.

Construction arbitration is another area where dispute resolution proves beneficial. The arbiter might deal in special areas related to disputes pertaining to bids, protests, engineering policies, architecture disputes, interpretation, building home conflicts, mechanic’s disputes, multi-party disputes, insurance, labor disputes, contractors, environmental, licensing, claims, and terminations, among others.

Consumer Transaction Arbitration: This specialist handles disputes between businesses of all kinds and consumers who buy products and/or services. Often when purchases are made under a contract the document features a clause that puts resolutions into the hands of arbitration, either in the form of binding or non-binding mediation.

Employment arbitration: Employees and employers sometimes encounter disputes requiring fair resolution; such disputes may pertain to discrimination of an employee due to disability, age, national origin, sex, religion, color, or race. Other issues include sexual harassment and wrongful termination.

The specialties that fall under options for arbitration concentration are so many. The varied specialties give the candidate a lot to choose from in terms of focus in the field of arbitration. Additional areas of arbitration include matrimonial, life, health, and disability, medical malpractice, no fault arbitration, personal injury, and homeowner/realtor arbitration as well.

Professional Associations of an Arbitrator

One of the leading professional associations of an arbitrator groups is the American Arbitration Association (AAA) and was established in1996. The organization is a not-for-profit entity with a number of offices all over the United States. The AAA has extensive experience in the realm of dispute resolution, and the group is responsible for administering cases for dispute resolution, and as such, handles everything from filing to the closing of the disputes. The main goal of dispute resolution is to prevent a case from going to court when equitable resolutions are the alternative: The AAA seeks to facilitate such efforts to ensure equitable outcomes for all disputing parties in different sectors and industries. This agency also has offices in international locations through the International Centre for Dispute Resolutions. The administrative solutions the AAA provides include helping establish appointments between arbitrators and mediators, establishing the dates for hearings, and giving users details on options when it comes to resolving disputes, including information on how a settlement can be handled through mediation. The organization offers educational materials, publications, and training for anyone looking for greater understanding of dispute resolution alternatives.

Arbitrators FAQ

How do arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators differ?

An arbitrator is a person is a business professional, specialist in a specific industry or someone experienced in the areas of law, like judges and lawyers. Arbiters have a lot of freedom in the realm of decision-making as they are trained to do so, particularly in the area of dispute resolution. The arbiter is one that may work solo or with a group, and can decide what evidence is admissible at hearing, procedural issues, and the date and times hearings are set.

Unlike the freedom of decision-making arbiters have, mediators only assist in the resolution process and do not make decisions. The mediator acts as a facilitator only, a person who unbiasedly guides the opposing parties to an equitable agreement or solution. If the resolution is unachievable with the guidance of the mediator, the parties can seek other resolution alternatives.

Mediators and conciliators are alike as they both serve as guides to all parties involved in a disagreement or conflict.  What differs is that a conciliator will meet with opposing parties at separate times, not together simultaneously. Both parties have to determine if they plan to be bound by a conciliator’s recommendations beforehand. The conciliator does not deal with witnesses, cannot make decisions on a case, and does not handle procedural matters.

What is the job outlook for arbitrators?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, arbitrator hopefuls will see a 9 percent growth rate in jobs from 2014 to 2012, and this is a lot faster than other job sectors. Nevertheless, the sector is in high competition so jobs will remain limited. In fact, in the next decade experts anticipate only 800 openings for arbiters.

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