Job Duties

Arbitrators oversee a process called appropriate dispute resolution (ADR), an alternative to more formal litigation that can be used to settle disputes between parties. ADR hearings are private, confidential, and less formal than a trial, and if no resolution is reached and the dispute goes to trial, no statements made during ADR can be admitted as evidence. Arbitrators usually have worked as attorneys or businesspersons and have extensive expertise in a particular field. Opposing parties submit their dispute to the arbitrators, and the arbitrators have the responsibility of crafting a decision that will be binding. Before the proceedings, the parties both agree that they will be bound by the decision, and, consequently, few arbitrated proceedings are reviewed by the courts.

Job Skills

Arbitrators hold a great deal of responsibility and those seeking a career in the occupation should be ethical and responsible individuals. They need to have the ability to earn the confidence and trust of their clients. Arbitrators should also have perseverance, creativity, and reasoning ability.


In 2002, arbitrators earned a median annual salary of $47,320.

Training and Education

Specific training requirements for arbitrators who practice in State- and court-funded arbitration programs vary from State to State. In most States, private arbitrators are not required to obtain a license, certification, or specific training. Most arbitrators complete some type of training and have agreed to abide by certain ethical standards. The American Arbitration Association (AAA) requires those listed on its panel to complete an AAA training course, receive recommendations from the trainers, and complete an apprenticeship. Independent organizations and programs offer arbitration training. About 16 colleges and universities in the U.S. offer master’s degrees in dispute resolution or conflict management. Degrees that provide a strong background for arbitrators include public policy, law, and other related fields.


In 2002, arbitrators held about 6,100 jobs. About half worked for State and local government, and the rest worked for labor organizations, law offices, insurance carriers, and other private companies and for organizations that specialize in providing dispute resolution services.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of arbitrators is expected to increase about as fast as the average. More businesses than ever are attempting to avoid litigation. Arbitration and other related processes help them avoid lengthy delays, high costs, unwanted publicity, and ill will. Arbitration is faster, less expensive, and more conclusive. All this will help to increase demand for arbitrators.

To learn more about becoming an arbitrator, please visit our section on schools offering Legal Training for more information.