How to Become a Federal Mediator

By John Toivonen
A federal mediator helps to resolve conflicts between labor and management.

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Disputes that arise between labor and management can result in strikes, which can be costly for both sides and interfere with commerce. To resolve difficult issues, the parties can employ a federal mediator. Some contracts require that the parties mediate before calling a strike or lockout. A federal labor mediator is an employee of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, or FMCS, who is well-versed in labor law and has strong interpersonal skills. While many mediators are lawyers, bar licensure is not required to fill this job. Knowledge and experience count more than academic credentials. The average salary for a federal mediator ranges from $56,000 to $99,000 a year, depending on the state where you are employed, according to Salary Expert.

Pursue a degree that will teach you about mediation.

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Learn about labor law and mediation. Many future federal mediators pursue a juris doctor degree at a law school. If you follow this path, take as many elective courses as possible in labor law, mediation, arbitration and alternative dispute resolution. Not only will these courses look good when you enter the marketplace, they will give you the foundational knowledge you need to be a mediator.

If you do not go to law school, enroll in a mediation degree program. These programs are offered by universities and business schools. No matter where you enroll, read publications on mediation as a supplement to your formal education.

A skilled mediator can get people to agree.

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Complete an externship in mediation. Work in a position in which you learn directly about resolving conflicts. While an externship with an actual federal labor mediator would be ideal, working with and observing any mediator who resolves conflicts can teach you a great deal about the trade.

Watch how the mediator applies law and policy to the facts. Also pay close attention to how he treats the people with whom he is speaking. While knowledge is essential in mediation, the parties involved are humans with emotions. If you can make them feel comfortable, you have a good chance of bringing them to an agreement.

Prepare a resume that highlights what would make you a good mediator.

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Prepare a resume that highlights the education and work background that have prepared you to be a federal mediator. Highlight any relevant honors you have received along the way, such as an alternative dispute resolution award in law school.

The best way to find a job is through someone you know at the FMCS. If you had an excellent externship experience with a federal mediator, see whether there is an opening there. If you did not have an externship there, contact the FMCS to see whether any positions are open. Send or email your resume. You may have to send an academic transcript.

About the Author

John Toivonen is an attorney in Lansing, Mich., and has been a professional writer since 1999. His work has appeared in "The Washington Times." He holds a Juris Doctor from Thomas M. Cooley Law School and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Guilford College.

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