I am thinking about earning my masters in Conflict Resolution and Mediation beginning in the fall of 2012. The reason why I am emailing you is because your website and information came up when I was searching for mediators in the city of Austin. Ihave a huge interest in mediation and especially in the area of family mediation. Earlier this year, I contemplated going to law school, but after looking into it further, the reason why I was interested in going was the mediation aspect. I then discovered shortly thereafter that Abilene Christian University has a wonderful Masters program online in conflict resolution/ mediation. People in the masters program told me that if I just get connected with mediators in Austin, it is very likely that I can squeeze my way into the family mediation field. I have also had the opportunity to talk to someone who is successful in the field and she said the best way is to try to connect with mediators in the area I am interested in working in. It has come to my attention that mediation (without a law degree) is very tough (but doable). I wanted to get advice from experienced and successful mediators in Austin. Is earning a masters in mediation a career that I should put my time, energy, and money into? Or is something that is only part time? Mediation is something I can really see myself doing, but I have heard it doesn’t have a sustainable income for a career. Any knowledge and wisdom from someone in the field would be very much appreciated.
Thank you for your inquiry into the field. You sound very enthusiastic and willing to learn from those in the field. The advice given to you sounds solid, and I agree, you have your work cut out for you. But strong family trained mediators are crucial to a healthy fabric of social and legal services provided to families in the modern world. I, too, would suggest that you talk to some private family mediators who do this professionally (i.e. for competitive pay) whether they are in private practice or work for a family service agency. A next step after graduation would be an Advanced Family Mediation course—one that is approved by the Texas Mediator Trainers Roundtable. There is one offered at this DRC in July as you may have noticed on the website. Joining a local and state mediators’ organization such as Austin Association of Mediators and Texas Association of Mediators is critical. Considering your stage in career, I would suggest that you consider a position in an agency that provides services to families such as Domestic Relations Office or Austin Child Guidance for example whereby you can get experience with case management of families in conflict and need of resources. Your mediation training will be an asset to these services. The likelihood of your being able to complete mediation training and hanging a shingle as a mediator and paying your living bills with revenue is remote. Very few professionals make their living as a full time mediator and those who do have many years of professional experience in another market niche such as law, counseling or as a judge, for example. They have built a reputation as a reliable neutral and have extensive referral networks spanning decades. You might want to read through some of the past VoiceBox email inquiries as there are some valuable tidbits there that can possibly add to what I have responded to here.
Regardless of the challenges, the future of the field is wide open and it will take enthusiastic new mediators to define its future. I hope you are a leader in this endeavor, and I hope to meet you in the future.
Best of luck in your endeavors!