Qualifications required to be an ombudsman include analytical and problem solving ability, courage to speak up, the ability to communicate effectively with diverse groups of people, and discretion. Although a formal academic degree or specific career background may not be necessary to become an ombudsman, the International Ombudsman Association offers formal training and certification for the role. There are also set requirements to join the International Ombudsman Association.
Ombudsmen work in a variety of fields including management, academia, law, human resources and consulting. They are responsible for resolving disputes and concerns in organizations through mediation, conflict coaching, shuttle diplomacy and facilitation. An ombudsman may report organizational issues, systemic problems and trends to high-level executives and leaders. An organizational ombudsman does not represent any side in a dispute or investigate problems.
There are different types of ombudsmen, including classical, advocate, and executive ombudsmen. Classical ombudsmen may be appointed by a legislature or elected by constituents to monitor how citizens are treated under law. The professionals are typically authorized to make recommendations concerning policy change and to conduct investigations.
Advocate ombudsmen work in juvenile institutions and long-term care facilities and may be authorized to advocate on behalf of aggrieved groups or individuals. They may work in the private or public sectors to objectively evaluate claims. Executive ombudsmen also work in private or public sectors and ensure accountability in an organization or specific program. They typically receive complaints on failures or inaction of organizations, their employees, officials or contractors.
People who want to join the International Ombudsman Association must pass a written examination, possess a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, have work experience and apply for certification.