The duty of an ombudsman is to act as a mediator between private citizens and an outside institution, such as a business corporation or government, in the instance of someone (generally a consumer or taxpayer) making a grievance or complaint with that institution. Although the complexities of such a position might give off the impression that becoming an ombudsman is difficult, the training process, per the International Ombudsmen Association's standards, is fairly simple.
There are a number of training courses to get through before certification as an ombudsman. These courses should be taken through The International Ombudsman Association (IOA), as it is the official and credible source for training. The following courses are offered: Ombudsman 101, Ombudsman 101 PLUS (optional/supplemental), Intermediate, Advanced and Specialized (optional/supplemental). Once education courses have been completed, the next step is to get certified and become a member of the IOA.
Types of Ombudsmen
Depending on who or what you wish to represent as an ombudsman, there is a different set of criteria, which should also include the consideration of the state you wish to work in as an ombudsman. Some ombudsmen represent the interests of the elderly, and a genuine concern for the well-being of senior citizens is necessary for the job. Further training in this specialized field might be needed through a long-term care institution.
Other ombudsmen work for a country, a constituency or even the Navy. The common denominator with all types of ombudsmen is that a sense of diplomacy, patience and neutrality are key to successfully determining the outcome of a claim.
An ombudsman with enough experience can be eligible to become a Certified Ombudsman Trainer (COT), helping to implement and instill his or her skills within a new batch of aspiring ombudsmen. The IOA's Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics should constantly be reread and restudied by the truly serious ombudsman wishing to keep apprised of any amendments or addendums to these important reference tools. Annual conferences are also held by the IOA where topics on making a difference and strengthening the foundation are covered in order to create a better understanding and appreciation for the profession.
Deciding which level you wish to ascend to as an ombudsman is crucial in ascertaining the intensity of your training. Ombudsmen who work for a national government are subject to more scrutiny, with even greater emphasis put on their neutrality. Other considerations include the fact that there are many anomalous situations within the profession. For example, some countries, such as Italy and Japan, do not appoint ombudsmen at the national level, thus making the goal to work at a national level null.
The benefits of training to become an ombudsman are evident in the pay scale, which according to PayScale.com ranges from $15 to $55 an hour, depending on experience and the institution you are employed by, and the reward of assisting others who need your voice to defend them. But there are additional benefits in keeping current with training courses as regularly as possible so as to constantly be aware of changes and improvements to ombudsmen standards. At the Navy level, ombudsmen have bi-monthly workshops for this very reason. Another beneficial element in the ombudsman profession is learning to speak an additional language. While not essential, having this extra skill would greater your chances to continually expand your career potential.