What is a Compliance Officer?

compliance officer

Today’s corporate world must navigate through an increasingly strict maze of laws, so the title of compliance officer is becoming more popular. Compliance officers are mid to upper-level financial examiners who ensure organizations stay in line with changing regulations. It’s their duty to evaluate business operations for conformity with licenses, permits, internal controls, and laws to minimize the risk of costly penalties. The U.S. News and World Report has named compliance officer as America’s 17th best business job. Employment in compliance is expected to grow faster-than-average by 10 percent from 2014 to 2024, thus creating around 3,700 openings. Compliance officers have a very low unemployment rate of just 1 percent. If you’re a financial guru looking for a hot career path, consider the following job profile on compliance officers.

What Compliance Officers Do

Compliance officers are primarily responsible for making sure companies are adhering to rules from regulatory bodies, such as the SEC, FINRA, or IRS. They’ll carefully monitor financial conditions, including ledgers, tax returns, and assets, to check out for money laundering or fraud. Compliance officers spearhead new company protocols that comply with newly reviewed government or industry regulations. Other typical duties may include evaluating employee compliance, fielding consumer complaints, attending regulation board meetings, reviewing new laws, and preparing records for arbitration cases. Compliance officers strive to implement controls that mitigate the financial or operational risks organizations are facing. They typically report to a senior executive team or Chief Compliance Officer (CCO).

Where Compliance Officers Work

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 257,010 compliance officers are currently employed across the United States. The highest percentage is working for government agencies in the federal executive branch. Compliance officers are commonly found in state government, local government, private corporations, insurance companies, financial institutions, and manufacturing firms. Some compliance officers work directly for investing firms in securities and commodities exchange. Other industries include healthcare, telecommunications, oil extraction, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and computer design. Compliance officers typically work full-time in comfortable office settings with 40-hour weeks for good work-life balance. Their job does involve above-average stress due to the tremendous responsibility though.

How to Become a Compliance Officer

Before jumping into compliance, you’ll have to earn at least a four-year bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited business school. Most compliance officers major in finance, accounting, statistics, economics, or management. Certain universities will offer a certificate in corporate compliance for specialization. Although it’s not required, holding a Master of Science in Finance (MSF) or Master of Business Administration (MBA) can help you stand out. Earning a Master of Laws (LLM) in Compliance could also be beneficial. Compliance officers typically need several years of experience for promotion. Starting as an intern and moving into compliance analyst or financial analyst positions is likely. Obtaining professional certification can expedite your career advancement. For instance, the American Bankers Association offers the Certified Regulatory Compliance Manager (CRCM) credential.


Overall, compliance officers are detailed-oriented examiners who pore over business balance sheets, contracts, and other records to guarantee laws are followed to the letter. Officers utilize their intimate knowledge of regulations and integrity to determine whether organizations are adhering or vulnerable to reproach. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compliance officers are rewarded with an average yearly salary of $69,180, or $33.26 per hour. Taking the steps to become a compliance officer can build a rewarding career keeping companies operating truthfully.

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