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Career ProfileCompliance Officer

What They Do

Strong leaders, writers and public speakers with solid ethical decision-making and communication skills have the traits necessary to become a successful compliance officer. Due to the confidential nature of the work of a compliance officer, integrity will also take someone far in this occupation.

It is the duty of a compliance officer to perform regular inspections or audits to make sure specific laws and policies under their charge are being met. In other words, compliance officers are people who ensure companies, governing bodies and organizations are acting in accordance with internal policies and regulatory restrictions. Compliance officers are employed in a wide range of industries, from healthcare to transportation, however, the majority of compliance officers work for the federal government.

To further illustrate the range of industries for which a person in this career can work, a compliance officer may be hired to enforce food safety regulations or ensure protective measures for the environment are being taken. Fire inspectors, licensing examiners, equal employment opportunity officers and transportation system inspectors are a few job titles one can expect to assume as a compliance officer.

From a general standpoint, daily tasks include evaluating and pinpointing risks involved in any given organization’s work, strategic design of controls and rules to lower those risks and compiling data to generate reports.

Expectations: Salary and Career Advancement

Because compliance officers can be employed in so many different industries, and due to other factors like years of experience and the size of the company for which they work, the salary of compliance officers will vary immensely across the board. Keeping that in mind, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that compliance officers in general earned a median annual salary of $64,950 in 2014.

This job is expected to see growth of five percent by 2022, and the need for compliance officers is expected to continue to increase beyond that, due to the growth of our country’s intricate system of laws, regulations and licensing permits.

Work Environment

It’s common for a compliance officer to work for an agency or a company contracted to provide compliance work; therefore, his or her physical work environment will vary based on the company or organization they are reviewing or auditing. Working conditions can range from reviewing documents in a comfortable office to off-site fieldwork on an oil rig in the middle of the sea. Many find this fluctuating job-to-job environment one of the most exciting aspects of the career.

Education, Special Skills and Other Qualifications

It’s important that a compliance officer, regardless of industry, possess a college degree. Again, because the industry in which a compliance officer works can vary so drastically, specific job requirements will also differ. This diversity of employer type and employer needs creates the requirement for extensive specialized training and education in the industry for which the officer works. A Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice or a Master of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice leadership will go far in opening doors for compliance officers who wish to work in legal or correctional settings.

Before a student declares a major, he or she should first try to gain experience in the field where they have the most interest. Internships provide highly valuable experience, and are a great way for a student to stand out from the crowd of applicants.