Compliance officers are professionals who ensure organizations and agencies are conforming to laws and regulations. As laws are becoming more complex and diversified, the need for compliance checks has become necessary. It is important that all organizations follow rules, work within legal boundaries, and adhere to laws. Not only does this ensures safety, but also reflects good governance.
Laws have been designed for all kinds of industries such as healthcare, banking and finance, consumer manufacturing, and more. The role of a compliance officer has become more complex and in-demand. US News & World Report has ranked compliance officer jobs among the best occupations nowadays. Typically, a compliance officer specializes in a certain field according to his or her interest. For example, many compliance officers specialize in healthcare.
How to Become a Compliance Officer
Although there is no exact academic route to becoming a compliance officer, it is still necessary that you have at least a bachelor degree. However, many employers prefer hiring officers who have a master’s degree. It is recommended that you pursue a field in which you are interested. Listed below are the main steps to becoming a compliance officer:
Get a Bachelor Degree
Completing a bachelor degree is mandatory for any level of compliance officer career. You can earn a bachelor degree in fields such as accounting, business administration, legal studies, finance, and political science. Usually it takes four years to complete a bachelor-level program. However, the duration will depend upon the institute you choose for enrollment. A bachelor degree will prepare you for advanced studies ahead, or an entry-level career in the field.
Get a masters degree
After completing your bachelor degree, you can enroll in a masters-level program. Graduate studies will help boost your skill set, equip you with advanced knowledge, and boost your career opportunities. The duration of a master’s degree is approximately two years, but may vary depending upon which school you enroll in.
It is important that you have in-depth knowledge about the current laws, rules, and regulations. You can research in this field and broaden your knowledge base. There are plenty of learning resources you can choose from.
Landing a compliance-related internship is one of the most important steps to becoming a compliance officer. Some institutes offer internships to their students. You can check with the prospective schools to see if they offer internship programs or not. Internships are considered an ideal way to get your career started and acquiring professional experience. It is recommended that you opt for internship programs in industries you plan to work in.
It is not possible to become a compliance officer straight out of college. To reach this position, you must have at least 5 years of work experience. You can start off by pursuing entry-level or specialist level jobs in the field of compliance. You will acquire practical experience and will understand the legal and regulatory workings of the industry.
Becoming certified can take your career to the next level. Employers prefer hiring certified individuals as a certification reflects their expertise and advanced skill. Compliance officers can seek certification in the area they wish to specialize in. There are a number of associations and agencies that offer compliance certifications in specific fields. Listed below are a few main certifications and the relevant agencies:
AAPC - Certified Professional Compliance Officer (CPCO)
American Bankers Association – Certified Regulatory Compliance Manager (CRCM)
Types of Compliance Officers
There are many different types of compliance officers, working in all kinds of industries. All industries require compliance officers who can keep track of regulations relevant to their business field. Listed below are a few areas compliance officers work as:
Healthcare compliance officer
Consumer compliance officer
License compliance officer
Bank regulatory compliance officer
Real estate compliance officer
The exact job description of a compliance officer will vary, and will depend upon the level of work experience, skill, education, industry, and certification. A few general job duties have been mentioned here:
Review and evaluate compliance issues
Ensure the management and board of directors of a firm are adhering to rules set by the regulatory authority
Ensure all policies are being followed
Act as a channel of communication between compliance investigators and concerned parties
Develop, maintain, and revise policies
Prevent any unethical or illegal conduct within a firm
Respond to violation of regulations, policies, rules, and standards of conduct
Coordinate compliance activities
O Net Online has revealed statistical data regarding the income and growth rate of compliance officers. In 2013, compliance officers made a median annual wage of $64,340. The exact level of income one may be eligible for will depend upon many factors such as state, industry, organization, qualification, and skill. A majority of compliance officers can be found working for government and finance industries. With a steady growth rate, the projected openings for compliance officers in the coming few years is 55,300.
You can advance in the field and look forward to executive-level jobs by acquiring work experience, credentials, and skills. Many individuals move on to chief compliance officer jobs after working in an industry for a certain time period.