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Compliance officer salary & career outlook

Compliance officers are regulatory experts who ensure their organizations conform to all rules and laws that pertain to them. While most compliance officers conduct investigations on behalf of the government, they can also work on the corporate side of the equation, reviewing and effecting policies that ensure their employers stick to the rules. Successful compliance officers have a thorough understanding of the laws and regulations that impact their fields of specialty, and that expertise requires an education.

Compliance officer salaries

Compliance officers' earnings can vary tremendously by employer, experience and location. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic reports that the median compliance officer salary in 2013 was $64,340, but high earners — those in the top 10 percent — earned in excess of $99,450. Compliance directors and executives earned more than officers, and corporate compliance officers tend to earn more than government-employed professionals, particularly those representing the financial, oil and advertising industries.

Where you live can also impact your earnings immensely. Salaries are especially high in the northeastern region of the country where federal regulatory bodies and a number of financial operations are based. According to the BLS, the following areas were among the most lucrative for compliance officers in 2013:

  • Washington, D.C.: $85,640
  • Delaware: $80,960
  • Connecticut: $77,930

Wherever you choose to live, know that you may be able to improve your earnings potential notably by simply investing in the right education.

How to become a compliance officer

Compliance officers must have expert knowledge of the laws and regulations governing their fields, a skill that typically requires both formal education and experience in the field. A bachelor's degree in compliance or a related field is usually sufficient, but an advanced degree or additional experience in a related field — like business — may provide you with a valuable edge over career competition, not to mention higher earnings. Many new programs allow you to complete at least some of your compliance officer education online, an ideal solution for specialists who want to advance their educations (and careers) while maintaining full-time employment.

Career outlook for compliance officers

Increasing regulation and global business growth are boosting demand for compliance officers in a major way. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that demand for compliance officers will grow by 5 percent nationally between 2012 and 2022, which is about half as fast as the average for all occupations. All states are expected to add compliance officers, but some may fare better than others. State labor department data show the following states are expected to enjoy the strongest increase in demand, by percent:

  • Utah: 20.3%
  • Colorado: 18.1%
  • Florida: 14.7%

In addition, the career has seen a positive impact in the wake of the financial crisis, according to the Wall Street Journal, which named compliance officer as one of the hottest jobs in America in January 2014. The potential for huge fines and penalties have spurred companies, particularly banks, into a hiring spree for compliance staffers, the Journal reports.  The unemployment rate for compliance professionals was just 5.7% in the third quarter of 2013, compared with 7.2% unemployment nationally.

The future seems bright for future compliance officers hoping to work on a more global level, too. According to Compliance Week, a number of U.S.-based corporations are expected to expand overseas, opening new doors for corporate compliance officers who are willing to familiarize themselves with the cultures and legal frameworks of other nations. Foreign language and international business courses in addition to core compliance officer education can be particularly helpful in this arena.

Sources:

"Compliance Officer: Dream Career?," Gregory J. Millman and Samuel Rubenfield, The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 15, 2014,
http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303330204579250722114538750

Summary Report for Compliance Officers, O*Net OnLine,
http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/13-1041.00

Long Term Occupational Projections for Compliance Officers, Projections Central,
http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm

Occupational Employment and Wages: Compliance Officers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,
http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes131041.htm

Business and Financial Occupations: Compliance Officers, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/about/data-for-occupations-not-covered-in-detail.htm#Business and Financial Occupations