As the government extends its regulations over the financial industry, corporations and firms are realizing they need their own personal watchdogs to make sure that all their standards and practices are within the bounds of good business. It's an intensive job, but someone has to do it – so if you're a stickler for proper behavior, or simply an expert on rules and regulations, then becoming a compliance officer may be the finance career you've been searching for.
Being a compliance officer doesn't require a college degree – but you'd be much better off in your job search if you had one, and on-the-job experience is also crucial. That's because your personal disposition and sense of ethics will play a huge role in your work as a compliance officer, much more so than other finance positions, and not just while you're on the job – but when you're obtaining the position in the first place, too.
"The most important skills include leadership, writing, public speaking, ethical decision-making, communications, and training and instructional design," Keith Darcy, executive director of the Ethics and Compliance Officers Association told U.S. & World News Report. "They should also possess a high degree of courage and integrity due to the confidential nature of the work." For a would-be compliance officer, a clear display of these traits is as important as any certification, training, or job experience. (There are a number of different certifications available for compliance officers, but they're specific to individual fields, such as healthcare.)
It's the officer's job to make sure that their company is in full compliance with any regulations, rules, or business standards, whether they're government policies or company bylaws. Often reporting to the CEO or the COO, compliance officers must be fully aware of any relevant provisions, whether they exist on the state, federal, or corporate level.
A worker in this field will also likely be responsible for making sure that all licenses and permits are in place on a regular basis, and to ensure that none of the company's documents or paperwork is out-of-date. As such, industry-specific preparations and training are an absolute must. A compliance officer working in the environmental field would need to have an entirely different set of knowledge and skills compared to a compliance officer working in the finance industry, so diversifying and intensifying your studies is a must for anyone interested in this field.
Luckily, all the preparations and intensive training will pay-off – not only are compliance officers compensated well compared to the national average, but it's a field that displays enormous growth potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a compliance officer clocks in at $62,000 – and the top 10 percentile earn themselves over $95,000 a year, on average.
Of course, geography plays a major role in analyzing these numbers. Prospective officers, it might be best to move out to the Northeast: the highest median pay rates were found in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Framingham, Massachusetts. In both locations, median pay alone rang in at over $90,000. Meanwhile, those in search of a job position would be better off moving out west: California boasts the highest number of jobs in the industry, collectively employing well over 25,000 officers.
And better yet, those numbers look to improve over the coming years. Attributing rapid expansion of the field to increased regulations in the financial sector, U.S. Rep. Shelly Moore Capito last year declared that compliance officers were looking at a projected job growth rate of over 30 percent.