How to Become a Compliance Officer

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How to Become a Compliance Officer

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Compliance officers work to ensure a company or organization conducts all business practices in full compliance with national and international laws, industry regulations, and professional standards. Top employers include financial services, government agencies, and healthcare organizations, but compliance officers may work in any industry with complex regulation requirements.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), compliance officers earn a median salary of $72,520. This guide covers important information for prospective compliance officers, including education requirements, certifications, and professional organizations.


Compliance officers need exceptional critical-thinking, communication, organizational, reading comprehension, and analytical skills. Prospective compliance officers can acquire these skills through education and experience.

Critical Thinking

Critical-thinking skills involve using logic and reasoning to identify problems and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of possible solutions. Compliance officers use critical-thinking skills to examine business policies and procedures, complete risk assessments, and evaluate potential solutions.


Communication skills involve the effective transfer of information through written or verbal means. Compliance officers use interpersonal communication skills daily to collaborate with staff, clarify regulation issues, and distribute important information to others.


Organization skills include the ability to multitask, prioritize various duties, and pay attention to details. Compliance officers use organizational skills when managing schedules, meeting deadlines, developing goals, and keeping track of paperwork.

Reading Comprehension

To perform their job well, compliance officers must thoroughly understand technical and legal documents, audit reports, and email communications, all of which require strong reading comprehension skills.


Compliance officers use analytical and interpretive skills to break down complex problems, analyze individual components, and develop effective solutions. Skills commonly used in the workplace include research, data analysis, risk management, and regulation interpretation.


  1. CONSIDER SPECIALIZATION/INDUSTRY OPTIONS: Compliance officers may work in any industry that requires regulation, including financial and accounting services, government, healthcare, and manufacturing. Compliance officers may also specialize in a certain area, like corporate, healthcare, or environmental compliance. Before pursuing a college degree, students should consider their career preferences to ensure the degree caters to their professional goals.
  2. EARN A BACHELOR'S DEGREE: Undergraduate students complete approximately 60 credits of general education courses, like math and science, and 60 credits of core and elective coursework related to a major. Common degrees for aspiring compliance officers include finance, accounting, statistics, economics, and management. Degrees for students interested in a specialization include healthcare administration, business, civil or environmental engineering, and criminal justice. Completing a bachelor's degree typically takes four years of full-time study.
  3. FIND INTERNSHIPS AND WORK EXPERIENCE: Internships allow students to boost their resume, gain valuable skills and experience, and apply classroom studies to a real-world environment. College students commonly pursue internships during their junior and senior years. These internships generally last for one semester, and may occur in the summer, fall, or spring. The professional experience students gain from an internship makes them more competitive in the job market.
  4. PURSUE CERTIFICATION: Certification is not mandatory for compliance officers but indicates expertise to prospective employers. Eligibility requirements and certification procedures vary. Depending on the credential, it may take a few weeks to several years to earn a certificate. This guide covers several certification options for compliance officers below.
  5. CONSIDER A MASTER'S DEGREE: A bachelor's degree generally fulfills the minimum education requirements for a compliance officer. Earning a master's degree positions graduates for senior and executive positions. A master's degree takes approximately two years of full-time study to complete.


Prospective compliance officers can develop knowledge and skills through formal education, independent education, on-the-job education, and continuing education. We outline these educational methods below.

Formal Education A bachelor's degree fulfills the minimum formal education requirement for most entry-level compliance officer positions. Depending on their career goals, students may pursue one of several specializations through undergraduate or graduate study. For example, students interested in healthcare compliance may pursue a degree in healthcare administration, while students interested in environmental compliance may pursue a degree in civil or environmental engineering.
Independent Education Compliance officers must stay up to date with industry developments and any changes in laws, rules, or regulations that may impact their organization. Professionals can stay abreast of new developments by reading industry journals, magazines, and news reports.
On-the-Job Education Workplace learning allows professionals to apply concepts and knowledge to real-world scenarios. If possible, aspiring compliance officers should pursue on-the-job education at their earliest opportunity through college internships.
Continuing Education Continuing education allows compliance officers to hone current skills and develop new ones. Popular continuing education opportunities include online courses, webinars, and professional certificates.


Compliance officers do not need a license to pursue employment; however, certifications allow professionals to demonstrate mastery of their field or specialization to prospective employers. Continuing education opportunities allow compliance professionals to hone their current skills and learn about industry and regulatory developments.

Certifications and Continuing Education

Compliance Certification Board

CCB offers several voluntary certification options for compliance officers in healthcare and corporate industries:

  • CERTIFIED IN HEALTHCARE COMPLIANCE: The healthcare compliance option certifies knowledge of relevant regulations and expertise in assisting healthcare organizations with the operation of compliance programs
  • CERTIFIED IN HEALTHCARE PRIVACY COMPLIANCE: This option certifies knowledge of relevant regulations and expertise in privacy compliance processes, obligations, and concerns specific to the healthcare industry
  • CERTIFIED IN HEALTHCARE RESEARCH COMPLIANCE: The healthcare research compliance option certifies knowledge of relevant regulations and expertise in research compliance procedures and responsibilities
  • CERTIFIED COMPLIANCE & ETHICS PROFESSIONAL: This option certifies knowledge of relevant regulations and expertise in assisting corporations with addressing legal obligations and promoting organizational integrity

Continuing Education

Continuing education is often required to renew professional certifications. It can also enrich the careers of non-certified individuals by providing opportunities for growth and development. Popular options include online courses, webinars, independent study, and in-person training programs.

Credentials and Licensing
  • Certified Regulatory Compliance Manager: Offered by the American Bankers Association, CRCM certification demonstrates advanced expertise in regulatory compliance. Candidates must pass an exam. Certification exam topics include credit, deposits, bank operations, financial crimes, and privacy. Candidates must meet minimum education and work experience requirements to sit for the exam.
  • Certified Professional Compliance Officer: Offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders, CPCO certification demonstrates comprehensive understanding of healthcare compliance, including program development procedures and regulatory guidelines.
  • NAFCU Certified Compliance Officer: Offered by the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, the NCCO certification is ideal for compliance officers employed by credit unions. Certification demonstrates knowledge of the major regulations that govern credit union operations in the United States.


Career and Professional Resources

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