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Compliance Officer

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(6.3 out of 10)

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Median Salary


Unemployment Rate

2.6 percent

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The 100 Best Jobs #54

The growing maze of laws, regulations, licensing and permits increases the need for compliance officers, who make sure companies and governing bodies keep in line with internal policies and regulatory requirements. In the financial industry, these positions are particularly in demand as the government steps up its enforcement of anti-money laundering laws. Aside from their sizable presence on Wall Street and within the federal government, compliance officers work in a broad range of industries, from health care and telecommunications, to oil and gas extraction. Duties may include identifying risks an organization faces, designing or implementing controls to mitigate those risks and reporting the effectiveness of the controls. Compliance officers may work for the organizations they're reviewing or for external agencies or companies contracted to do compliance work. Working environments can vary greatly, from permit work and document review in office settings to off-site fieldwork in outdoor and industrial plant settings. Because of the diversity of employer types and needs, compliance officers often require extensive specialized education and training. For example, environment compliance officers may need substantial scientific knowledge to perform sophisticated tests that measure the environmental impacts of airborne and waterborne chemical releases.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a modest employment growth of 4.6 percent between 2012 and 2022 for compliance officers. During that time period, 11,000 jobs will need to be filled.


According to the BLS, the median annual salary for compliance officers was $62,020 in 2012, but there can be wide differences in wages depending on a job's educational, scientific and work-experience requirements. The best-paid 10 percent in the field earned $97,760 in 2012, while the lowest-paid made $35,730. Department stores, oil and gas extraction companies and monetary authorities pay the highest salaries. The top-paid compliance officers work in the metropolitan areas of Bridgeport, Conn., Framingham, Mass., and Brunswick, Ga.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $79,200
Median $62,020
25th Percentile $46,280


Most compliance officers have college degrees – many in accounting, business or finance – though not all jobs require a degree. Specific job requirements vary greatly, and many positions require certification and regular retraining in the business and industry sector in which the person works. "The most important skills include leadership, writing, public speaking, ethical decision-making, communications and training and instructional design," says Keith Darcy, executive director of the Ethics & Compliance Officers Association. "They should also possess a high degree of courage and integrity due to the confidential nature of the work."

Reviews & Advice

Experience in a prospective employer's line of work is a plus, Darcy says, as is knowledge of its organizational culture and how its employees work together. "Other past work experience could include internal audit, legal, human resources, internal controls and risk management," he says. "Prospective candidates should first learn how a job is defined and structured, including what issues it is responsible for. For example, a regulatory compliance officer must possess a different set of qualifications than an ethics and compliance officer."

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility good Above Average
Stress Level poor High
Flexibility fair Average
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Last updated by Katy Marquardt.

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