A Step-by-Step Guide to Become a Compliance Officer

Blog / A Step-by-Step Guide to Become a Compliance Officer

A compliance officer is in charge of advising a company or organization on the regulatory structure within which it works. This might be for continuous, regular issues or when undertaking anything new.

As a compliance officer, you will ensure that a company's external regulatory standards and internal regulations are met. In short, you are responsible for ensuring that your employer follows the rules.

Following the global economic collapse, organizations (especially those in the financial services industry) considerably increased the size of their risk and compliance teams in order to adapt to new requirements. Billions of pounds in fines were imposed on several of the world's largest banks, forcing many to expand their staff in order to remain compliant.

Without a Compliance Officer who actively monitors and manages compliance management, companies face the danger of breaking applicable rules and regulations, putting themselves at risk for reputational harm and fines.

What is the Role of a Compliance Officer?

A compliance officer is in charge of monitoring corporate operations and ensuring that all procedures and members follow the organization's regulatory and procedural policies. In addition to creating compliance programs, compliance officers must examine and update current corporate rules with management approval, take fast action for policy breaches, and mitigate risks. To monitor and assess problems, provide effective solutions, and maintain the company's favorable reputation, a compliance officer must have a thorough understanding of legal procedures and regulatory requirements.

Different Types of Compliance Work

Regulated industries include;

  • financial services
  • technology
  • banking
  • Insurance
  • environmental
  • healthcare/pharmaceutical
  • property
  • charity/not-for-profit
  • gaming
  • retail

Compliance specialists include the following:

  • assurance
  • trade surveillance
  • financial crime
  • monitoring
  • product advisory
  • regulatory affairs

How to Become a Compliance Officer

Compliance officers are educated to advise businesses and organizations on how to comply with government rules. Because this role covers numerous industries, from healthcare and government to real estate and retail, a variety of postsecondary degree programs are available to train students for the position.

While everyone's path is different, there are certain fundamentals to remember about the field.

1. Think About Your Career Preferences

The industry an individual selects will most likely affect what they study and whether they pursue a bachelor's or master's degree. Larger industries may provide greater prospects for entry and advancement, although smaller industries may pay more after a compliance officer has gained more expertise.

Common industries for compliance officers, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) occupational employment and salary statistics , include:

Industry Employment (as of May 2021)
Federal executive branch 61,840
State government 37,580
Local government b27,400
Management of companies and enterprises 19,890
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing 4,120

2. Complete a Bachelor's Degree

Typically, compliance officers hold a four-year bachelor's degree. They might begin with a bachelor's degree program connected to their preferred industry. Accounting, business, economics, finance, legal studies, management, and manufacturing are common majors for aspiring compliance officers.

A bachelor's degree is usually necessary to get a master's degree, and it can assist people in preparing to pass a certification test and receive professional compliance credentials.

3. Think about getting a Master's Degree

A master's degree provides several advantages. The advanced degree may help professionals qualify for more senior roles. Selecting an area of concentration within a master's degree, in particular, may make an individual's abilities more relevant to the requirements of the current job market.

4. Get Work Experience

Interns are hired by businesses of all sizes, giving a practical option to obtain valuable experience before joining the workforce and assisting students in deciding where they may or may not want to work after graduation. Internships can be full-time, part-time, or unpaid.

While responsibilities differ from company to company, generally speaking, interns may expect to gain information, training, skills, and experience particular to the position. Interns may serve as a single point of contact inside a company, learning software programs, documenting rules and procedures, performing research, or aiding management with specialized project responsibilities.

In addition to internships, fresh graduates may be able to enter the sector and receive on-the-job training. Graduates with bachelor's degrees can also spend a few years working in client support or analysis at an organization before asking to move into the compliance department.,

5. Develop Compliance Officer Skills

Before applying for a position, it's a good idea to practice your compliance officer abilities. The following are some of the most often needed abilities in compliance officer job descriptions:

Skills Percentages
Oversight 7.25%
Risk Management 6.99%
Compliance Program 5.80%
Compliance Issues 4.53%
Risk Assessments 4.25%
PowerPoint 3.87%

6. Pursue Certifications

Certification in this subject is optional. However, it can be used to demonstrate competency, land a job, earn a raise, network with other experts, or maintain skills over time.

Compliance certificates are available from the following credentialing organizations:

  • Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE)
  • National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU)
  • American Bankers Association (ABA)

Candidates may need one or more years of work experience, a signed ethics statement, or ongoing training units gained through live training or events before taking the test, depending on the certification program. Professionals may be required to pay annual/renewal fees or complete continuing education units to keep their credentials.

7. Apply for jobs

You can apply for compliance officer positions once you have the necessary skills and certifications (and potentially a master's degree). Make sure to include all relevant qualifications in your CV to demonstrate to companies that you are a suitable match for the position. A cover letter is also a great approach to emphasize your qualifications for the position and your unique abilities that can benefit an employer's business.

Skills to Have on Your Resume As a Compliance Officer


The following is an example of how oversight is used on compliance officer resumes:

  • Designed and executed a data-driven vendor/supplier supervision program that included audits and monitoring in accordance with regulatory and sub-regulatory standards.
  • Created supervision programs for increased supervisory scenarios, enlisted people to perform responsibly, and reduced operational risks and internal control difficulties.

Risk Management

On compliance officer resumes, risk management is used as follows:

  • Assessed risk management by evaluating all applicable legislation and implementing any adjustments to current processes as needed.
  • Managed regulatory training, initiatives, and the dissemination of crucial operational risk management information to regulators and group functions.

Compliance Program

The following is an example of how a compliance program is used on compliance officer resumes:

  • Supported the creation and execution of the company's compliance program in preparation for the company's planned regulatory/supervision responsibilities.
  • Provided training on the FDA's current regulatory and compliance activities as a speaker at pharmaceutical industry conferences and other educational venues.

Compliance Issues

Compliance issues are used in the following ways in compliance officer resumes:

  • Involved in Validation Change Control, reporting Validation Exceptions, and resolving validation compliance concerns linked to laboratory and manufacturing compliance.
  • Severe compliance violations were escalated to Senior Executive Management, and action plans were implemented to guarantee that remedial measures were completed.

Risk Assessments

On compliance officer resumes, risk assessments are used as follows:

  • Conducted risk evaluations for the AML program, which included identifying accounts that needed increased surveillance and addressing flaws.
  • Conducted risk assessments and supported the development and implementation of auditing and monitoring mechanisms for identified risks.

Regulatory Compliance

On compliance officer resumes, regulatory compliance is used as follows:

  • Continually checked and assessed gaming operations for regulatory compliance, keeping daily logs and creating the necessary reports.
  • Work for a start-up financial organization specializing in consumer credit lending to guarantee regulatory compliance and manage company activities.
  • Audited consumer and commercial loans for legal and regulatory compliance, reporting findings to top management.

Career Prospects

The compliance function is continually evolving, creating new and expanding possibilities in various industries.

As a compliance professional, you may advance quickly, with many junior compliance officers promoted to senior officers within two to four years.

If you opt to work in a significant corporate organization, your career path will likely be linear, progressing from analyst to associate vice president to vice president. Smaller businesses may employ more recognized terms such as manager and senior manager.

Many compliance experts advance to more senior positions and other relevant fields. For example, you may often move from compliance to audits, cybersecurity, or risk consulting.

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