How to Become a Compliance Officer?

Are you thinking of becoming a Compliance Officer or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a Compliance Officer, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new Compliance Officer job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.

Steps to Become a Compliance Officer

A compliance officer ensures that a company adheres to regulatory and legal requirements in addition to internal bylaws and policies. If you have strong attention to detail and leadership skills, you should consider a career as a compliance officer. In this article, we will cover the steps you must take to become a compliance officer.

Determine your field of focus.

Since compliance officers work in a variety of fields, it's important to narrow down your area of focus. Some of the industries that have the most compliance officers include the local, state, and federal government as well as healthcare, finance, higher education, and corporations.


Earn your degree in finance, criminal justice, or business.

Once you narrow down your area of concentration, it's time to earn your degree. Most companies require compliance officers to have at least a bachelor's degree in finance, criminal justice, or business. If you want to obtain a graduate degree, consider earning one in legal studies, criminal justice, business, or finance. Another option is to earn a bachelor's degree in your specific area of focus, such as finance or healthcare, and then a master's degree in legal studies with a focus on compliance.

What type of degree should you pursue to become a Compliance Officer?

85% of people working as a Compliance Officer earned a Bachelor's Degree

What skills do you need to be a Compliance Officer?

  • Leadership
  • Security Clearance
  • Excellent Communication
  • Audit
  • Attention To Detail
  • Writing
  • Time Management
  • Collaboration
Based on resume data from Glassdoor users who reported working as a Compliance Officer in the United States.

Obtain experience in a sector you're interested in.

No matter what area of focus you want to work in, it's important that you have intricate knowledge of that sector. You should know the inner workings of how the organization operates as well as how compliance plays a role in them. As an aspiring compliance officer, you might seek out opportunities within the company to lead or manage with hopes that you can transition it into a more permanent position. Many companies want compliance officers who have at least five years of experience related to their field.


Develop skills like leadership and analytical thinking.

Working in the specific field as a compliance officer, you will begin to develop essential skills. Some of the more common skills you need to be successful include decision-making, leadership, communication, and analytical thinking. You also need to know when it's too much of a risk to take regarding certain situations and how you would defend your company's position with a regulator if the circumstances arise.


Get certifications, like Certified Ethics Professional.

By securing certifications, you can prove to potential employers that you have what it takes to be a compliance officer. Three of the more common certification options include the following:

  • Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional Program (CCEP): The Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) issues this certification, which states you have the knowledge of regulations and expertise in compliance to help companies understand legal obligations.
  • Certified Ethics Professional (CEP): Awarded by the Ethics and Compliance Officer Association (ECOA), the CEP shows that you have an advanced understanding of compliance across various sectors.
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): This certification, which is given by the Information Security System Certification Consortium (ISSCC), is one of the most popular information security certifications. You need to fulfill certain education and/or work requirements.

After you obtain certification, along with training and experience, you might be able to land a job as a compliance manager. In that role, you will evaluate your team members' knowledge and educate them on work-related laws and federal regulations.

Compliance Officer Career Path

Compliance Officer

2 - 4Years of Experience
$53K - $97K /yrMost Likely Range
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Senior Compliance Officer

2 - 4Years of Experience
$72K - $129K /yrMost Likely Range
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22% advanced to

Lead Compliance Officer

5 - 7Years of Experience
$54K - $94K /yrMost Likely Range
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Total Pay Trajectory

Compliance Officer Career Path

Compliance Officer I
Compliance Officer
Assistant Manager of Compliance
Senior Compliance Officer
Compliance Officer Manager
Lead Compliance Officer
Senior Manager of Compliance
Principal Compliance Officer
Assistant Director of V
Senior Principal Compliance Officer
Associate Director of Compliance
Head Compliance Officer

Related Careers in the Operations Industry

Interested in other Operations careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Compliance Officer skills. Discover some of the most common Compliance Officer career transitions, along with skills overlap.

Compliance Analyst
25% skills overlap
27% transitioned to Compliance Analyst