Skip to main content
23 Jul

How to Carve Your Compliance Career Path

Man working on a laptop in an office

A compliance career can be immensely fulfilling, challenging you to perform at your peak level to keep your company safe from costly regulatory missteps. Aspiring compliance professionals with the right combination of traits, skills, and knowledge will find no shortage of rewarding compliance jobs across a variety of industries.

As Amy Lynch, president of a strategic consultancy, told eFinancialCareers, "The demand for knowledgeable people in this industry is greater than the supply, which is good news for the job market and people who are looking for those roles."1

Below, we discuss how to create the compliance career you deserve. But first...

Are You Right for Compliance? Assess Your Personality and Skills

Compliance careers require patience, integrity, attention to detail, impeccable communication skills, an analytical mind, intellectual curiosity, and boundless knowledge of rules and regulations. It's also important to note that compliance is not for the meek. If, for example, a data breach occurs, a compliance professional may be called to answer for the error and ensure it won't happen again.2

In addition to keeping up with ever-evolving regulations, compliance professionals must work well under pressure, answer tough questions with tact, and juggle multiple responsibilities. Can you handle the challenge?

Narrow Your Scope: Explore Industries for Compliance Jobs

Here's a quick way to determine which industries require compliance professionals: Are they regulated? Then they must be compliant.

Compliance officers, analysts, specialists, managers, directors, and executive-level compliance professionals are called upon to forecast risk, design meaningful solutions, build relationships and educate stakeholders in industries such as:

  • Accounting
  • Automotive
  • Consulting
  • Cybersecurity
  • E-commerce
  • Energy, utilities, and power
  • Finance
  • Government
  • Healthcare
  • Human resources
  • Industrial manufacturing
  • Insurance
  • International business
  • Law
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Professional services
  • Real estate
  • Supply chain
  • Technology

In addition, certain industries may see a boost in demand for compliance roles due to shifting economic tides and increased regulations, especially in technology-related fields. IBISWorld expects the following industries to experience heightened regulation and revenue gains through 2023:3

  • E-commerce and online auctions
  • Data processing and hosting services
  • Donations, grants and endowment
  • Hydroelectric power
  • Train, subway and transit car manufacturing

Do you have experience in or a desire to enter any of these industries? Consider your educational background and work experience, and research qualifications and job postings for compliance careers in various fields to get a better understanding of their responsibilities.

Compliance can be a very niche field, where closely related experience is often required to land a role. That said, anyone with enough ambition can break into a specific industry. You may work at a company that houses a compliance and/or legal department. Ask for a meeting or coffee with an employee who works in compliance to get a sense of their day-to-day tasks and challenges.

What's in a Name? Explore Compliance Job Titles

Compliance job titles can vary wildly depending on the company and industry, so don't agonize over a title. That said, certain titles are more commonly associated with entry, intermediate/mid, senior/managerial, and executive positions.

Entry-level compliance jobs may include:

  • Compliance assistant
  • Compliance coordinator
  • Compliance specialist
  • Junior compliance analyst

Mid-level compliance jobs may include:

  • Compliance administrator
  • Compliance auditor
  • Compliance manager

Senior-level/managerial compliance jobs may include:

  • Compliance director
  • Compliance program manager
  • Compliance officer
  • Head of compliance
  • Senior compliance officer
  • Senior compliance manager

Executive-level compliance jobs may include:

  • Chief compliance officer
  • Chief ethics and compliance officer
  • Chief integrity officer
  • Global head of compliance

When considering your compliance career path, it's important to consider your work preferences. Do you prefer researching, auditing, and drafting reports over training and educating employees? Do you have a strong desire to mentor and manage people? Do you want the responsibility and salary that comes along with the C-suite?

Determine your compliance career goals, and pursue jobs and companies that will help you reach them as you grow personally and professionally.

Educate Yourself: Earn an Advanced Credential

Because compliance requires such a great deal of industry-specific knowledge, you may want to consider earning a certificate or even a master's degree in compliance.

According to Reuters, compliance professionals with experience in anti-money laundering (AML), cybersecurity, predictive data analysis, and financial crime are in high demand.4

The one-year Online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) in Corporate Compliance from Santa Clara University School of Law, which was designed and is taught by Silicon Valley compliance leaders, can bolster your regulatory knowledge and help you improve the soft skills employers crave.

Once You're In: Communication Is Key

The best compliance professionals can connect with junior-level employees as easily as they can communicate with their boss's boss's boss, possessing the trust and respect of all employees. Interpersonal skills are crucial to succeed in any compliance role, and they are especially important if you want to climb the corporate compliance ladder, which may be more like a jungle gym depending on the company.

Networking with the right people and touting your skills can open doors to more responsibility, exciting projects, and senior- or executive-level roles.

Get Your Foot in the Door With Santa Clara Law

The Online MLS in Corporate Compliance can help you make a name for yourself in compliance. Learn more about our instructors, who have built compliance and ethics programs from the ground up at multi-billion dollar corporations.


1. Retrieved on July 3, 2019, from news.efinancialcareers.com/us-en/243684/compliance-careers
2. Retrieved on July 3, 2019, from searchcompliance.techtarget.com/blog/IT-Compliance-Advisor/Considering-a-career-in-compliance-Heed-these-warnings-first
3. Retrieved on July 3, 2019, from ibisworld.com/industry-insider/analyst-insights/5-industries-experiencing-growing-regulation/
4. Retrieved on July 3, 2019, from reuters.com/article/bc-finreg-compliance-market/compliance-job-market-shows-strength-in-aml-and-financial-crime-as-other-areas-slow-idUSKBN1522WG