Ethics & Compliance Specialist Requirements

Research what it takes to become an ethics and compliance specialist. Learn about job duties, the education requirements and salary range to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Accounting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Ethics and Compliance Specialist?

An ethics and compliance specialist, or compliance officer, evaluates organizations to make sure that their practices comply with legal regulations and ethical standards. They may review financial records, investigate environmental practices and evaluate contracts to make sure that the company is living up to all of its obligations. Based on their findings, ethics and compliance specialists prepare reports for submission to company executives and/or regulatory agencies.

The following chart provides an overview of the general requirements for a career in this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree, master's may be required for advanced positions
Education Field of Study Law, ethics, organizational communication, business, finance, statistical analysis
Certification Certification through Certified Compliance Ethics Professional (CCEP)
Key Responsibilities Maintain legal compliance and conditions for organizations; identify and prevent regulatory and ethical violations
Job Growth (2014-24) 3% (for compliance officers)*
Mean Annual Salary (2015) $69,180 (for compliance officers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Responsibilities of an Ethics and Compliance Specialist?

An ethics and compliance specialist is responsible for developing and overseeing programs that reduce the risk of illegal or unethical activities in an organization. In this role, you determine the potential sites and activities that might lead to regulatory or ethical failures. You then develop policies and programs to prevent such failures. This work may include development of a code of conduct or implementation of a hotline where employees can report violations.

You work with human resources, internal auditing and legal departments. You can arrange and hand out surveys and questionnaires to help discern the ethical standards held by employees of an organization. You can then oversee their understanding of what constitutes ethical behavior in their daily activities. You also assess the attitudes and communications of top management to be sure that their leadership contributes to an ethical corporate culture.

What Skills Should I Develop?

Excellent communication and collaboration skills are necessary to interact with employees at all levels of an organization. Analytical skills contribute to your ability to assess business practices and processes and to discern risky situations. To review program effectiveness, you might employ statistical analysis. Your organizational strengths are vital for completing reports, setting goals and meeting deadlines.

What Education and Credentials Would I Need?

According to job postings at Careerbuilder.com, your entry into ethics and compliance work would require at least a bachelor's degree. A major in business or finance may be useful, as would one in philosophy or prelaw. At larger organizations or in positions with more complex responsibilities, you might need a graduate degree. For example, you could attain a master's degree in business ethics and compliance.

The Compliance Certification Board of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) manages the Certified Compliance Ethics Professional (CCEP) process. With the exception mentioned above, certification requires one year of full-time experience as an active compliance professional or 1,500 hours of work experience in an allied profession, such as an attorney, analyst, auditor or investigator. The advanced Certified Compliance Ethics Professional-Fellowship (CCEP-F) is available with five years of experience in the field, a bachelor's degree and an active CCEP. Both certifications require continuing education and renewal every two years.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You might also be interested in a job as an occupational health and safety specialist. In this job, you would evaluate a workplace in order to identify possible hazards and develop a risk reduction strategy. A bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement. Another possibility is a position as an information technology auditor. Instead of evaluating the legal and ethical practices of an organization, you would be responsible for making sure that the financial information that is stored in a company's computer systems is reliable and secure. For this job, you need to have at least a bachelor's degree.

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