Becoming a Compliance Specialist: Salary & Job Description

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A compliance specialist could earn an average annual salary of $86,000, but is it worth all the education and training requirements? See the facts about job duties and get the truth about the career outlook to see if a compliance specialist career is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Compliance Specialist Career

Compliance specialists work for a company or a government entity, applying federal and state banking and financial regulations to stabilize the economy. Review the pros and cons of this field to determine if it's the right career for you.

Pros of Being a Compliance Specialist
Occupation helps stabilize financial markets*
High demand (10% growth between 2014-2024)*
Higher than average salary ($86,460 mean annual salary)*
Relative independence at work**

Cons of Being a Compliance Specialist
Employment growth dependent on government trends*
Requires high level of detail-oriented analysis**
Additional education may be required to advance*
Requires a wide range of knowledge and experience in law and accounting**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net

Essential Career Information

A compliance specialist, also known as a financial examiner, is a professional who analyzes the transactions of a financial institution. A compliance specialist serves to consult, report or enforce federal guidelines and laws concerning a financial institution's assets, liabilities, loans, expenses, operating income and the company balance sheet (www.bls.gov). In addition to evaluating a company's finances, specialists also provide recommendations for solutions.

Job Prospects and Salary

According to the U.S. BLS, the average annual salary of a compliance specialist or financial examiner calculated to $86,460 in May 2014. The median annual salary, however, was $76,310. The bottom-earning tenth percentile of compliance specialists earned $44,660 annually, while the top-earning tenth percentile earned $146,190 annually.

The BLS states that there should be a 10% growth in employment for compliance specialists between 2014-2024. This is due to the fact that financial firms will have to work under the guidelines of the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The new guidelines associated with this agency necessitates an increase in the amount of compliance specialists in the field.

Education and Training Requirements

According to the U.S. BLS, most compliance specialists need a bachelor's degree. The degree should entail accounting courses because many of the responsibilities of a specialist involve analyzing transactions and balance sheets for businesses and financial institutions. Furthermore, the U.S. BLS indicates that appropriate degrees for people interested in entering this field include accounting, finance and economics. It should be noted that any compliance specialist that works for the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) must have six semester hours of accounting. Additionally, having excellent communication skills and accuracy in reporting is a necessity for this position.

Once you are hired, training is usually provided by senior staff. According to the BLS, the training periods vary and can range from a month to a whole year.

What Do Employers Look for in Compliance Specialists?

Many job board postings on Monster.com ask for compliance specialists who are independent at work. The job responsibilities of compliance specialists hold individuals to a high integrity because they have the ability to report the company for any discrepancy or financial regulation issue. Knowing how to assess risk management is also a key skill that many companies desire. Here are a few job postings for compliance specialists as of April 2012:

  • A Texas mortgage lending bank wants a senior-level compliance specialist to analyze mortgage practices. The candidate needs to coordinate with the appropriate departments concerning new or current rules and regulations and report a compliance analysis report to federal or state government.
  • A Florida financial firm needs a compliance specialist who will risk assess management practices, especially toward clients. The candidate will help apply federal practices to management and business policies, while helping to establish guidelines for the company in terms to finding customers and providing the customers with affordable financial transactions.
  • A Wisconsin credit company needs a compliance specialist who can apply federal guidelines to the company's credit-granting practices. Applicants need to be able to work with the company's bank partner to check on any balance sheet errors being reported in the company.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

According to O*Net, a website run by the Employment and Training Administration, financial skills are important for a compliance specialist, but so are computer skills (www.onetonline.org). O*Net states that computers are heavily used in this occupation, which includes software, database and programs that relate to financial calculations or recording accounting information. Being comfortable with a computer and with the programs that might be used in this industry is important.

The U.S. BLS notes that advancement in the financial examining sector is usually attained in two ways. One is through gaining a master's degree, preferably in accounting. The other option is to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) provides CPA certification when a candidate has accumulated 150 hours of academic achievement, passed the Uniform CPA examination and met the state licensing requirements (www.aipca.org). Investing in either of these paths might enhance your professional resume.

Other Careers to Consider

Accountant

If you like reviewing financial records, but do not want to consider financial transaction compliance, then an accountant or auditor career is a potential alternative. For taxation purposes, an accountant or auditor helps manage and analyze the revenue and costs of a company. Accountants and auditors also consult management on how the company is performing financially, while auditors have the additional task of inquiring how funds are being allocated in the company.

Academic and professional requirements are relatively the same between accountants and compliance specialists, with an accounting bachelor's or master's degree being necessary for employment. However, tax season tends to increase the hours spent in work. In addition, the BLS reports that there will be a 16% growth in accounting employment across 2010-2020.

Financial Analyst

If you are interested in consulting with businesses financially, but do not want to report on compliance regulations, you may be interested in a financial analyst career. A financial analyst examines the financial health of a company and provides advice concerning future investments or actions to increase revenue and profit. Unlike a compliance specialist, many financial analysts work independently from a company and will need to travel to consult with businesses. In addition, the U.S. BLS reports that the hours spent working to analyze business finances and traveling may make the work week over 40 hours.

Although accounting is important to the job, a financial analyst needs to have a good grasp on business administration. The employment potential for financial analysts is high, with a projected 23% growth in employment between 2010-2020, thanks to increasing government regulations. According to the U.S. BLS, more regulation drives many firms ask for the help of a financial analyst to cut costs or to give investment advice.

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Georgetown University

  • Master of Science in Finance

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George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

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Kaplan University

  • MS in Accounting - Finance Specialization
  • Bachelor: Public-General Accountancy
  • Associate: Accounting
  • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate

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Colorado Technical University

  • Master of Business Admin: Accounting
  • Master: Accounting
  • BS - Accounting
  • BS - Business Administration - Finance

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Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Public Safety Leadership
  • Bachelor: Accounting
  • Associate of Science - Accounting
  • Diploma: Bookkeeping and Payroll Accounting

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Baker College Online

  • Business Administration - DBA (Doctorate)
  • Accounting - MBA (Master's)
  • Accounting - Bachelor
  • Accounting - Associate

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Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Advanced Accounting
  • PhD in Business Admin - Advanced Accounting
  • MBA - Financial Management
  • MS - Accounting

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Keiser University

  • B.A. - Accounting
  • B.A. - Business Admin: Finance
  • Associate of Arts - Accounting

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