Job Descriptions

What Does a Compliance Specialist Do?

Over the last few decades, the importance of regulatory compliance has increased a lot, especially in heavily-regulated industries like the financial services and healthcare industry. That’s why a lot of companies now hire a compliance specialist or compliance analyst.

The compliance team works with the legal team to ensure that the organization is compliant with all the relevant laws, rules, compliance standards of the industry. Since each industry will have different compliance standards, compliance specialists would need to be experts of specific industries.

However, there are different levels of compliance specialists, such as Compliance Specialist I, Compliance Specialist II, and so on. That determines whether they’re general compliance specialists or specialize in a certain industry or niche.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look into the roles, job duties, job responsibilities, abilities, and qualifications of the compliance specialist.

Let’s dive right in.

What Does a Compliance Specialist Do – Typical Roles in Organizations

Compliance specialists are often called corporate compliance officers in some organizations. However, in bigger companies, there’s a difference between compliance specialists, compliance officers, and compliance analysts.

Smaller organizations tend to have a very limited legal and compliance team. At times, they outsource corporate compliance because it can be expensive to hire in-house compliance experts.

Alternatively, medium and large organizations have complete legal and compliance departments that are dedicated to regulatory compliance. Enterprises have separate departments for different compliance issues, such as auditing, benefits administration, risk management, and more.

Depending on the industry and organization, the compliance specialist role changes due to differentiating job descriptions. For example, compliance specialists in smaller companies will also be managing compliance officer and analyst duties.

On the other hand, bigger companies would hire compliance specialists depending on their specialization. For example, if a company needs a compliance specialist for auditing, they would start looking for compliance specialists who specialize in financial services and auditing.

As a compliance professional, you have a lot of flexibility in choosing where to work and what industry to work in. That’s why most compliance specialists work as third-party consultants.

In any case, you’ll find plenty of compliance specialists in the following industries.

  • Healthcare
  • Medical Device
  • Insurance
  • Biotechnology
  • Financial Services and Banking
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Manufacturing

Furthermore, compliance specialists can have varying roles in different industries and capacities. Some common roles include the following.

  • Business Compliance Specialist
  • Contract Compliance Specialist
  • Trade Compliance Specialist
  • Environmental Compliance Specialist

Each compliance specialist role ties to a specific business function. That’s why compliance specialists tend to specialize in any single industry, company type, and department.

That’s also why many compliance specialists work as consultants. It’s convenient for both them and the organizations to find a compliance specialist with relevant knowledge rather than hiring some full-time.

What Does a Compliance Specialist Do? Duties and Tasks

Since each compliance specialist may be specializing in something different, they will have varying duties, tasks, and responsibilities. It mostly depends on the industry and the organization, but also on what the compliance specialist chose to focus on. However, there are still some pretty clear set of duties and tasks that every compliance specialist needs to be able to perform.

In any case, the following duties, tasks, and responsibilities are what the typical compliance specialist has to manage.

  • Report to senior compliance specialists, compliance managers, compliance heads, corporate compliance officers, or chief compliance officers. Relay any necessary information regarding the latest changes in laws, compliance standards, and more.
  • Continually research different rules, laws, and regulations by reviewing government bulletins, federal updates, news briefs, and other sources of information.
  • Update all the relevant departments on any changes in the compliance standards or company rules. That includes the finance, human resources, legal, and other departments. Compliance specialists have to update them on compliance guidelines, regulatory filing information, and the appropriate documentation process.
  • Ensure that the organization is up to date on all the relevant regulatory and licensing requirements. Make sure that it’s in accordance with the company, industry, state, and federal regulations.
  • Develop, implement, and enforce procedures and policies related to the company’s processes, products, facilities, and more.
  • In case of violations, conduct relevant audits and investigations. After that, recommend areas for improvement by developing roadmaps for remediation.
  • Work with other third-party auditors if required.
  • Help other employees get the necessary regulatory documentation, training, or reports whenever it’s required.
  • Enact any necessary corrective actions wherever it’s required.

The duties, tasks, and responsibilities listed above are what every compliance specialist needs to be able to do. However, each organization will have some company-specific duties in their job descriptions.

What Does a Compliance Specialist Do – Skills and Abilities

The compliance specialist job can have varying duties and tasks, but the skills and abilities required mostly remain the same. The only difference that may come may be due to different industries requiring specific abilities and knowledge.

On average, the compliance specialist is expected to have the following skills and abilities.

  • Should know how to conduct complete corporate compliance audits, compliance checks, and more.
  • Need to be able to understand and work in information technology.
  • You need a complete understanding of all Microsoft Office products, including Word, SharePoint, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. Furthermore, you should also have a working knowledge of compliance software.
  • You should know how to use various auditing and compliance tools.
  • It’s crucial to have excellent research and analytical skills to keep updated on all existing and new laws, rules, and regulations.
  • It’s also best to have a good relationship with the regulatory agencies.
  • Ideally, you should know your way around various online sites like LinkedIn.
  • Critical communication skills are necessary to work with other compliance professionals in the company and to communicate with external stakeholders.
  • Knowledge about various laws and regulations, such as the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulation, is required.
  • Problem-solving skills are crucial to rectify any compliance issues that will pop up. It’s important to instantly remediate any issues to avoid long-term problems.
  • Strong verbal skills and technical proficiency is needed to relay relevant information easily and quickly.
  • There is also a need to be extremely detail-oriented to notice any slight changes immediately.
  • Excellent follow-up skills are required to keep up with the projects, tasks, corporate compliance plans, and remediation tasks.

The abilities and skills listed above are what each compliance specialist should possess, regardless of their specialization. However, it’s also important to work on getting industry-specific skills.

What Does a Compliance Specialist Do – Qualifications

As a compliance specialist, you need to have some specific qualifications that are required by every industry and company. Some of the major qualifications you need to become a compliance specialist include the following.

  • A high school diploma is required, along with a college degree. A Bachelor’s Degree in Business, Accounting, or any related field will work.
  • A Master’s Degree is not a requirement but can be very useful when looking for a job.
  • At least five years of experience in compliance auditing, compliance analysis, or any relevant compliance job is required.
  • Prior experience in big companies like Microsoft, Wells Fargo, and the likes of them is beneficial.
  • It’s best to have at least one corporate compliance program under your name.
  • Getting certifications in industry-specific compliance fields can be helpful, such as being certified in healthcare compliance.

The qualifications above are what the ideal compliance specialist should be aiming toward for maximum job eligibility.

How to Become a Compliance Specialist

Compliance specialist salaries tend to fluctuate because they’re very different for in-house and consulting compliance specialists. In any case, you can still find the average salary of a compliance specialist on various sites.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average compliance specialist or officer earns around $72,850 per year.

Alternatively, according to Glassdoor, the average salary for a compliance specialist is $55,229. Furthermore, the average range is between $38,000 and $79,000, with the upper end being offered in cities like New York, Dallas, Arlington, and Los Angeles.

For the most part, the compliance specialist salary depends on the industry. The more regulations and laws the industry has, the more knowledge you need. For example, in the financial services industry, you can earn the most because there are a lot of laws, rules, and regulations in finance.

The compliance specialist job is not an entry-level job; it requires years of experience. That’s because you’re specializing in a specific industry and department. You need to have ample experience as a compliance officer or auditor to consider becoming a compliance specialist.

Furthermore, you need to polish your research and analytical skills. That’s because as a compliance specialist, you’ll constantly be researching regulations and analyzing company compliance standards.

Lastly, it’s best to keep a working relationship with regulatory agencies, regulatory bodies, and various regulatory personnel.

Becoming a Great Compliance Specialist

The job title of a compliance specialist may vary depending on the company, but your general duties and career paths will remain the same.

Becoming a great compliance specialist is all about having the right experience in the right industry. Once you choose your industry, try to work in specific types of companies and start specializing in any one thing, such as auditing.

Get all the relevant knowledge and qualifications required while also working on getting industry-specific certifications.

Build great relationships with regulatory bodies and also with fellow compliance professionals.

Most importantly, as a compliance specialist, always avoid conflicts of interest and favor compliance standards.

By Josh Fechter

Josh Fechter is a partner at Corporate Compliance HQ and has founded several companies in software and training.