For better or worse, we live in an age of litigation. There is very little that happens in the world today, that doesn't fall under the regulatory control of some organization at some level. From the obvious, such as the highly regulated fields of banking and investments, to simple farming, there is a constant flow of ever changing rules and regulations that must be kept up with and adhered to. That is the realm of the compliance officer.
Basically a compliance officer keeps track of all the rules, regulations and contractual obligations that impact the business that they work for. Beyond that, compliance officers work closely with management teams, not only making sure that their organization doesn't violate the rules, but that it is also taking advantage of any regulatory changes that might be a benefit.
A compliance officer will also assist in developing processes and procedures that will help protect the organization should issues arise. As an example, if a compliance officer worked for a construction company, part of their time would of course be spent in an advisory role, but they may also be called upon to do spot inspections of work sites as part of an internal audit team or develop checklists to be filled out by employees before beginning work. All designed to show that the company practices due diligence.
There is no one set path to becoming a compliance officer, as the requirements will vary very widely from one industry to another. The background required for working as a compliance officer for a bank would be greatly different than those needed by the compliance officer of a fertilizer company. However, it can be generally said that you will need a minimum of a bachelor's degree or professional certification in a field closely related to the industry you are interested in working in.
That is to say if you want to work as a bank compliance officer you would need a degree in finance or accounting. If you are interested in working in construction you would need the applicable OHSA certifications.
With the steady growth of government involvement in business, compliance is a field that shows great growth potential and it is one of the more lucrative fields that can be entered without an advanced degree.
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