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How to Become a Compliance Officer

Become a Compliance Officer

Seattle University School of Law’s Master of Legal Studies in Compliance and Risk Management provides the skills necessary to start your career in compliance. Although different paths may lead to a career in compliance, a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) can provide the knowledge and skills to apply a regulatory lens to complex business problems.

How to Become a Compliance Officer 

For the rule-lovers out there, a career in compliance could be a great option. Compliance officers are responsible for ensuring that all corporate processes and procedures comply with the law. Compliance teams are also responsible for ensuring that the organization’s internal operations and procedures are standardized and documented. In a business climate where regulations are only increasing, this field is dynamic and growing. 

Compliance professionals have an important job. They keep your organization and employees held to a high standard and clear of any legal trouble. If you’re interested in the law or the nuances of processes and procedures, compliance could be an excellent field for you. But how do you start a career as a compliance officer?

To become a compliance officer or build your career in compliance, a Master of Legal Studies is an increasingly important component in your journey. 

The Educational Path to Compliance

Most compliance and risk management positions require an undergraduate degree in the field.  However, there is no specific required major: you should feel free to study a field that is interesting and exciting to you. 

Following your undergraduate education, a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) is a beneficial next step. An MLS degree provides training in legal methods, analysis, and communication. These compliance and risk management programs prepare students to lead compliance efforts in any organization, regardless of industry. Upon graduation, you are ready to perform these tasks and assume leadership roles in an organization.

An MLS degree can be completed in two years. During that time, you gain knowledge in the field and opportunities for professional networking and growth. 

Within compliance, there are many different fields, including

Choosing a concentration you want to go into is helpful. As an undergraduate student, you can pursue a degree in a related field, and specialize in an area of compliance to be applied in a specific industry. Together, the content knowledge and varied skill sets will guide your career path.

After Your Undergraduate 

After completing an MLS in compliance and risk management, gaining work experience is an important next step. Compliance officers can work in many fields, and job descriptions can vary widely depending on what industry you are in. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), reports that the industries with the highest number of employment positions for compliance officers included:

  • Federal government, within the executive branch
  • State government, excluding schools and hospitals
  • Local government, excluding schools and hospitals
  • Management of companies and enterprises
  • Insurance carriers


Some organizations and industries, such as banking, require certifications. Some organizations may require compliance officers to complete ethics and corporate compliance certifications, including the following: 

  • Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional Program (CCEP) via the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE)
  • Ethics and Compliance Officer Association (ECOA), 
  • National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU), 
  • International Academy of Business and Financial Management (IABFM), and 
  • American Bankers Association (ABA) 

It will be important to check in with your employer to see if they will require any additional certifications.

Get an MLS in Compliance to Grow Your Career

Seattle University School of Law offers a valuable degree for individuals looking to become compliance officers. Our MLS program gives the opportunity to learn from a faculty composed of experienced legal educators and faculty drawn from leading businesses. The university is located in the heart of one of America’s most dynamic and diverse business hubs, and is fully online if you are not Seattle-based. Classes are all online, allowing you to attend either part-time while working, caring for a family, or both. The program can be completed asynchronously as well; giving you the flexibility to cater the program to your needs. It also allows you to still interact with your peers and faculty. Contact our admissions office today to learn more information and get started.

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