What is a Compliance Specialist? What They Do In An Organization

Table of Contents


With new regulations being implemented regularly across various industries, it’s becoming more challenging to stay compliant without a dedicated compliance specialist. A compliance specialist can help you avoid hefty fines from regulations that you may be unaware of.

Most importantly, they give you peace of mind knowing that your business is fully compliant.

This article will discuss the importance of a compliance specialist in an organization, whether they are necessary for businesses to have, and the pros and cons of being one.

What is a Compliance Specialist?

A compliance specialist is someone who is responsible for ensuring that a business follows all rules and regulations pertaining to its industry. Businesses employ compliance specialists to ensure that they avoid hefty fines and other penalties for breaking regulations that they may have been unaware of.

Compliance specialists stay up to date with industry rules and regulations and ensure that the business does not violate these in any of its systems and procedures. 

There are different types of corporate compliance specialist jobs, but the main objective of each is to ensure that the business doesn’t break the law. For example, a clinical compliance specialist job description will require the individual to ensure the business is compliant with health regulations like HIPPA.

Similarly, a quality compliance specialist has to ensure the business’s products and services meet the minimum industry standards set by the government.

Compliance Specialist Role Overview

The role of a compliance specialist is pretty straightforward – ensure that the business follows all industry standards and regulations. The day-to-day tasks involved in a compliance specialist job will vary across different industries and businesses.

These roles include:

  • Conducting regular compliance audits to ensure the business is up-to-date with regulations.
  • Conducting information audits to determine whether the business is compliant with data regulations such as GDPR.
  • Collaborate with other departments to create strategies for compliance in every department according to the GRC framework.
  • Maintaining quality control systems and regularly updating quality requirements.
  • Create strategies to avoid potential violations and penalties.
  • Regularly update the business’s internal documentation, including Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, and other policies in line with regulatory changes.

On top of these primary responsibilities, compliance specialists will have to collaborate extensively with other departments. Doing so, they can help the business avoid penalties and identify possible violations before they happen.

Is a Compliance Specialist Necessary in an Organization?

Compliance specialists have always been around, but the profession has become more important in the digital age, where businesses have to deal with seemingly endless regulations. But are compliance specialists really necessary for businesses? And can your business do without one?

Like all business decisions, it comes down to whether the business is getting enough value for the cost of a service. While your average mom-and-pop store may not need a dedicated compliance specialist, most medium to large-scale businesses will deal with more regulations than a non-specialist can handle.

When deciding whether your business needs a corporate compliance specialist, it’s helpful to think of the potential costs of not having a compliance specialist.

You’re Probably Not an Expert in Compliance

You’ll have no concrete idea of where your business stands in terms of compliance. You probably won’t know what kind of risk your company is in if you haven’t extensively studied compliance.

Potential Outdated Policies You Don’t Know About

Your business may be left with outdated policies and terms of service that could affect its relationship with customers and can even be a competitive disadvantage.

Save On Major Penalties

But most importantly, it pays to understand the cost of not being compliant with regulations. Take the CCPA, for instance. If your business is not CCPA compliant, you may be fined over $2500 per consumer, even if the issue was due to a misinterpretation error. This can easily translate to millions of dollars in damage for the company.

However, you don’t have to build a separate department for compliance, especially if you deal in an industry with tight regulations.

The smart solution is to work with a compliance service provider at a fraction of the costs. Not only do you get the benefits of a full-time compliance specialist, but you can also be at rest knowing that the chances of being non-compliant are near zero.

Compliance Specialist Job Description

Now that the importance of a compliance specialist is clear let’s understand what to expect from a compliance specialist. A compliance specialist job description will help you understand what to expect when hiring one.

Compliance specialists are required to have certain general skills which help them fulfill the basic responsibilities of the position.

Responsibilities of a compliance specialist include:

  • Conducting compliance audits and risk assessments.
  • Communicating risks with management and devising compliance solutions.
  • Filing compliance reports based on their risk assessments and audits.
  • Creating systems to train employees on regulatory compliance.
  • Communicating with business departments and government agencies to ensure the business compliance standards are on track.
  • Update the business’s systems to adjust to regulatory changes.

Skills of a compliance specialist include:

  • Certification in compliance management.
  • A bachelor’s degree in management, finance, or law.
  • Strong communication and people skills.
  • The ability to pay attention to detail.
  • An understanding of legal regulations and the ability to use audit and reporting software.

A compliance officer’s job is a highly technical one, which is why businesses prefer candidates with experience and technical expertise in the field.

Compliance Specialist Salary

The salary of a compliance specialist is generally between $35k-$75k a year. However, this varies across industries and will depend on the scope of the position. 

Senior compliance officers for larger firms can be expected to make over $100k yearly, while junior positions pay around $40k.

The difference in salary will also vary based on the state you’re employed in as well. States, where the cost of living is high, will generally have higher salaries on average, even for the same position.

Types of Compliance Specialists

Like most professions, there are many types of compliance specialists. This will vary based on industry and responsibilities. Some industries require general compliance experts, while others are more complex and require specialists.

For example, businesses working in the healthcare or clinical industry will require clinical compliance specialists, while IT companies that deal with data will require data protection, compliance specialists.

So what type of compliance specialist do you require? Here are some to consider:

Corporate Compliance Specialist

Corporate compliance specialists help corporations and businesses meet regulation standards. They are responsible for everything from compliance audits to assisting management in risk mitigation.

These specialists are essential in all industries, but even more so in industries with frequent regulatory changes.

Clinical Compliance Specialist

A clinical compliance specialist helps businesses operating in the health industry remain in line with health regulations. This is a critical job as the penalties for violating health codes and standards are significantly higher in the health industry.

Clinical compliance specialists are also more involved with quality control apartments, and this requires a comprehensive understanding of healthcare regulations.

Data Protection Compliance Specialist

With regulations such as the GDPR and CCPA coming into effect for data protection, businesses have to be particularly careful of consumer data.

Most businesses dealing with consumer data require a data protection compliance specialist to ensure they remain in line with updated data protection and privacy regulations.

If you’re looking for a career as a compliance specialist, there are several jobs available. Some are perfect for beginners, while others require both management and compliance expertise.

Here are a few jobs that come under the umbrella of “compliance specialist”:

Compliance Officer

compliance officer is directly responsible for ensuring that your business stays up to date with regulations. Compliance officers are more experienced in general regulatory requirements and are usually able to work in several industries. 

You’ll need a compliance officer if your business falls under many regulations and industries or if the penalties for non-compliance are significantly higher for your industry.

Compliance Assistant

A compliance assistant will work with the business compliance officer to manage day-to-day tasks. These may include filing reports, data collection, drafting requests to government agencies, etc.

Most people without compliance experience will work a few years as a compliance assistant before becoming a certified compliance officer.

Compliance Manager

Compliance managers are responsible for heading a team of compliance experts. They usually work in businesses that operate in several industries, with each industry requiring a different expert.

Compliance managers will usually have some management qualifications in addition to being general compliance experts.

Pros & Cons Of Being a Compliance Specialist

A compliance specialist job can be one of the most peaceful jobs you’ve ever had. However, it can also be one of the most stressful!

Being a compliance specialist comes with a range of benefits, but it has its fair share of downsides, Let’s discuss the main pros and cons of being a compliance specialist:


  • You report directly to upper management.
  • The workload is evenly spaced out throughout the month.
  • You get a fixed income and don’t have to rely on commissions.
  • You are giving more importance to the business.
  • You usually don’t need to work overtime.
  • Moving to a better position is relatively straightforward.


  • You are working in a position with no room for error.
  • Compliant specialists may have friction with management and other departments.
  • This job involves a lot of paperwork.
  • Regulatory standards are always changing, and you’ll have to stay up to date.
  • Career progression is slightly slower in this job.

How to be a Compliance Specialist

If you’re looking to become a compliance specialist as a career, you’re in luck. The need for compliance specialists is growing rapidly, and there are always plenty of positions available in the market.

What’s even better is that you don’t need to have a specific degree, and people from all backgrounds can become compliance specialists.

Here are some tips to get you started with your career as a compliance specialist:

Get Compliance Training

What’s the difference between a compliance specialist who earns a six-figure salary and a regular compliance assistant? While experience matters, the main distinction is in training, college, and certifications.

If you’re serious about starting a career as a compliance specialist, complete college and compliance certification courses and try to specialize in an industry.

Develop Your Practical Skill Set

Compliance specialists need to be dedicated and should always pay attention to detail. While these skills may seem natural, they can be developed through training, Hone your communication skills as well since you’ll be working with several departments and external agencies.

Start From the Bottom

While you may want that coveted compliance manager seat, you’ll have to gain experience before you have any chance of getting selected.

If you’re just getting started, try to get a compliance internship or become a compliance assistant for a few months before applying to positions with more responsibilities.

Don’t be a “Yes” Person

A key requirement for any compliance position is the ability to speak up when things aren’t going according to regulations. This is critical as you’ll have to bear the blame for non-compliance, even if decisions are made by senior management.

By honing your people skills, you’ll learn how to raise objections without making the other individual feel offended. This single skill can be the key to a successful career as a compliance specialist.


Is a Compliance Specialist Job Demanding?

A compliance specialist job isn’t necessarily demanding, especially if you have knowledge of your industry or field. However, there can be a lot of paperwork at times, and you may have to communicate tough decisions with management.

How Much Does a Compliance Specialist Earn?

A compliance specialist usually makes between $35k – $100k, although this may vary depending on the location and position seniority.

Do Businesses Really Need Compliance Specialists?

Most businesses need compliance specialists or at least compliance consultants to help them stay up to date with regulations and avoid hefty fines.

Is Compliance a Risky Job?

While compliance does have job security, it’s a risky job since a compliance specialist will be directly responsible for keeping the business safe from breaking regulations. Therefore, the job carries significantly more responsibility than many other positions.

What Skills Do Compliance Specialists Need?

Apart from knowledge of regulatory standards, compliance specialists need to pay attention to detail, have good communication skills, and have the ability to speak in front of authority.

Last Words

Overall, a compliance specialist is essential to any business that wants to avoid legal liability and wants to maintain compliance and an amazing reputation. And, if you’re looking to be a compliance officer, you’re in luck because it’s in demand.

So, if you’re a business that needs help with compliance, Captain Compliance has you covered. We have detailed compliance solutions and guides for the latest regulations to help your business stay fully compliant.

Online Privacy Compliance Made Easy

Captain Compliance makes it easy to develop, oversee, and expand your privacy program. Book a demo or start a free 30-day trial now.