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Colleen Dorsey Speaks with Elizabeth Adams

School of Law

Ethics and Compliance Careers

Careers in Ethics and Compliance

Compliance and ethics professionals work in many areas of business, the government and in for- and non-profit companies large and small. They may work in a legal, human resources or accounting department, or be part of a separate compliance division.

However, even though ethics and compliance professionals are indispensable stewards of corporate behavior and employed in nearly every major organization, it is often a career path that is unknown or overlooked.

The history of this profession shows that ethics and compliance positions have often been filled as a result of a lateral move within an already existing function. Many professionals would find themselves in a compliance role by accident rather than by deliberate career choice. Thankfully, that is all changing.

Today, people seek out this profession not only because of the number of available jobs, but because of the increasing sophistication required for ethics and compliance officers to effectively perform their roles. As corporations navigate today’s regulatory and governance climate, they need professionals who can think critically, motivate others and respond to change without losing sight of business objectives or core organizational values.


Suzan McGinnis

Program Director
Suzan McGinnis headshot
Phone Number
(651) 962-4864
Employees engage in conversation

Compliance & Ethics Professionals

Essential Skills

An ethics and compliance professional must possess certain skills in order to be effective. The complex nature of these roles means compliance officers can't learn what they need to know solely through on-the-job training. The education you receive through St. Thomas’ program will provide you with the skills you need and prepare you to be successful.

Essential Skills:

  • Persuade and influence
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Project management
  • Clear communication
  • Analyze laws and regulations
  • Research and fact finding
  • Conduct investigations
  • Manage and motivate teams
  • Develop and lead training courses
  • Program evaluation and assessment

Market demand

A Growing Industry

Career Outlook

The need for qualified compliance professionals in virtually all industries makes this a very desirable career path.

  • #13, U.S. News & World Report 2024 Best Business Jobs
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 6.2% employment growth (an estimated 21,600 jobs) for compliance officers between 2020 and 2030.
  • Starting salaries are on the rise as well. With respect to positions of director, manager, specialist or assistant, salaries ranged from $183,836 for the director level, $126,615 for manager level and $81,294 for the assistant/specialist level at the largest companies (again, more than $3 billion in annual revenues).

Common Job Titles

Job titles within the ethics and compliance field range from entry-level compliance analysts, assistants or specialists, to chief compliance and/or ethics officers, which are typically vice president positions.
  • Compliance officer
  • Compliance analyst
  • Compliance manager
  • Senior compliance officer
  • Chief compliance officer
  • Director of ethics and compliance
  • Regulatory compliance manager
  • Ethics officer
  • Director of human resources
  • Human resources manager
  • Chief financial officer (CFO)
  • Director of operations
  • Director of quality assurance
  • Risk manager
  • Compliance engineer
  • Corporate compliance auditor
  • Data privacy and data protection specialist

A Compliance Professional’s Role and Responsibilities

Ethics and compliance professionals serve as an organization’s key source of expertise on industry regulations and standards, and establish and maintain its ethical culture. If you are just discovering this career field, however, it still may be unclear what an ethics and compliance employee does within an organization. Below are examples of the responsibilities of a compliance officer in three industries.
  • Serve as key expert on governmental and financial regulations and laws, including anti-money laundering rules and the Bank Secrecy and Fair Credit Acts.
  • Ensure the bank’s policies and procedures comply with rules associated with mortgage lending, deposits and consumer lending.
  • Establish and maintain project plans to meet operational risk management initiatives.
  • Work with business lines to comprehend, develop and implement operational risk management processes to comply with policies and standards.
  • Identify and monitor operational risks.
  • Provide remediation suggestions and training to business lines as needed.
  • Develop awareness of other company policies and standards and how they align with areas of oversight.
  • Stay abreast of banking industry and regulatory developments.
  • Communicate emerging or changing risk and related control enhancements.

  • Lead and coordinate regulatory audits for Medicare, Medicaid and some commercial business units.
  • Conduct training on a company’s Code of Ethics.
  • Conduct internal compliance audits for Medicare, Medicaid and commercial business to assess compliance with regulatory and contractual requirements and to establish the organization’s level of audit readiness.
  • Manage regulatory/external audit activity, including but not limited to: audit deliverable coordination, on-site audit coordination and management, and mock audit activities. Regulatory audits include those from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), Office of Inspector General, General Accountability Office, State Departments of Insurance and other regulators responsible for oversight.

  • Ensure that third-party money managers hired to manage the investments of the company’s corporate affiliate clients remain in compliance with applicable federal securities laws and regulations.
  • Conduct on-site due diligence meetings with each entity and obtain, review and analyze materials and reporting provided by each entity.
  • Ensure that trading conducted within the company is in compliance with applicable federal securities laws and regulations.
  • Update and maintain the company’s risk assessment.
  • Conduct testing and annual review of the company’s compliance policies and procedures, and update them when necessary.
  • Ensure the company’s employees comply with the requirements of the company’s code of ethics, especially in regard to monitoring personal trading.
  • Conduct initial and annual training on the code of ethics.
  • Monitor SEC website for changes in regulations that would affect the company; read and analyze new rules; and suggest ways in which the company and its sub-advisers and third-party money managers would need to comply with the changes.

Personalized Career Support

St. Thomas Law's Director of Organizational Ethics and Compliance and Office of Career and Professional Development are dedicated to individually helping students and alumni on their career journey. We maintain strong relationships with law firms and businesses, which allows us to effectively advise students and graduates about jobs in the ethics and compliance field.

My St. Thomas classes focused on developing in me the professional skills necessary to effectively partner with business executives or other personnel to strategically address ethical and compliance concerns.

Bryan Feldhaus ‘06 J.D., ‘15 LL.M.