How to Become a Federal Compliance Specialist

Jul 14, 2018

Learn how to become a federal compliance specialist. Research the education requirements, training, licensure information and experience you will need to start a career as a federal compliance specialist.

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Federal Compliance Specialist

Also known as regulatory affairs specialists or regulatory compliance specialists, these professionals are charged with assuring that businesses and other organizations under their jurisdictions comply with federal regulations. They may be federal employees who ensure compliance by conducting inspections and enforcing federal guidelines. Alternatively, they may work for private companies or other organizations and advise their employers on measures that need to be taken in order to ensure that they are obeying federal regulations.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Varies; bachelor's degree most common
Degree Field(s) Varies based on the particular field represented by the agency entered
Licensure and/or Certification Optional certification for some fields may be available from the Compliance Certification Board (CCB), the National Regulatory Service (NRS), and other agencies
Key Skills Reading comprehension, critical thinking, writing, speaking, active listening, complex problem-solving, judgment and decision-making, systems analysis, active learning, and coordination skills; familiarity with analytical or scientific software, databases, and document management software
Salary $64,159 (2016 median for regulatory affairs specialists)

Sources: December 2012 job listings, Compliance Certification Board and National Regulatory Service, O*Net Online, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,

The requirements for becoming a federal compliance specialist may vary by employer, but a bachelor's degree is common. There are optional certifications available for compliance specialists in some fields, such as those available through Compliance Certification Board (CCB), the National Regulatory Service (NRS) and other agencies. Key skills in this field include reading comprehension, critical thinking, writing, speaking, active listening, complex problem solving, judgment and decision making, systems analysis, active learning, coordination, familiarity with analytical or scientific software, databases and document management software. In 2016, regulatory affairs specialists earned a median annual salary of $64,159, according to Now let's check out the career steps for federal compliance specialists.

Career Steps

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

According to a survey of job listings, most positions as federal compliance specialists require at least a bachelor's degree, and many require a master's. However, the specific degree necessary will vary widely by the specific type of company or agency for which an individual wishes to be employed. Science, business, accounting and law are just a few of the many fields that may be studied to train for an eventual career as a federal compliance specialist.

To really get the most out of your education, become a compliance intern. Many organizations and businesses offer internships to college students who are interested in pursuing a career in regulatory compliance. Although job skills and tasks may differ from company to company, most internships will provide students with the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the standards and regulations that organizations must follow. This knowledge may prove advantageous for those seeking later employment in the field of regulatory compliance.

Step 2: Complete a Master's Degree Program

Many positions in regulatory compliance, especially for positions within the federal government, require a master's degree. An individual pursuing a master's degree in order to become a federal compliance specialist may choose to do his or her graduate work in the same academic discipline that he or she pursued for the bachelor's degree. Alternatively, he or she may choose instead to enter a master's degree program in regulatory affairs. Such a degree program may offer coursework about food and drug law, project planning, quality improvement management or medical regulations. The specific electives chosen for such a degree program are likely to depend upon the specialization chosen by the student.

Step 3: Attain an Entry-Level Position

Many positions as compliance specialists, both in government jobs and in private businesses, require a certain amount of experience in the relevant industry. Individuals may find it helpful to begin their careers by attaining an entry-level position in their chosen field. Experience performing the day-to-day functions of a particular industry may provide insight and knowledge about the standards expected in that industry. Occasionally, some businesses hire entry-level workers to assist in the compliance department.

It's also helpful to become informed about the regulations for the industry of choice. Individuals who are interested in branching out into the field of regulatory compliance may find it helpful to educate themselves about the regulations of the industry in which they are employed. Some businesses may offer training in house. Alternatively, the company's current compliance expert may be able to offer information about relevant regulations.

Step 4: Get Certified

Such organizations as the CCB, the NRS and others offer certificates for individuals new to the field of regulatory compliance who wish to improve their knowledge of regulatory issues and present evidence of subject mastery to prospective employers. Certificates offered by these different organizations will vary by industry, and the specific program chosen may depend on the preference of a current or prospective employer.

To recap, with an undergraduate or graduate degree and experience, a federal compliance specialist can make about $64,000 a year to ensure that businesses and other organizations under their jurisdiction comply with federal regulations.

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