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Bill Steinman
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Cody Worthington
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Julie DiMauro
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Thomas Fox
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Marc Alain Bohn
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Bill Waite
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Shruti J. Shah
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Russell A. Stamets
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Richard Bistrong
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Eric Carlson
Contributing Editor

Is compliance a young person’s profession?

Although we all celebrate birthdays and keep close track of our age, you can’t do that in the workplace anymore. So there’s no reliable information out there about the average age of compliance officers. But let’s dive in anyway.

The typical age of a chief compliance officer is 48, according to authoritative SCCE surveys.

How much younger than 48 is the average compliance officer?

Compliance departments are typically shaped like a pyramid. The CCO sits on top and other managers near the top. At the widening bottom of the pyramid are junior- and entry-level people.

Who are the entry-level people? Most new compliance officers have a bachelor’s degree, master’s, or law degree, plus four to five years of work experience. That means they’re typically around 26 to 28 years old.

Entry- or early-level compliance positions probably account for around 80 percent of the pyramid. The other 20 percent are senior-level compliance executives and mid-level managers.

Those are only estimates. But we’ll use them to make some final assumptions.

Let’s say, then, that 80 percent of compliance officers are an average of 30 years old (two or three years into their compliance careers). Let’s also say the remaining 20 percent are, say, an average of 50 years old.

Using those assumptions, the weighted average age of compliance officers is 34.

In the healthcare industry, where compliance is more mature, the average may be older.

In finance, where compliance is newer and where about a third of all compliance officers work, the average could be younger. (Citigroup, as readers may recall, said in 2020 it had designated 30,000 employees as compliance and risk-management staff.) Compliance officers in technology companies are probably younger as well, reflecting overall industry demographics.

Going forward, will compliance officers “age” along with the compliance industry itself?

There are signs that’s already happening. Many firms that provide compliance-related services are led and staffed by mature practitioners. That makes sense. If most chief compliance officers are around 48, they’d naturally look to people their age or older for specialist (consultant) help.

There’s a similar pattern with corporate law departments and their outside counsel. The average general counsel is 55 years old. In law firms, the average equity and non-equity partner is about 52.

So, is compliance a young person’s profession?

It’s a profession rich with opportunities for young people. Compliance jobs are plentiful. In the United States alone, the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies around 330,000 people as compliance officers.

Today, the unemployment rate among compliance officers is minuscule — probably less than two percent.

Over the next five years, between 15,000 and 26,000 new compliance jobs will need to be filled.

A year into the job, compliance officers now earn around $55,000 on average, and around $70,000 after two to four years.

Those are impressive numbers, especially considering the newness of the compliance profession. Excluding healthcare, compliance dates from Siemens AG’s mega-FCPA resolution in late 2008, or perhaps from the 2002 enactment of Sarbanes-Oxley. Either way, these are early days.

Final Verdict: Compliance is a great profession for young people.

But not just for them.

Being part of a growing profession means rising with the tide — at any age.

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2 Comments

  1. “In finance, where compliance is newer and where about a third of all compliance officers work, the average could be younger” – we all suspected this but what do the other 2/3 do with their time I wonder? A Friday Thought!

  2. Interesting read on the age stats in Compliance professionals. I am the outlier. I am in my 70s and about to graduate from An MJ Program. Hope there’s a place for me with 38 years in Financial Services with 10 in small firm compliance. I have been told that experience and wisdom means something to employers


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