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Compliance Officer vs. Lawyer: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A career in compliance can be both challenging and rewarding. If you’re interested in this field, you may be wondering if you should become a compliance officer or a lawyer. Both positions require a high level of education and training, and both offer the opportunity to help people and businesses stay within the law. In this article, we compare and contrast the job titles compliance officer and lawyer, and we provide information to help you decide which path is right for you.

What is a Compliance Officer?

Compliance Officers are responsible for ensuring that their company or organization adheres to all relevant laws, regulations and ethical standards. They develop and implement policies and procedures to ensure compliance with these standards. Compliance Officers also conduct audits to identify areas of non-compliance and develop corrective action plans. They work with other departments to ensure that compliance issues are addressed in a timely and effective manner. Compliance Officers report to senior management on the status of compliance within the organization and make recommendations for improvements.

What is a Lawyer?

Lawyers provide legal representation and advice to individuals, families and businesses. They represent clients in criminal and civil cases, and often specialize in a particular area of law, such as family law, real estate or tax law. Lawyers research and analyze legal issues, draft and file legal documents, and represent clients in court. They may also negotiate settlements on behalf of their clients. Lawyers typically need to have a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from an accredited law school, pass a state bar exam, and complete a professional ethics exam.

Compliance Officer vs. Lawyer

Here are the main differences between a compliance officer and a lawyer.

Job Duties

Compliance officers are responsible for ensuring that companies follow all applicable laws and regulations. They may research existing legislation, investigate potential issues within a company and develop policies to ensure compliance. These professionals often work with different departments within a company to help ensure that products meet all necessary requirements and communicate the importance of compliance to employees.

Compliance officers rarely interact directly with customers or clients and usually spend most of their time in an office environment. Their jobs can be fast-paced when trying to meet deadlines or solve unexpected issues. The average workday typically involves four to six hours of work.

Lawyers provide legal advice to individuals, companies or other parties that need assistance with litigation. They may offer recommendations on how to proceed with a case and draft documents such as contracts or agreements. Lawyers may also represent clients in court if their cases are complicated or serious. Due to the specialized nature of their work, lawyers may spend more time than compliance officers researching specific issues.

Job Requirements

To become a compliance officer, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in business administration, accounting, finance or a related field. Some employers prefer candidates to have a master’s degree as well. Additionally, many compliance officers pursue certifications through organizations like the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) or the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). These certifications can help compliance officers stay up-to-date on best practices and new regulations.

To become a lawyer, you need to earn a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school. During your studies, you’ll take classes on topics like constitutional law, contracts and property law. You’ll also participate in hands-on training through internships or clinics. After graduating, you must pass your state’s bar exam to earn your license to practice law.

Work Environment

Compliance officers typically work in an office environment. They may travel to different locations, such as manufacturing plants or retail stores, to ensure that the company is following all regulations and laws. Lawyers usually work in an office environment, but they also have more freedom because of their ability to travel. Some lawyers may work for a firm, while others work for themselves.

A compliance officer’s job can be stressful due to the high stakes involved with ensuring that companies follow regulations. However, most compliance officers enjoy the challenge of finding solutions to problems and helping businesses succeed. Lawyers often experience stress from working on complex cases and dealing with difficult clients.


There are several similarities between compliance officers and lawyers in terms of the skills they use on the job. Both professions require excellent research, writing and communication skills. They also both need to be able to think critically and analytically to identify problems and develop solutions.

However, there are some key differences in the skills required for these two jobs. Compliance officers typically need to have strong organizational skills to keep track of multiple regulations and deadlines. They also need to be detail-oriented to ensure that all company policies are being followed. Lawyers, on the other hand, need to be good at arguing and persuading people. This is because a large part of their job involves representing clients in court.


Compliance officers earn an average salary of $79,744 per year, while lawyers earn an average salary of $94,905 per year. The average salary for both positions may vary depending on the type of company you work for, your level of experience and your location.


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