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Compliance Officers With JDs Out-Earn Those Without Degrees

Aug. 5, 2021, 8:39 PM

In-house company compliance professionals who are lawyers command “significantly higher” pay than those without law degrees, a search firm survey released Thursday found.

Chief compliance officers with law degrees earn 26% more than those without them, according to the survey by BarkerGilmore, a Fairport, N.Y.-based executive search firm.

“The data tells a compelling story of the monetary value a law degree provides compliance leaders,” said Bob Barker, BarkerGilmore’s managing partner.

The survey joins other evidence, such as steep increases in associate pay raises this year, that investing in a Juris Doctor degree may pay off for prospective law students some day. U.S. law school applications this year rose 28% from 2020, the Law School Admission Council said last month.

BarkerGilmore’s data came from in-house compliance professionals randomly sampled in February and March. The firm has clients in the consumer, energy, financial, healthcare, industrial, technology, nonprofit and private equity sectors.

The average annual salary increase across industries was 3.5%, with the energy and life sciences sectors leading the way. Energy sector compliance officers had a 5% increase while the healthcare life sciences sector boosted the salaries by 3.9%.

At the lowest end of the compensation spectrum were professional services at 2.6% and technology at 2.8%.

Despite the bigger paychecks, compliance officers were much more likely (50%) than chief compliance officers (36%) to anticipate looking for a better paying job.

Even so, salaries for chief compliance officers who are female were 6% lower than their male counterparts.

The gender disparity leveled out in the compliance officers and counsel segment which, overall, pays a 28% higher compensation package to those who have a law degree. Total compensation for women compliance officers and counsel with law degrees were 6% higher than their male counterparts.

Compensation in the compliance sector is much higher in publicly traded companies than in closely-held organizations. Those in public companies paid 51% more than their closely-held counterparts.

Compliance officers themselves in publicly-traded companies receive even more, earning 55% more than their peers in closely-held companies. Restricted stock units are the most common type of long-term incentive compensation at public companies.

Major metropolitan compensation outstrips mid-sized markets. Chief compliance officers collect 20% higher compensation packages in large areas.

The differences are even greater when compared with small city areas. Mid-size metropolitan compliance officers had 46% greater compensation than their peers in small cities, according to the survey.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Olson at egolson1@gmail.com
To contact the editor on this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloombergindustry.com;
John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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