CCO Pay Up 22% in Three Years

Average total compensation for chief compliance officers rose a whopping 21.8 percent over the last three years to hit $225,900, according to fresh data just released from the Society of Corporate Compliance & Ethics. 

The SCCE released its 2022 CCO Salary Survey on Wednesday, its first new report since 2019. The headline is that average total compensation for chief compliance officers rose from $185,500, as reported in the 2019 survey, to the $225,900 figure cited this year. 

Beyond that, however, the SCCE salary survey is one of the best around because it provides a huge range of data that compliance officers can slice and study any way you’d like: by industry, company size, total employees, compliance staff, and more. So if you want to get the best apples-to-apples sense of how your compensation stacks up to those of your peers, the SCCE report is the one for you. (SCCE members can even use a nifty interactive feature to play with the data if you’d like.)

The data is based on responses from 342 compliance professionals — and that notably does not include healthcare compliance professionals, who get their own salary report from the Health Care Compliance Association. 

Anyway, among the many interesting findings:

  • The best paid chief compliance officers were in the retail and wholesale sector, with average base pay of $241,600 and average total comp of $512,250. (See chart, below.)
  • Worst paid were CCOs in the government sector, with average total comp of only $122,320. (“Tell me something I don’t know,” every government compliance officer is grumbling right now.)
  • Compliance officers with any professional certification at all enjoyed considerably more average total comp (anywhere from $210,000 to $262,500) than those who had none ($189,650).
  • 75 percent of respondents said they do not have an employment contract, although that same group earned more average total comp ($230,275) than those who do have a contract ($212,725).
  • Compliance officers in the upper Midwest part of the United States — Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and so forth — had both the highest base salary ($202,640) and highest total compensation ($325,610) of the entire country. 

Source: SCCE

If your performance review and 2023 salary negotiations are coming up soon, I’d urge you to dive into the SCCE report. 

Other CCO Compensation Thoughts

So is this 21.8 percent jump in three years a lot? Can we take these numbers to the bank, or at least the HR department? That’s harder to determine than one would like. 

For example, earlier this summer recruitment firm Major, Lindsey & Africa published its own compensation survey, and found that average total pay for CCOs stood at $430,000, up 9 percent from 2020 levels. Except Major, Lindsey & Africa is a high-end recruitment firm that tends to deal with veteran compliance officers with impressive resumes; one would expect that group to command higher salaries. SCCE serves a wider audience of compliance professionals, with a wider range of compensation.

There’s also the tricky point that plenty of people doing corporate compliance work actually reside in the legal department. According to, median salary and bonus for in-house counsel is $300,000, which is comparable to what SCCE found for several industries (although far above others). But those numbers can also vary widely depending on your region, industry, and experience.

We do know that unemployment among white-collar professionals, and among lawyers in particular, has always been low; and it has been even lower since the pandemic ushered in the Great Resignation two years ago. We also know that corporate compliance has become more important, for more businesses, as regulation and the desire for strong risk management has hit pretty much every part of the economy that exists. Plus, remember that total compensation includes equity awards for many people, and the stock market did fabulously well from mid-2020 until mid-2022. 

My own observation, having published the Compliance Jobs Report for six years now, is that the compliance job market is frothy. That is, we still see a strong stream of job openings for compliance professionals, even if some companies are cutting compliance jobs at the same time — and far too many companies take too long to fill compliance jobs, usually because recruiters and HR software can’t recognize a viable candidate when they see one.

So even if some compliance professionals are struggling with career prospects at the moment, compliance as a career still seems like one that will be robust and lucrative for a long time. Maybe that 21.8 percent jump isn’t a surprise after all.

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