Healthcare Compliance Officer

As the 22nd best job in business according to US News & World Report (2019), healthcare compliance officers work collaboratively with physicians and other healthcare professionals to ensure that medical records are accurate and maintained. They also confirm that healthcare operations and compliance laws are followed, verifying the “compliant reimbursement” of patient services. In addition, healthcare compliance officers perform internal reviews, audits, and analyses of areas within their facility to determine best practices. There is some relation to the field of quality assurance or verification-and-validation within the field of healthcare compliance.

Professionals in this role usually hold a bachelor’s degree in healthcare compliance, business administration, finance, economics, human resources, and other related fields. What matters most in gaining an entry-level position is the ability to demonstrate competency in the areas of analytics, composition, logic, regulations, calculation, document management, risk assessment, risk management, professional mediation, and even counseling. More targeted and discipline-specific courses include subjects such as ethical issues in healthcare, human physiology, basic pharmacology, health law and regulation, and much more.

The demand for certified healthcare compliance officers has increased as the components of our healthcare system have become more complex. There is an ever-growing need for the specialized, certified skill set of a healthcare compliance officer. Especially in the era of big data and social analytics, compliance officers have come to the forefront of the healthcare industry.

Read on to learn more about education, certification, and salary in the field, in addition to specializations and examples of healthcare compliance degree programs.

Healthcare Compliance Officer Specializations & Degree Types

Healthcare compliance is a set of checks and balances used in conjunction with many other aspects of healthcare. Where you find healthcare information systems and medical operations staff, you can find healthcare compliance officers. Jobs that utilize the application of compliance expertise include:

  • Compliance analyst
  • Ethics and compliance officer
  • Healthcare or hospital compliance officer
  • Healthcare or hospital compliance specialist
  • Healthcare or hospital regulatory affairs specialist
  • Health privacy officer
  • HIPAA compliance specialist
  • Integrity officer
  • Internal auditor
  • Medicare compliance analyst
  • Medicare compliance specialist
  • Privacy analyst
  • Regulatory compliance specialist

Admissions Requirements for Healthcare Compliance Programs

Admissions requirements for healthcare compliance-related bachelor’s degrees include a background in the health sciences, healthcare administration, human health, wellness, or psychology. Aspiring students should note that as long as mathematics and science prerequisites were met in high school (or demonstrated via placement tests), they can be prepared for study in this field. University bachelor’s programs in healthcare compliance typically require 120 credit-hours of undergraduate work in healthcare management or a related major.

Healthcare Compliance Program Accreditation

Students pursuing study in healthcare compliance should pay close attention to a school’s accreditation status. Schools with either programmatic or regional accreditation have a proven track record of excellence, having met a set of peer-reviewed standards in its curriculum.

The Compliance Certification Board offers programmatic accreditation to University compliance and ethics programs at the certificate, master’s, and doctoral levels. Other reputable regional accreditation entities are listed on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) website.

On-Campus & Online Healthcare Compliance Degree Programs

Arizona State University

ASU’s bachelor’s program in healthcare compliance prepares aspiring compliance officials with the knowledge they need to excel in the field. ASU was the first institution to offer a four-year degree in healthcare compliance. This program is ideal for anyone interested in the regulatory, ethical, or business compliance sides of the healthcare industry.

The cutting-edge curriculum is offered both on campus and online and provides a foundation in subjects such as accreditation standards, auditing, auditing policies, billing procedures, coding procedures, and federal compliance regulations.

  • Location: Phoenix, Arizona
  • Duration: Four tears
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $10,370 per year for residents; $26,470 per year for out-of-state residents

Drexel University – Kline School of Law

Drexel University offers this completely online program of certification in healthcare compliance for students who have already attained a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Drexel recommends that candidates interested in the program take courses in healthcare compliance and healthcare administration. The Kline School of Law oversees the professors who lecture in the program, an indication of its quality and caliber.

  • Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Duration: Varies, six months to one year
  • Accreditation: Compliance Certification Board (CCB)
  • Tuition: $1,234 per credit-hour

University of Southern California – Gould School of Law

USC Gould offers this completely online healthcare compliance certificate program for students who want to round out their HCC officer skills. Expect courses in health policy, regulations in the healthcare industry, business in healthcare, finance in healthcare, patient privacy, and HIPAA compliance best practices. The program focuses on building an understanding of broad areas of the industry such as healthcare law and healthcare regulatory standards.

  • Location: Los Angeles, California
  • Duration: One Year
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC)
  • Tuition: $2,564 per unit

How Long Does it Take to Become a Healthcare Compliance Officer?

Expect a minimum of two years of schooling, with up to seven years total when considering a graduate degree and an area of specialization within healthcare compliance.

Candidates generally need an additional six months to one year of study to become Certified in Healthcare Compliance (CHC), plus one to three years of clinical healthcare compliance experience, depending on the type of professional certification chosen. (These credentials are detailed at length in the sections below.)

Certifications typically require applicants to have a requisite number of years of experience (which varies), in addition to any other educational requirements.

Associations, organizations, and societies give professionals an opportunity to network with other people in the field and to tap into a rich body of knowledge. More information on that below.

How To Become a Healthcare Compliance Officer – Step-by-Step Guide

Becoming a healthcare compliance specialist, as mentioned above, should take students a minimum of about three years, and up to as many as seven if aspiring healthcare compliance professionals take longer to gain clinical and industry experience in real-life settings.

Step 1: Graduate from High School (Four Years)


As a high school student, a focus on classes in the health sciences, psychology, biology, statistics, and economics will build a solid foundation for later study of healthcare compliance. Additional coursework in mathematics, statistics, science, and business will further strengthen this foundation.

Step 2: Earn an Associate or Bachelor’s Degree (Two to Four Years)

Earning an associate’s degree in healthcare compliance is generally all that is required to get a foot in the door in this industry, although a bachelor’s degree can put students in a position to qualify for further education and certifications.

Earning a BA or BS degree in psychology or healthcare compliance science is ideal for work in this industry, but degrees in mental health services and healthcare administration could also provide the necessary skills for success in the field.

Step 3: Gain Industry Experience (Two Years or More)


One way to advance your career as a healthcare compliance officer is to gain work experience in the healthcare industry itself. This can help a person prepare for certification and higher-level positions, which are typically required for candidates seeking positions in upper management or as clinical directors.

Step 4: Earn a Master’s or Professional Degree (Two Years or More, Optional)


Pursuing a master’s degree in healthcare compliance means, in most cases, entering into a law program. Because regulations, law, and compliance ethics shift and change constantly, possessing current knowledge of the healthcare compliance law landscape is invaluable. And it could increase your earning potential, as well as opening the door to higher-level healthcare compliance opportunities in leadership.

Step 5: Become a Certified Healthcare Compliance Official (Six Months or More)


The Compliance Certification Board (CCB) of the Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA), provides three main certifications in healthcare compliance:

  • Certified in Healthcare Compliance (CHC)
  • Certified in Healthcare Research Compliance (CHRC)
  • Certified in Healthcare Privacy Compliance (CHPC)

To qualify to sit for the CHC exam, for example, there are two routes: professional or educational. For the professional route, a candidate must have one year of full-time compliance work experience or 1,500 hours in the past two years. Qualifying work experience must meet the “Detailed Content Outline” detailed in the candidate handbook. For the educational route, a candidate must have completed a certificate program from a CCB-accredited university within the past two years.

For both pathways, candidates must have 20 hours of qualifying continuing education, including at least 10 from live training events, which have been completed within the past year.

Requirements for other credentials vary slightly.

Additionally, the HCCA provides the Certified in Healthcare Compliance Fellowship (CHC-F) and three corporate offerings: Certified Compliance & Ethics Professional (CCEP), Certified Compliance & Ethics Professional International (CCEP-I), and the Certified Compliance & Ethics Professional Fellowship (CCEP-F).

What Do Healthcare Compliance Officers Do?

A healthcare compliance officer is responsible for ensuring that official standards of healthcare recording, documentation, and law observation are upheld. They conduct investigations and audits to assess the degree of risk in a healthcare model, draft plans for improving compliance practice, and monitor to ensure the program is following best practices and standards.

Certified healthcare compliance officers must be aware of federal and state regulations and ensure that healthcare entities maintain compliance with government agencies, acts, guidelines, and laws. The job is at times similar to that of human resources personnel, as internal outreach, training, reskilling, and upskilling initiatives may fall to individuals in healthcare compliance positions as well.

Healthcare Compliance Officer Certifications & Licensure

To become certified in healthcare compliance, several organizations offer certifications.

The Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) Compliance Certification Board (CCB) is one of the premier credentialing organizations in this field. Employers are now requiring CCB certification for compliance-related positions in a variety of fields, from industrial to commercial to medical. Completing a graduate degree in healthcare compliance usually means that the professional work experience requirement, usually three years in length, has been met.

As mentioned above, the CCB offers two fellowships as well as professional certification in the following areas:

  • Certified Healthcare Compliance (CHC)
  • Certified Healthcare Research Compliance (CHRC)
  • Certified Healthcare Privacy Compliance (CHPC)
  • Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional (CCEP)
  • Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional International (CCEP-I)

Another organization that certifies compliance skills is the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), which offers the credential of Certified Professional Compliance Officer (CCPO).

How Much Do Healthcare Compliance Officers Make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) reports that the healthcare compliance-related field of medical and health services management is projected to add 71,600 new jobs nationally between 2018 and 2028—an 18 percent increase, which is a rate more than three times the projected average for all occupations during that decade.

The BLS notes that the required entry-level education for a healthcare compliance officer is typically a bachelor’s degree, although more advanced degrees and credentialing can increase one’s earning power.

Here is the detailed salary data for the 372,670 medical and health services management professionals employed in the US (as of 2018):

  • Average annual salary: $113,730
  • 10th percentile salary: $58,680
  • 50th percentile (median): $99,730
  • 90th percentile: $182,600