Public-sector chief compliance officers in the healthcare and life sciences industry made more than half a million dollars in total compensation in 2020, part of a wave of annual salary increases across the board represented in the latest compliance compensation survey by executive search firm BarkerGilmore.

The “2021 Compliance Compensation Report,” released earlier this month, is the result of an online poll administered from February to April 2021 to a random sample of nearly 2,500 compliance professionals at various levels of seniority from both the public and private sector across the United States.

According to the report, the top industries by average total compensation for public-sector CCOs were healthcare and life sciences ($547,000), energy ($485,000), and consumer ($470,000). For the private sector, consumer ($431,000) led the way, followed by technology ($400,000) and industrial and manufacturing ($389,000).

In both the public and private sector, CCOs in the professional services industry saw the lowest average total compensation, at $295,000 and $285,000, respectively.

Overall, the average annual salary increase for all positions across industries was by 3.46 percent.

Education trends

CCOs with a Juris Doctor (J.D.) command a significantly higher compensation package than their peers without the degree. “The data tells a compelling story of the monetary value a law degree provides compliance leaders,” said Bob Barker, managing partner of BarkerGilmore.

Total compensation for CCOs with a J.D. compared to those without varied by organizational revenue. For example, the median base salary for CCOs with a J.D. was $325,000, compared to $260,000 for those without, in organizations with more than $10 billion in revenue.

In organizations with revenue between $500 million and $5 billion, the median base salary for CCOs with a J.D. held steady at $250,000, while it wavered between $225,000 and $200,000 for those without.

Long-term incentives (LTIs) accounted for the largest difference in compensation between those with a J.D. and those without—by as much as $85,000 in organizations with revenue of more than $10 billion. Significant gaps in median bonuses awarded were also observed—by as much as $65,000 in organizations with revenue between $5 billion and $10 billion.

Consistent with CCOs, compliance officers (without the chief title) and compliance counsel with a J.D. also commanded a significantly higher compensation package. Total compensation for compliance counsel was 28 percent higher than peers without the degree.

Other key findings

Industry salary increase rates: At 5 percent, the energy sector saw the highest salary increase, followed by healthcare/life sciences at 3.9 percent. The two industries with the lowest salary increase were professional services and technology, at 2.6 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively.

Public vs. private: Consistent with data from previous years, compensation of compliance professionals at publicly traded companies was “significantly higher” than at private organizations, both for CCOs (51 percent higher) and compliance officers (55 percent).

LTI compensation: Restricted stock units continue to be the most common form of LTI compensation at public companies. Among private companies that offer LTI, the structure is more variable, often coming in the form of stock options or performance shares.

Location: Compensation packages in major metropolitan markets continue to be greater than mid-sized markets—by 20 percent for CCOs—according to BarkerGilmore’s analysis. CCOs in mid-sized metropolitan areas made 24 percent more on average than those in small cities.

For further research, BarkerGilmore in June released its “2021 In-House Counsel Compensation Report,” which similarly explored 2020 trends.