New salary survey: Are you worth $82,000 per year?

That’s the median salary of compliance officers, according to a new survey of providers by the Health Care Compliance Association and health care executive search firm Tyler & Company, Atlanta. But for many officers, compensation is even more handsome. A full 47% of compliance officers get bonuses of 10% to 19% of their salaries. Another 23% are eligible for bonuses of 20% to 29%. A lucky 6% earn more than $200,000 per year.

Eighty-six percent of respondents say they have an active compliance program, and 91% have a compliance officer. Only 3% of the providers outsource their compliance programs, according to the survey, which was sent to 200 hospitals and health care systems, of which about 20 responded.

Although the survey represents only a handful of providers, it offers a first look at this emerging profession. How new are compliance positions? Only 49% of compliance officers have held their positions for more than a year, with another 22% there for one to two years. But even as newbies, compliance officers are getting some respect. More than two-thirds of respondents are considered senior-level managers.

Also revealing is that 43% of providers say they don’t have a job description for the compliance officer slot. That’s a situation that should be rectified, says Roy Snell, president of the Health Care Compliance Association, a trade group for compliance officers based in Philadelphia. Compliance officers should write up a job description and present it to their organization, adds Snell, who is also a consultant at Deloitte and Touche. "It’s a small protection. But it means that your entire team — including those you report to — will understand what your job is." That could prevent tensions rising during, say, an internal investigation.

The HCAA/Tyler survey also reveals that:

- Compliance is a mixed profession. Women account for 55% of compliance officers, compared to 45% for men.

- Titles vary. Only 55% of compliance officers actually have that title. The next most common title is executive or senior vice-president at 18%, followed by internal auditor at 9%.

- Lawyers rule. Experience as an attorney is the most valuable skill for a compliance officer, respondents said. The next most valued is CPA experience, followed by health care consulting and human resources.

- Staffs are small. Two-thirds of compliance officers have a staff of two or less. Another 17% have three to five staffers. Administrative employees are the most common staff members, closely followed by CPAs, internal auditors, and coders.

- It’s an educated group. Thirty-two percent of compliance officers have bachelor’s degrees, while 33% have a master’s degree. Lawyers are well-represented, with 14% of officers having a JD, while 11% have a CPA.

- Compliance is a lonely job. Though OIG encourages providers to have a compliance committee as well as a compliance officer, 55% of providers say the compliance officer’s slot is a stand-alone position. The majority of the remainder have their officers report to a compliance committee. Meanwhile, 33% of respondents also say their compliance officers also report to the CEO, while another 22% report to the board of trustees.