A director votes to award a contract to a company owned by the director’s spouse. The chief executive officer of a corporation directs accounting practices that artificially inflate its value – and the stock owned by the CEO. These and other ethical lapses erode the goodwill of an organization and confidence in the management and staff. Waste and fraud also flow from unethical and illegal behavior. It enters the ethics officer job description to promote a good atmosphere within an organization that will prevent the consequences of ethical problems.
What Does an Ethics Officer Professional Do?
An ethics officer helps formulate and oversees enforcement of an organization’s code of ethics for its staff, directors, and officers. The job description of an ethics officer blends elements of advisor, investigator, resource person for those with ethical questions and “police officer” to an extent for the organization. To fulfill these functions, the ethics officer must exercise impartiality and ultimate loyalty to the organization.
Ethics Officer Job Description for Resume – Responsibilities
- Orient officers, directors, board or committee members and staff on ethical standards set by laws and policies.
- Answer ethical questions raised by staff or management.
- Investigate or oversee investigations of complaints of fraud, waste, ethical violations or unlawful conduct within an organization.
- Track and review filings by officials of required disclosure forms.
- Monitor compliance with staff, suppliers, vendors, and purchasers with ethical rules and laws.
- Advise board members, officers or staff of actual or potential conflicts of interest that may disqualify participation in vote or activity.
- Review findings, conclusions, and reports of auditors to determine corrective action, prevention of future incidents or referral to law enforcement.
- Examine resumes and job applications for false statements and other inaccuracies by an applicant.
- Report updates in ethics-related laws and rules as well as violations of ethics by staff or management.
- Draft or assist in the drafting of the organization’s code of ethics.
Ethics Officer Essential Skills
Analytical Skills. It enters in the ethics officer job description to apply the organization’s ethics code and applicable laws to incidents, fact scenarios and information that comes to the officers’ attention. Analytical skills help officers discover other information needed to reach conclusions. Ethics officers may also pour through applications and resumes to find potential misstatements that influenced the organization’s hiring decisions.
Interpersonal Skills. Ethics officers must give written reports and oral statements to boards, human resource directors or executive management. Meanwhile, numerous people and agencies external to the organization, including law enforcement, may interact with ethics officers during investigations.
Integrity Skills. Ethics officers must themselves exhibit a high level of integrity and ethics. Depending on the position or the employer, ethics officers may have to disclose their interests and other information. Meanwhile, the ethics officer job description includes objectivity in rendering advice and decisions.
Leadership Skills. The job description of an ethics officer includes the exercise of authority on the organization’s behalf. Through their own example and performance of duties, ethics officers lead the organization’s culture of ethical behavior. Leadership skills include the ability to instruct those in the organization on maintaining ethical standards and enforcing them.
How to Become an Ethics Officer Professional
Ethics officers must develop the skills and knowledge necessary to explain, instruct and investigate ethical matters. This comes through formal education and extensive work experience in corporate, and other organizational or enforcement settings.
Education & Training Requirements
Generally, ethics officers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Helpful majors include business administration, public administration, criminal justice and human resources management. Those who may pursue an ethics officer career may take business, undergraduate-level law, political science, criminal justice and management classes. Or they can study about 5 years for a Certified Compliance Ethics Professional-Fellowship (CCEP-F).
Computer science and information technology courses can also prepare future ethics officers to craft policies or address potential ethics violations occasioned through use of work computers. Employers may prefer that their applicants have post-graduate degrees, such as a master’s in business administration, human resources or a law degree.
Applicants for the ethics officer job description must accumulate a significant job history in ethics or compliance fields. Relevant positions may include auditor, inspector for a regulatory agency, police detective or other law enforcement officer, bank compliance officer, “know your customer” analyst or investigator. Attorneys, especially those on the staffs of corporate counsel or government legal departments, may bring their advisory, analytical and legal talents to bear to become an ethics officer.
Employers may also seek ethics officers with experience in their particular industry or sector. In government agencies, ethics officers may need prior jobs as supervisors or directors of local, state or federal government divisions or departments. An ethics officer in health care should demonstrate prior compliance work in a hospital, health insurance company, clinic or medical office.
Meanwhile, candidates for ethics officer jobs in finance should work for banks, insurance companies, securities firms or in an agency such as the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, Federal Reserve or the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Generally, the ethics officer job description entails a full-time schedule. These professionals work more than 40 hours per weeks. Long work hours may arise from preparing for board or council meetings or participating in investigations of ethics rules or related criminal laws.
Certain officers may attend emergency or other meetings at which organizations may consider terminating a staff member or director because of a significant ethical violation. These meetings may occur in the evenings.
Corporations can face criminal prosecution for crimes, especially “white-collar crimes.” According to Forbes magazine, ethics and compliance programs gained popularity from the relief they can afford corporations from the severe consequences of prosecutions. Further, corporations increasingly turned to ethics and compliance departments to ward of corporate malfeasance and scandals.
Consequently, the wave may lead to substantial job openings. O*NET reports that the employment of compliance managers should grow from five to nine percent through 2026. Ethics officers in many corporations hold senior or high-level management positions. These jobs typically require substantial prior work experience and feature low turnover. While the median salary stands at $71,540 per year, while the hourly rate is at $34.39.
Finally, the importance of ethical standards for an organization should sustain demand for ethics officers. However, these positions are usually senior-level and feature minimal turnover. Becoming an ethics officer requires at least a bachelor’s degree and, in many employers, post-graduate or professional degrees and extensive experience in compliance and related roles. Basically, those who want the ethics officer job description must practice attention to details, strong communication skills and detachment from the influences of those whom the officers must oversee and advise.