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Known in the housing and finance industry as mortgage loan originators or MLOs, mortgage loan officers are professionals tasked with helping buyers find houses and finance plans that are perfect for them. Typically, mortgage loan officers work as the primary source of contact between borrowers and lenders, from when they initiate their mortgage transaction to when they complete it.

What Do Mortgage Loan Officers Do?

Mortgage loan officers do all of the following tasks:

  • Compile all borrower information deemed necessary for a loan application.
  • Identify all potential homebuyers through seminars, trade shows, connections and advertising.
  • Present all possible loan options to borrowers
  • Keep a solid record of all transactions.
  • Coordinate and work with other professionals in the mortgage process like appraisers and underwriters.

Mortgage loan officers work on the front lines to maintain a conducive buying environment. In short, they are a vital cog in the real estate industry and ensure the smooth flow of operations.

Are you interested in becoming a mortgage loan officer? Well, you aren’t the only one. Mortgage loan officer is the 14th most lucrative business job today and is the preferred career path for many. These loan officers earn a median annual salary of $64,660 and are not required to be college graduates.

Knowing Your Suitability for the Job

Before you apply for a mortgage origination license, you need to be sure of whether this is the right career path for you or not. Go over the processes we mention below to check your suitability for this job.

Assess Personal Qualities

In terms of personal qualities, MLOs should be perfectionists with a focus on detail. As an MLO, you will be dealing with tons of paperwork and submitting the right documents to lenders. This information and paperwork shouldn’t just be documented expertly, but should also be presented accurately. Your organization skills should be perfect.

It can also help if you have an outgoing nature. Referrals are an important part of the job and you should have good relationships with a wide range of people. Leaving a good impression is vital.

Knowledge of how the real estate market functions is another important quality you should have. MLOs should be aware of changing mortgage trends and the innovations in the market.

Review Your History

MLOs deal with sensitive financial information every day. By acting as a liaison between potential borrowers and lending institutions, MLOs ensure that the best interests of both parties are safeguarded. This is a career that requires a strong financial character and a stable mindset. Since the 2008 financial collapse was a result of bad actors influencing the industry, all MLOs are properly screened before being given licensure.

Any of these scenarios could lead to a rejection of your application:

  • Previous criminal conviction related to fraud
  • Low credit score
  • Revoked licensure in other states
  • History of unpaid debts or foreclosure


If you’ve made it this far, we consider you to have a good past record and a decent knowledge of how real estate works. Once you think of yourself as the right candidate, you should start your research on pre-licensure courses.

While MLOs usually come from a background of business or economics, it isn’t a solid requirement. MLOs can obtain their licensure by taking education courses prior to their test, passing the actual test and submitting information to get approval from the NMLS.

Getting Licensure

After reading the assessment methods above, we now assume that you have decided on mortgage loan origination as the designated career path for you. What are your next steps?

The first and foremost step in this process is to get a state-issued license. It is illegal to work as a mortgage loan officer without a license of your own. The following steps will help you with your licensure.

The SAFE Act

Each state today has specific guidelines available on how you can apply for MLO licensure. While state agencies usually issue licenses, there are certain federal legislations that are also applicable here.

As per the SAFE ACT and the NMLS, MLOs are required to:

  • Register with the NMLS
  • Obtain a license from their respective state agencies
  • Provide authorization for obtaining a credit report
  • Prove identity
  • Provide fingerprints
  • Provide financial services employment history
  • Attest to the accuracy and completeness of all information

Education and Testing

One important step for becoming a mortgage originator is to complete courses required by the NMLS. Applicants should take over 20 hours of pre-licensure education courses, including these:

  • Three hours on Federal law and regulations
  • Three hours on ethics, including details on fair lending issues, consumer protection and fraud
  • Twelve hours on mortgage origination and related instructions
  • Two hours on lending standards

Once they have completed their courses, applications can sit for the SAFE MLO test, where they are required to score at least 75 percent. This test will check your knowledge of state and federal mortgage laws and the relevant details. Many states today have approved a Uniform State Test. Applicants are required to take the test only once, making it easier for them to apply for licensure in other states.

As per the SAFE Act, candidates have to wait for 30 days before retaking the exam after failing it. However, candidates must wait for 180 days if they fail 3 times in a row.

After You Get Licensure

Once you get your licensure, you can start work as a mortgage loan officer. Some MLOs work on their own, while newbies may prefer working with an already established business with existing clients.

Getting your licensure is not the end game as you have to maintain active status. Mortgage loan officers are required to renew the license every year, keep information up to date and take continuing education courses regularly to maintain their license.

How to Become a Successful Mortgage Loan Officer

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